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.
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!
Previously, I reported on the number of houses or other dilapidated structures that have been removed due to the concerted effort by the City of Hawkinsville. The new numbers now stand at a total of 27 structures that have been removed. 17 at the sole cost of the property owners and 10 via city funds (with liens placed against the properties for the total cost plus accruing interest).
In September, 2009, the City contracted with the Regional Commission to do a housing survey. That survey (which can be found here or on the city’s website) found that we had 97 houses that needed to be torn down. So we are ALMOST at the one-third mark. Time, costs, and legal work are the factors that control how fast we move, but again – WE ARE MAKING PROGRESS. Removing these structures will make Hawkinsville a more beautiful place to live AND a safer place to live. Studies have shown that it will ALSO help when recruiting industry which translates into JOBS!
As more houses come down, I’ll keep you posted!
More City of Hawkinsville News. I am very pleased to report our progress on removing blighted property in Hawkinsville. We have over 100 homes in our town that are too far gone to renovate. These houses are a detriment to our community. They are an eyesore, thus hurting economic development and hurting property values of surrounding homes. They are magnets for crime and drugs. It is simply not right for a neighbor to work hard to keep their yard and home attractive, while right next door a house is falling in and the lot is overgrown. Plus some of the houses that need to come down are burned out and hold memories of tragedies.
The City of Hawkinsville has really made this a priority in the last few years and our current status is this: 23 homes have been removed. And of those 23, 17 were removed by the owners with NO expense to the city. The 6 that the city removed, we have placed Liens on the property so that – eventually – we will get our expenses back on those as well.
The City administration and codes enforcement office, along with help from our HURA (Hawkinsville Urban Revitalization Authority) and GICH (Georgia Initiative for Community Housing) committees have helped with this effort.
But our work is not complete with JUST tearing down dilapidated houses. We also need to work on housing rehabilitation so that additional structures do not reach the dilapidated stage. The City has applied for a $300,000 CHIP grant from the state of Georgia as well as a $500,000 CBDG grant. The CHIP grant will focus on properties NORTH of Broad Street. The CBDG grant will focus on properties SOUTH of Broad Street – in particular the McDuffie Street Area. We need to make sure we have available workforce housing as we work to entice industry to our town.
ALOT of work needs to be done, but ALOT has already been done and progress is continuing.
Comment to this post and tell me what you think ought to be done with Housing in Hawkinsville. Ideas? Suggestions? Compliments? Complaints? In order to be a better commissioner, I want YOUR feedback. And/or complete the poll below!