Recently, several articles about conflicts of interest, have been hitting the political pundit’s websites;
is a very interesting article about conflicts, the appearance of conflicts, and the problems that they cause at the state level. I have no idea if any of the legislators mentioned in this article truly have some ethical conflicts with their businesses doing business with the state or not, but they should each either QUIT doing business with the state or QUIT their legislative positions or post their own article describing why THEIR situation is not a conflict. While we all should be innocent until proven guilty, politicians have a bad enough rap without doing ANYTHING to damage their (or the entire group’s) reputation.
Any politician needs to be extremely careful about even the appearance of a conflict of interest. I was maintaining the city’s website and charging them around $1,000/year. They were my client, before I got into politics. But once I became a city councilman, I stopped charging the city for maintaining their site. I probably COULD have kept charging – as long as we bid out the contract and as long as I recused myself from any discussions or votes, but I thought it best to just not charge the city. So for almost a dozen years, I did the city website for free – saving the city and citizens thousands of dollars.
Later on, as a conflict arose between a local business owner and the city of Hawkinsville (on a very unrelated matter), a particular businesses owner ACCUSED me of having a conflict of interest. She thought I was getting paid to do the city’s website. She had not bothered to ask anyone. That particular business owner posted on Facebook (July 25, 2014) (with a picture of me), “How in the h*** you is the one doing the website for hawkinsville and you on the commission broad the one of the to decide which person get the job if you are on the broad are have friends are family on the broad you should not get the job it wood not be fair to the people the one how broad on it and did not get it because they do not have friends on the broad or family” (all grammar and spellings were as posted, not mine)
This particular business owner even posted this to 11Alive Newsroom’s Facebook page! She had not bothered to CHECK to see if there was a conflict of interest, she just assumed. But as politicians, we need to go the extra mile removing even the appearance of a conflict. (After I sold my website company, the city and county are now getting the Regional Commission out of Macon to maintain their websites.)
I challenge all of my colleagues to go the extra mile and remove any and all appearances of conflicts. Let’s put our constituents first and our private businesses second.
What are your thoughts?
One of the main complaints of any government (local, state or federal) is that they are non-responsive. I have personally experienced that often. However, I want to try to help that on a local level. As you drive around our city and see things that you think the city should improve on…. Let me know. There are things that we can’t do, such as STATE ROADS, or things that we simply do not have the resources to do. But let me know about them and I’ll do my best!
Contact me via TWITTER (@shellyb), or facebook (shellyberryhill) or email (firstname.lastname@example.org). Or comment to this post. I will at worst, shoot straight with you and let you know the status! Pictures of the issues are always appreciated as well.
The voters of Hawkinsville / Pulaski County voted down a proposal to consolidate the governments. One of the primary “selling points” to a consolidated government is lowering costs. These same lower costs can be obtained through consolidating SERVICES even though the governments themselves remain separate. The City and the County have done a great job at consolidating services throughout the years. E911, EMA, Recreation, Tax Collection, Fire, Police, Animal Control, Building and Code Enforcement and Economic Development are already consolidated.
Beginning July 1, 2015 we are adding ANOTHER to the list. The City is doing away with our Municipal court and turning over traffic fine collections to the county. With the retirement of City Clerk Evelyn Herrington as well as the retirement Lodie Johnson (who managed our municipal court), the time is right. By closing down our municipal court, the city will not have to fill Ms. Johnson’s position, thus saving the costs of that position. We will also not have to retain a municipal Judge. AND hours of work allocated to the City Clerk will not have to be performed. The county Probate Judge, Judge Jeff Jones, will begin hearing all traffic violations. Violations that are CITY ONLY, (such as dilapidated housing ordinance violations), will be heard by a Code Enforcement Board. We are recommissioning our current Zoning and Codes Board as a Code Enforcement board to hear the few CITY ONLY ordinance violations that are heard each year.
Consolidation as it relates to cost savings, continues. As it relates to SERVICES, continues to be an area that we (City and County) continue to explore. We don’t need a replication of efforts. We need to continue to find ways to work together to benefit ALL of our citizens. The taxpayers we all serve are the real winners when our governments work together.
I am very excited. I have been asked to serve on the GMA (Georgia Municipal Association) Board of Directors AND serve as Chairman of the Public Safety Policy Committee. One of the reasons that I ran for the City of Hawkinsville Commission was to be able to promote Hawkinsville. Promote its strong points to our own citizens AND promote it state wide. This position gives me another outlet to do just that!
GMA does an excellent job of lobbying the state lawmakers on behalf of ALL cities in Georgia. As Public Safety Committee Chair, I will be intimately involved in helping GMA dissect proposed legislation and how it effects Hawkinsville and other cities across Georgia. Too often, a law is passed without the full ramifications being understood. By diving into the details of a proposed law BEFORE it becomes law, we can hopefully get the author of the legislation to change its wording (or drop the bill entirely) if a negative effect on our cities would be the result. GMA has a great track record in their lobbying efforts. I am very excited about being able to help.
