Macon-Bibb County government officials spent time in Athens this week for a retreat.
The trip offered time for camaraderie, but more importantly to take a look back at the first few years of consolidated government and outline future goals.
If the first three years are any indication, there appears to be more of an accord, or harmony, among the nine current commissioners and Mayor Robert Reichert when tackling issues.
That doesn’t mean Macon-Bibb officials always get along. But even when some of them have fought for what they believe is in the best interest of their constituents, the engagement has typically remained amicable.
The previous governments featured a 15-member Macon City Council and mayor, and Bibb government comprised of four commissioners and a chairman. The larger number of voices on the City Council meant more opinions and more disagreements, which sometimes turned ugly. It also wasn’t uncommon for the County Commission to butt heads with the City Council over the years.
But that’s changed since 2014 when the newly consolidated government went into effect.
One example of how commissioners worked through what can be a difficult process is with the $280 million special purpose local option sales tax referendum. Forming a list of capital projects could have become messy as officials argued over where the money should go. It took just four workshops, though, for the County Commission to come to a consensus on several dozen SPLOST projects.
The first few years of consolidation have not been perfect. There have been declining revenues in some areas, which will force commissioners to make tough decisions. But with a certain level of respect among the commissioners, officials at least feel their opinions are not lost in a sea of discourse.
The latest retreat was facilitated by the University of Georgia’s Carl Vinson Institute of Government. It is the same entity that helped guide Macon and Bibb officials into consolidation, and its representative have a good grasp of local government. County commissioners, in fact, were commended this week for their ability to work together.
While the friction between parties in Congress continues, Macon-Bibb appears to be taking a different approach. That, in large measure, could determine whether these next four years and beyond are a success.