Local officials head to leadership conference

About 70 Macon and Bibb County leaders will head south to Lake Blackshear on Tuesday to participate in a community leadership conference to discuss a community vision.

The conference, which will last through Wednesday at the lake near Cordele, is the brainchild of Bibb County Commission Chairman Sam Hart, who announced the idea at his swearing-in in December.

“Our goal is to let this sort of be the beginning of a process to develop a blueprint of something that we can continue to develop once we get back here,” Hart said.

The Fanning Institute, a public service and outreach unit of the University of Georgia, will facilitate discussion. Representatives from all facets of Bibb County will be present, including the Bibb County Commission, Macon City Council, the Greater Macon Chamber of Commerce, NewTown Macon, the Macon-Bibb County Hospital Authority, the school board, the sheriff’s office, the Macon Water Authority and the Macon Housing Authority.

“I’m very pleased that our new chairman wants to start off our administration by sharing vision and consulting with community leaders,” said John Hiscox, executive director of the Macon Housing Authority who plans to attend the conference.

During the first day of the gathering, participants will identify community issues and concerns, Hart said.

The issues then will be divided into categories, such as consolidation, crime or education. The next day, participants will break into groups to talk about those issues. Topics raised during the four Heart to Hart public forums the chairman has hosted during the past month will be included in these group discussions.

“The second day we’ll try to come back and then put a little meat on it,” Hart said.

By allowing participants to learn about the issues, Hart said, he hopes to identify specific people to champion certain subject areas. Those champions then will have further discussion in the community and help implement ideas relating to that issue, he said.

Participants in the conference will not necessarily develop a vision, but put together a framework of one to bring back for community input, Hart said.

Commissioner Lonzy Edwards said he’s going into the conference with an open mind, although his experience with retreats in the past hasn’t been that good.

“We’re good at studies and retreats,” he said. “We tend to not be so good at translating those things into concrete action plans.”

To contact writer Jennifer Burk, call 744-4345.