Thank you GMA for this honor!
Well, the citizens decided against consolidating Hawkinsville and Pulaski County governments. However, that is not stopping the respective governments from continuing to work together to consolidate services whenever it makes sense. We are now working with County Commissioner M.A. “Butch” Hall to consolidate the zoning ordinances and zoning boards of Hawkinsville and Pulaski County.
We will utilize ONE set of zoning ordinances, ONE county wide zoning map, and ONE zoning board to hear zoning requests. This move will not only save a little money (we pay our zoning board members AND the county pays their zoning board members), but it will also make things more consistent and easier for our citizens. A citizen can get the maps, forms, ordinances, etc from EITHER government.
We will continue to look for ways to make our respective governments more responsive, better fiscal stewards, and better listeners to our citizens. If you have any input on this or any issue, please respond below. I look forward to your thoughts….
One of the most frequent questions that I get asked is, “So what do you actually do for a living?” Well, that answer can be quite long. But if you are reading my blog – then obviously, you don’t have anything better to do anyway. So, let’s start at the beginning.
After graduating from Georgia Tech in 1986, I went to work for PlantersFirst Bank. I was first the in-house computer guy and eventually became Operations Officer. While working there, the Real Estate Appraisal industry was in the process of becoming legislated and regulated. This meant that to become an appraiser, you must become licensed. I took the necessary tests and become a certified real estate appraiser. I thought that would be a great part-time job. However, competitive banks did not want to hire me while working at their competitor – understandable. Along this same time, my family had the opportunity to open up a second Radio Shack franchise in Eastman, Ga. So, I had to try out my entrepreneurial wings. It was my intention to run the Eastman store – and let that support me – while I built up my appraisal business. The exact opposite happened. The Radio Shack store never took off, but my appraisal business did. So eventually, we closed the Radio Shack and I started MidState Appraisal Company.
MidState Appraisal did very well. However, one large client that ordered multiple appraisals per day (and paid for them exactly 90 days later) one day stopped calling. When I inquired, they had closed shop overnight. They left me with a $30,000 plus money owed to me. I almost went under. I borrowed money and kept afloat. But about that time, Dr. John H. Bembry, assistant superintendent of Pulaski County Schools, approached me about joining the school system as a technology specialist full time. I had been doing some part time consultant work for them. I saw this as a way to get health insurance AND help me dig my way out the sudden problems with my appraisal company. So I took this job.
While I loved the school job I realized that my entrepreneurial leanings were still there. My appraisal company was doing okay, but needed full time supervision. So I eventually went into a partnership with a fellow appraiser and we each closed our independent shops and opened up VALUEFIRST Appraisal Company. As it grew, I considered leaving the school system, but again, the insurance was good and the people were great. So I negotiated moving to a part time with the school system.
During this time, Kristen, my (at the time) 14 year old daughter, expressed an interest in learning to develop a website. She is so gifted in art, photography, poetry, etc. I showed her how to create a site and a couple of days later she had created a GREAT website to showcase her work. I was really impressed. I encouraged her to start a little company and create websites for some mom & pop businesses downtown. She wanted my help, so together we started Ga WebServices.
Eventually, she tired of the websites and just wanted to be a full time teenager. But by then, we had several clients. So I kept growing the company. Eventually, the websites were growing at a much faster pace than the appraisal company. I wanted to spend more time on the website company, but wanted to be fair to my partner. So we negotiated a buyout and I left the company to devote full time to my website company. (which now has over 200 clients in over 20 counties). We also employ Cory Mader (web designer) and Renee Chester (web designer) and Kristen eventually came back on board as well. So I hired Valerie Martin to oversee this operation.
However, I was still getting lots and lots of appraisal calls, so I started Georgia Appraisal Services thinking I would just do a few along. Eventually, I hired a guy full time to help with the appraisals. He does the research, courthouse work, legwork, while I inspect and conclude values. It works great! Frankie Faircloth is a great asset to the company. Then as it continued to grow, I also add Angie McLeod to our office. She gets it done, no fuss, no hassle.
So at this point, I was part time appraiser, full time web developer, and part time technology specialist at the school. You’d think that would be enough….
I met Wayne McGuinty due to having created a few different websites for him. Like me, he was involved in several businesses. We had a natural friendship that flourished. We knew at some point, we wanted to do some business together, we just did not know what. We formed KAIZEN, LLC with no clue as to what it would become. (Kaizen is a japanese word for – always getting better).
Wayne runs the WILCOX MARKETER in Wilcox county and we eventually decided the same type of classified ad newspaper would work in Hawkinsville also – so… The Pulaski Progress was born. So add editor, copyrighter, reporter to my list of activities. We started the Progress in November, 2007 and ran it for about a year and a half. It was a profitable paper after only the first 4 editions. But one day an opportunity to sell that paper presented itself. The paper was in the black but was time consuming. So we cashed out and sold the paper in July of 2009.
