In starting a new tradition, Maj. Gen. Robert McMahon was named our first Middle Georgian of the Year. What the general did at Warner Robins Air Logistics Center is nothing short of phenomenal, and, after all, the base brings more than $4 billion to the midstate. But I would like you to know about another person, among many, who were finalists.
Let me preface this by telling you that I consider John Hiscox, retiring head of the Macon Housing Authority a friend. I believe hes the best housing authority director in the country. The legacy he leaves behind will last generations.
Space wont allow telling all of the Housing Authoritys accomplishments under his leadership, so Ill demur to just three.
Hiscox arrived in Macon a year before I did in 1981. When I was being shown around town by Scott Taylor, we went by Oglethorpe Homes. The old pale green buildings reminded me of the housing projects where I grew up in the Los Angeles area -- but older.
Shortly after we stopped by to meet Harris Walker, then publisher of the Macon Courier on Montpelier Avenue, he took me by an area called Macon Homes. I would soon find that it was the scariest neighborhood in the city, particularly at night.
As I grew familiar with the area, I became fond of the old Pearl Stephens Elementary School on Napier Avenue. Such architecture sat going to seed. I imagined all the children who walked the halls there and was puzzled why such a school was deemed unworthy.
In each case, Hiscox and his team, and he always stresses team, using a combination of grants (Hope VI), creative financing through public-private partnerships (tax credits) and imagination have erased decades of blight and provided affordable homes for those who need them.
Oglethorpe Homes is now Tattnall Place. The old green buildings are gone, replaced by a neighborhood anyone would be proud to live in. Same is true of the old Macon Homes site. Now, Bartlett Crossing, an area where you literally put your life in jeopardy has been transformed into a place where its safe for children to ride their bikes on the streets.
My favorite project, however, is what the Housing Authority did with Pearl Stephens. Older folks need housing, too, and the refurbished halls of the grand old school gleam again as do the smiles on the residents faces.
By the way, Im not talking about something Ive heard about, Im talking about what Ive seen up close and personal. Ive been in the apartments, talked with the residents and the old vision of the projects no longer applies.
For all the Housing Authority represents, the $130 million invested in the last 10 years; the Buck Melton Community Center that was the old Armory, to the energy-efficient Felton Homes, the one thing that sets it apart is how it treats people. That comes from leadership.
When there were thoughts the authoritys razing of Oglethorpe Homes would create gentrification, Hiscox explained in length what the authority was doing to make sure that didnt happen. When the authority created plans for minority contractors to participate in the construction projects, it not only met and exceeded goals, but it created a model for other entities to follow.
They didnt have to do it, but they did. Why? As John is fond of saying -- and you know when you get into a conversation with John that youll be a while -- Just do the right thing. You also know John likes to sprinkle quotes throughout conversation -- this one from former President Harry S. Truman, who undoubtedly borrowed it from Ralph Waldo Emerson: It is amazing how much you can accomplish when it doesnt matter who gets the credit.
This community is much the better because John Hiscox spent his lifes work here. Now he can go off kayaking down rivers most sane people would never attempt and spend time with his wife, Beverly, who, by the way, is much smarter than he is.
Friend look what we have done.
-- John Hiscox, 2013
Charles E. Richardson is The Telegraphs editorial page editor. He can be reached at (478)744-4342 or via e-mail at email@example.com. Tweet@crichard1020.