This year marks the eighth annual partnership of the Georgia Municipal Association (GMA) and Georgia Trend, formed to recognize cities that do an outstanding job of delivering services – as determined by a panel of judges.
This year’s winners are Roswell, Valdosta, Richmond Hill, Augusta, Thomasville and Suwanee.
To select the 2007 Trendsetter Cities of Excellence, judges were asked to look for innovation and creativity in two different areas. First, in city public works departments – the home of sewer and water line planners and pothole patchers. Not glamorous, just the heart and soul of everything that keeps a city alive.
Judges were also directed to take a critical look at the parks and recreation departments that care for the places where children frolic, families picnic and sports are played.
“The whole concept of Trendsetter Cities recognition is to put new ideas and new practices out there so that others can learn from them,” says GMA executive director Jim Higdon. “Trendsetter is an information exchange. It says, ‘Let’s try this and see if it works. And if so, we can transfer that practice or technology to other cities.’”
The judges found several distinct programming trends that seemed to merge parks and recreation and public works. In two small cities, Richmond Hill and Suwanee, lovely parks and animal sanctuaries resulted from public works programs originally intended for sewage treatment and storm water drainage.
The judges also saw an approach to mosquito control that put the pests under surveillance using modern technology. Other discoveries included programs that outsourced or privatized the management of public works and parks and recreation, either cutting costs or improving service delivery.
“Today’s successful communities have realized they can’t expect someone else to fix their problems,” says Carlyle Cox, an economic development consultant and former city manager who served as one of the Trendsetter judges. “It is a credit to local governments that they are starting to hire more creative people and fewer caretakers. In the process they have created something that could inspire other communities.”
Six judges pored over entries from around the state and selected finalists, who made in-person presentations at GMA’s Atlanta headquarters.
Winners were selected in small, medium and large population categories for both public works and parks and recreation projects.
For public works, Roswell won in the large category, Valdosta in the medium and Richmond Hill in the small. In parks and recreation, Augusta was the winner among the large cities, Thomasville among the medium and Suwanee among the small.
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