Also in November of 2007, Kristen, through involvement in a film class at her school, became involved in filming football games to be rebroadcast at a later date on ComSouth. However, the next year, the class did not exist. Mike McClain of ComSouth asked me if I knew of anyone that could tackle that job. They wanted Hawkinsville, Cochran, and Perry Games filmed (their market area). They also wanted some Fullington and Westfield games filmed. Loving a new challenge, I presented ComSouth with a proposal to film these games. It went well. The relationship was good. So after football season, I presented them with the opportunity to keep the relationship going but in addition to high school sports, we add civic and governmental meetings, high school plays, parades, opera house events, etc. etc. And thus, ComSouth TV channel 1o0 was officially born. So now I was a TV producer! (and cameraman, and editor).
This went so well that we added ProgressiveTel (another cable TV provider in Rentz, Ga.) and began doing the same for them.
Eventually, ComSouth wanted more and more involvement in the direction of their channel. Certainly understandable – as the channel was getting lots of attention. But being a sole entrepreneur, I really do not like weekly meetings and lots of “foreign” involvement. So in January of 2010, I asked ComSouth to take over the channel and I would bow out. We parted ways but I continue to love the channel (my baby) .
However, I still ran (and run now) the ProgressiveTel cable channel. The software that I utilize is actually designed to create/schedule/ maintain remote digital signage. So as I explored how other people were using this software, a new opportunity presented itself. I have now launched Georgia Media Services. GMS is actively pursuing restaurants throughout Georgia that will allow us to install a 42″ – 60″ inch television in their establishment that will display current events, trivia, ads for their restaurant as well as ads that we sell to other businesses. We currently have about 27 displays around Georgia. For a complete list, go to www.gamediaservices.com
I have also always been fascinated with politics. I have never considered myself a politician, but have always considered myself a conservative political person. On the local level, I kept saying to myself, “I hope someone decent runs”. I finally decided, that while I may not have ALOT to offer, I was at least decent. So about 10 years ago, I ran, unopposed, for the Hawkinsville City Council. I have re-ran twice (again unopposed) and am currently vice-chairperson on the Council. I was also elected as district 6 president of the Georgia Municipal Association advisory board. (position elected from among area elected officials by the elected officials).
My most recent venture has been with a good friend (and relatively new comer to Hawkinsville), Charlie Harper. Charlie just retired as Chief Credit Analyst at SunMark Community Bank. In his position, he noticed that an issue that area banks were having is dealing with their foreclosed properties. Current appraisals need to be in the file when bank examiners arrive or the bank gets in trouble. Most REO (REAL ESTATE OWNED, foreclosed properties) files are pushed to the side and it is hard to keep these files current. So we started SOLUTIONS FOR PROPERTY ASSESSMENTS together to offer banks a management tool for their REO properties. We kicked off in 4th quarter 2013 and got our first client, Citizens Bank and Trust of Eastman, Ga. in January of 2014. We already have appointments with other banks as well. So wish us luck on this new venture….
So… What do I do? Well, I am now back full time as a Technology Specialist with the Pulaski County School System. I own Ga WebServices, Georgia Appraisal Services and Ga Media Services. I am a partner in Solutions for Property Assessments. I am on the Hawkinsville City Council. I am vice chair of the Deacon Board at Broad Street Church where I teach Sunday School. I serve on the Executive Committee of the Pulaski County Archway Initiative (board to facilitate the resources of the state’s educational assets to help with problems /opportunities within our county). I serve on the Pulaski County Senior Council on Aging. I serve on the MGRDA (Middle Georgia Regional Development Authority – a tri-county economic development board). And I am a member of about 5 area chambers. I just joined a local tennis league in Perry, and just so that I would not get too bored, I just agreed to help coach our local High School’s tennis team.
I stay busy. I like juggling lots at a time. I like starting things and creating things. I’ll admit, I do get bored with the status quo. Let’s keep things improving, or let’s move in another direction. They say if you want something done give it to a busy person. Please don’t – I am busy enough! But now you know the answer to the question. What do I do? I am a serial entrepreneur that is also involved in local community affairs. I love my life and would not change a thing!
Wow, It really worked. My previous posts asking for persons willing to serve on our boards paid off. I got two responses and BOTH of them were appointed to boards during tonights City of Hawkinsville Commission meeting. Clif Pritchett was appointed to the city’s Planning and Zoning Board and Milton Sutherlin was appointed to the Hawkinsville Urban Redevelopment Board. It is great to have citizens WANTING to serve this great community. My hats off to you guys!!!
The City Commission of Hawkinsville has several boards and authorities that currently have vacancies. If you live within the city limits (a legal requirement) and would be interested in serving the citizens of this community, let me know.
Some of the vacancies include…
Hawkinsville Housing Authority
Hawkinsville Industrial Development Authority
Hawkinsville Urban Redevelopment Authority
Downtown Development Authority
Better Hometown Committee
Historic Preservation Committee
Hawkinsville Zoning Board
and many others. Again, we need volunteers, so if you are interested, let me know…..