Last week, I read a glowing editorial about cooperation and partnership between every government entity in Bryan County. Every entity, that is, except the City of Pembroke. I brought up this observation to my good friend Mr. Whitten and his reply was "Write something and have it to me by Wednesday" so "Here ‘tis."
I am pleased to report that despite the generally accepted perception, Pembroke is moving forward. To those of you who don’t remember, for about 75 years Pembroke was the political, social, cultural, historical and educational heart of Bryan County, hence its designation as county seat. From its heart, it pumps lifeblood up and down three state routes and two arterial roads to the four corners of this region. It is bisected by a railroad that for more than a century has moved commerce from the port of Savannah to points beyond. It constitutes North Bryan’s residential density, our sales tax receiver, our commercial center and many of our houses of worship. It is where our mothers were born in Dr. Gene’s back parlor and our fathers are buried in Northside Cemetery only blocks away from where they first met and fell in love at Junior Lane’s Grocery Store. It has been a force disproportionate to its size since my grandfather was peddling eggs on the sidewalk for 10 cents a dozen in the 1930s and today it is stronger than ever.
With a few strategic moves and goals our city’s population will break 5,000 by 2030 even if we don’t annex another inch. We are drilling a well in Bulloch County outside the ‘yellow zone’ to ensure that future generations have access to adequate water; we are about to break ground on a 19,000-square-foot public safety complex that will preserve law, order, safety and justice for the next century; we have quadrupled our recreational resources through the HYPE afterschool program and expanded our playground at the Harn Center. We have beseeched our friends at GDOT to continue their work on our main roads and I’m proud to announce that our portion of Highway 280 and our diagonal downtown parking will be completely repaired and resurfaced by 2022. We are working with several partners to market a project-ready 10-acre city-owned tract in our industrial park (Bryan County’s first) that can support a 16-car rail spur. Just this week, we received word that we were awarded a $612,000 grant from the Department of Community Affairs to address the housing shortage in our city.
To those who say that change won’t come, I give you this example: In 1996, the City of Newnan issued 26 building permits; in 2005 they issued 1,053, a 3,950 percent increase in less than 10 years. This reality is why on March 12 following the 7 p.m. city council meeting, I want every one of you to come help us write our 10-year comprehensive plan to prepare for what I think will be unprecedented growth in our future.
Let me back up a second and address all the nay-sayers who moan and complain that we’ll never grow as fast as Richmond Hill. I hope you’re right. Don’t get me wrong, I have been blessed to spend more time and have more friends in Richmond Hill than most of my North Bryan brethren. I was married on the parapet at Fort McAllister, have taught 4-H meetings in Carver and McAllister schools, have known the joy of a shrimp basket at Fish Tales and a platter of oysters at Marker 107, danced at Clara Ford’s 150th Birthday Party, enjoyed several Seafood Festivals and walked the shaded streets of Waterways. I even know where "Belfast Commerce Center" is. However, like all flourishing cities, Richmond Hill has issues, troubles and obstacles that need not be re-printed here. Although in-fighting , confusion and miscommunication are never a positive thing, they have led to more open and participatory discussion from all sides and will continue to create a situation that we can all learn from. There is a happy medium between our two cities and that is what we hope to achieve.
Pembroke works alongside, supports and salutes all our fellow entities for their promotion of 21st century urban principles, land uses and master planning. In my opinion, Bryan County’s Board of Commissioners, Board of Education and the City of Richmond Hill are in extremely capable hands and I look forward to our time together as we look toward our common goals. I support Chairman Infinger in his efforts to bridge the gaps between our communities. While not 100 percent satisfied with our school situation on the north end, as anyone who knows me will tell you, I have great faith in our superintendent and especially principals Mr. Tucker, Mrs. Raeburn, Mr. Hodges and Dr. Emmerson and hope to watch them continue to achieve the greatness that the parents and students of this community deserve. (More History trivia: the first school system in Bryan County was founded in 1904 by the Pembroke City Council 30 years before a Board of Education existed.) I consider Mayor Russ Carpenter a true personal friend, a friend to the City of Pembroke and an outstanding human being. I wish him, his Council and his community the most success and prosperity the world has to offer. I would be remiss if I didn’t mention Bryan County Development Authority leader Mrs. Anna Chafin. There is not enough room in this paper to list the goals this wonderful lady has set, worked toward and accomplished for our communities. This is evidenced by the PFML articles in which Mr. Whitten leaves her alone while writing terrible things about the rest of us.
I don’t know which author wrote this quote in last week’s article but I think its needs repeating, "Just like Rome wasn’t built in a day, all of these efforts take time, as well as tremendous vision, cooperation, ingenuity, determination and perhaps most importantly a commitment to do what is in the long term best interest of the public." While the City of Pembroke may not be the largest contributor to these efforts, I will argue that we contribute as much as our staffing, budgets and resources allow and then some. As administrator, I promise you that we will work hard, we will work with purpose, we will work toward goals and we will work together. To our fellow government agencies and partners, Pembroke will share our strengths and admit our weaknesses. We may depend on you from time to time but rest assured when the time comes, you can depend on us. Our doors, our offices and our hearts are open to all of you as we look forward to our common future with great anticipation.
7th Generation Bryan Countian