ALBANY, Ga. -- Focusing on issues like community development and revenue enhancement, Dougherty County Commissioner John Hayes says that he believes that promoting a sense of community pride and unity should be a priority of local government.
The incumbent in the Commission's second district, Hayes is seeking re-election and hoping to fend off a challenge by political newcomer Lonnie Smith.
Sitting in a conference room in the County Commission offices on the fifth-floor of the Government Building, Hayes said he's proud of the strides the Commission has made in recent years but admits that much is left to do.
A proponent of community development, Hayes said the local government needs to rededicate itself to trying to unite the various sectors of the community toward advancing the county as a whole.
"The greatest need for our community today ... is unifying our community," Hayes said. "I think that, as we look at all of the challenges and matters that pertain to our community, that much of it can be attributed to problems communicating. But I sincerely believe that you can't have economic development without community development.
"We have to pull northwest and southwest to the center so we can attack the issues together."
Hayes said that he would like the Commission and those in power in all facets of the community -- business, civic and religious groups -- to work together and contribute constructive ideas that will push the entire community forward.
Pointing toward a recent partnership between Sherwood Films and Mt. Zion Baptist Church, of which he is a member, Hayes said that it's time to put aside the things that divide us.
"We have to tear down the barriers that separate us and come together," Hayes said. "The Sherwood and Mt. Zion agreement is a perfect example."
Sherwood Baptist Church, whose movie arm is shooting its next film, has partnered with Mt. Zion Baptist Church to include them on the project.
"Here you have one of the area's largest predominately white churches partnering with one of the largest predominately black churches toward a common goal that will ultimately benefit many more people than are affiliated with either entity," he said. "That's a good model to have."
Hayes said, looking forward, the Commission needs to think outside of the box when it comes to complex issues like revenue enhancement opportunities and economic development.
Just last week, Hayes suggested that the Commission hear from an agency that has been working with county governments in the metro Atlanta area on ways to enhance revenue and cut costs using existing tools available.
"We're not talking necessarily about revolutionary ideas, but maybe something that is working somewhere else that we haven't really tried here," Hayes said.
Hayes has been a driving force behind a growing street light initiative that he said was born of a concern raised at one of his quarterly listening sessions he hosts and is now helping to brighten rural subdivisions and neighborhoods throughout the county.
He said he is hopeful that a youth commission set up to promote community pride and personal community investment in the county's next generation of leaders will continue to grow. That youth commission exposed 15-20 youth to government principals and service.
Hayes said he hopes that by getting young people engaged in government they'll take a personal stake in the community and be more likely to stay here once they graduate from high school.
Hayes, whose district has one of the area's most active neighborhood associations, worked with City Commissioner Jon Howard to recognize neighborhood watch groups and said that the groups are the vital eyes and ears of local government.
The commissioner said that there is still important work to be done and that he'd like to continue what he and the Commission has started.
"If, after looking at what we've been able to accomplish, I hope the people of my district see fit to allow me another term to continue to work on those issues that remain unfinished," he said.