On January 25, during the Georgia Municipal Association’s (GMA) virtual Cities United Summit, the City of Statesboro was honored with the Visionary City Award by Georgia Trend and GMA.
Statesboro joined eight other city recipients. Three cities each earned the award in three categories: Small (population under 4,999), medium (5,000 to 24,999) and large (25,000 and over). Each city was recognized for actions and initiatives taken that increased civic engagement, created community partnerships and made people proud to call their city home.
“If ever there was a time for unity and togetherness, it is now, and these nine cities have illustrated this unity through their visionary projects,” said GMA Executive Director Larry Hanson. “It’s our privilege to honor the elected officials, city staff and community leaders who made these initiatives possible. These cities exemplify what it means to be forward-thinking for their residents and generations to come. They serve as inspiring examples of civility, collaboration and what it means to create communities of positive change across Georgia.”
The 2021 Visionary Cities:
Small City Category
- Hahira: Recognized for expanding city literacy programs to foster community and bring residents downtown during the COVID-19 pandemic. Hahira started a Main Street StoryWalk, in which residents could read a new book every month by reading one page on each Main Street storefront. The city also started a virtual book club to provide an opportunity for adults to socialize.
- Tybee Island: Recognized for supporting local businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic. The city allowed $500 façade grants to be used for new features to protect workers and customers, waived certain late fees and gave businesses two free city parking spots each for curbside pick-up.
- Woodbury: Recognized for expanding internet access at a critical time. Woodbury improved internet speeds at its municipal complex and added wireless mesh technology allowing residents to get service directly from the city.
Medium City Category
- Auburn: Recognized for thoughtfully planning a new downtown development that will include a new city hall, 150 homes and up to 20,000 square feet of commercial space. The new Auburn City Center’s design is inspired by historic buildings and will feature amenities including a village green, trails and a sustainable farm.
- Douglas: Recognized for taking action to confront the city’s mental health and addiction needs. Coffee County’s sole mental health clinic has regularly become overwhelmed by the demands of the community. Douglas city leaders worked with the county and Unison Behavioral Health to build a second mental health facility with a $750,000 state grant.
- Griffin: Recognized for its response to the summer unrest regarding racism and violence against Black people. A city-formed Ministerial Alliance led a prayer walk, and Griffin formed new groups to focus on diversity and inclusion efforts. The city also commissioned a downtown mural honoring Griffin native Janet Harmon Bragg, the first Black woman to hold a commercial pilot’s license.
Large City Category
- Brookhaven: Recognized for increasing outreach and accessibility for Spanish-speaking residents. Brookhaven partnered with local Latino community groups and provided city information in Spanish, including city forms and social media posts. The Brookhaven Police Department developed a Spanish-language Citizen Police Academy that has produced 80 graduates since 2016.
- Dunwoody: Recognized for expanding outdoor dining capacity for restaurants amid the COVID-19 pandemic and starting the Picnic Table Project. The project gave restaurants picnic tables decorated with city themes. The tables were used for a self-guided tour of local restaurants.
- Statesboro: Recognized for taking action to improve housing stock and the availability of affordable housing. Statesboro revived the once-defunct Statesboro Housing Authority and is working with community partners and private developers to create more affordable housing. The city also revised code enforcement ordinances and is working to secure funding to help homeowners make repairs.