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CARLTON FLETCHER: Finding the fine line between inspiration and what was I thinking?

OPINION: Albany officials encouraged after annual retreat

Carlton Fletcher

Carlton Fletcher

I went to the danger zone.

Kenny Loggins

I had a cousin once who was at that age where he was expected to start making decisions about his future, so I asked him if he had any kind of career goals in mind.

He said, excitedly, “I’m going to be a Navy fighter pilot.”

Since this cousin’s ambition level had not previously expanded beyond pizza delivery boy, I was momentarily taken aback. But after getting over the initial shock, I said to him, “You just saw ‘Top Gun’ didn’t you?”

He couldn’t figure out how I’d guessed.

When emotions become part of the equation, we humans tend to expand our personal horizons, at least for as long as we are caught up in that emotion. It’s how long we maintain that momentary euphoria that is the difference between inspiration and what the heck was I thinking?

Heading into their first meeting (Tuesday) after a two-plus-day retreat in Thomasville, Albany city officials are riding a wave of optimism that hasn’t been seen in these parts in quite some time. The question citizens in the community are pondering, though, is will this newfound enthusiasm result in any measurable results?

First-year Commissioner B.J. Fletcher may have been most impacted by her first retreat with her fellow board members. She came home convinced that the commission is ready to lead a historic turnaround that will return the community to its rightful place as the cultural, financial and retail hub of Southwest Georgia.

“I’ll tell you the most important thing I got from the retreat,” Fletcher said. “This is a very, very good commission. The people on this board are passionate about Albany, and they are committed to doing the right things.

“Make no mistake about it: We’re battling with Valdosta now to be the hub of our region. But we’re going in the right direction. We’re going to do some very big things in our community, and I’m excited about being a part of that.”

Mayor Dorothy Hubbard said she, too, was encouraged by the goings-on at the retreat, but she said there is a crucial element that must fall into place before citizens notice a measurable difference.

“I’m convinced that the commission is prepared to do the right things on behalf of the community,” Hubbard said after returning from Thomasville. “But one of the things we need is a complete buy-in from our employees. We’re going to do everything we can for those employees, but they need to understand that their top priority, their No. 1 goal, has got to be to serve the citizens of this community.”

City Manager James Taylor has seen more than his share of planning and strategy sessions during his years as an administrator and before that as a Marine. But even he admits that the recent city retreat could have a positive impact on the day-to-day operation of the city government and on the future of the community.

“I scheduled the retreat in Thomasville because it is one of the closest MEAG (Municipal Electiric Authority of Georgia) cities, plus there are some really good things happening there,” Taylor said. “Certainly things are not perfect in Thomasville, and it’s a much smaller community than Albany. But they’ve done some good things there — especially with their utilities — things that we could do in our community to make a difference.”

Both Taylor and City Attorney Nathan Davis, at an Albany-Dougherty Inner City Authority meeting last week, pointed out that Thomasville citizens do not pay city taxes. “There are three taxing entities in our community: the city, the county and the School Board,” Davis said. “In Thomasville, there are only two. The city does not collect property taxes.”

The reason? Thomasville’s utility authority, which became one of the state’s most efficiently run utilities under the guidance of current Albany Water, Gas & Light interim General Manager Tom Berry, uses money it collects to offset city property taxes.

“What we have to understand is that we could do that,” Taylor said. “There’s no reason we shouldn’t be able to if we develop the kind of efficiency they have in Thomasville. One of the things we have to do, though, is not let opportunities slip away. We’ve done that in the past.

“We can’t go back now and undo what wasn’t done, for instance with Lee County utilities. But what we can do is look for other such opportunities going forward.”

Hmmm … maybe I will look into this Navy fighter pilot thing after all.

Email Metro Editor Carlton Fletcher at carlton.fletcher@albanyherald.com.