As president of ComSouth, Rob Brooks holds a big job in Middle Georgia, but a volunteer position he took on Thursday might be even more important.
At its quarterly meeting, the 21st Century Partnership named Brooks as its new board chairman. Together with retired Lt. Gen. Charles Stenner, president of the partnership, Brooks will lead efforts to protect jobs at Robins Air Force Base.
“We’ve got a great organization and it’s so important to our overall community, the entire Middle Georgia region,” Brooks said. “It was just a good opportunity to give back.”
As of Jan. 1, Brooks will take over for outgoing board chairman Brad Fink, who has held the position for the past four years.
Priority No. 1, Brooks said, is getting the partnership on a sound financial footing to fend of a potential Base Realignment and Closure Commission. The partnership has a $700,000 budget for the coming year but only $442,000 pledged. The organization is funded with private donations and contributions from city and county governments across the region.
“People think without an active BRAC, they do not need to be concerned, but you can’t wait until there is a BRAC,” Brooks said. “You have to be ready in advance.”
After achieving status as a nonprofit organization, the partnership for the first time this year was listed in the Combined Federal Campaign, which is the federal government’s version of the United Way. Base employees are able to choose charities and have a portion of their paycheck deducted.
The campaign, which recently concluded, resulted in only $2,000 for the partnership out of the 23,000 workers at the base. Brooks said he would like to see that go higher next year, but he isn’t terribly disappointed, considering that it was the first year the group was listed.
“Despite the fact that we didn’t get a huge donation, it’s another way to get that message out,” he said.
Stenner said he believes a BRAC is possible in 2017, more likely in 2018, and very likely in 2019. Whether Congress ever approves one or not, he said, the base can still face cuts outside of the BRAC process. That’s why there appears to be a growing sentiment that a BRAC could be a better alternative than any behind-the-scenes cuts that could happen otherwise.
“We are eventually going to get to a BRAC decision,” Stenner said. “There has got to be some way to reduce 25 percent excess infrastructure. The only way to really do that where there is a level playing field is to do a BRAC.”
Fink’s last act as chairman was to sign off on new bylaws for the group. Among the changes is the creation of an executive board. Previously, the entire membership voted on key issues, but there was never a quorum. Under the change, the executive committee of Ivan Allen, Marian Fraley, Roger Folsom, Virgil Adams, David Thompson and Bryant Culpepper will cast the votes and meet more regularly.
The full membership meetings will go from quarterly to twice per year, as well as a third meeting for the general public.
Although the meeting is normally held at the Museum of Aviation in Warner Robins, Thursday’s meeting was held at the Anderson Conference Center in Macon.
To contact writer Wayne Crenshaw, call 256-9725.