Update: 21st Century Partnership names McMahon new leader, to create 501(c)(3)

WARNER ROBINS -- When he took the stage for his retirement ceremony a week ago, Maj. Gen. Robert McMahon joked about facing the reality that he was unemployed.

He wasn’t for long.

The 21st Century Partnership named the popular commander its president and chief executive officer Thursday just moments after approving a new organizational structure that created the position.

“For the first time since I was 17 years old, I didn’t know what I was going to wear today,” McMahon said following the vote.

It was a standing-room-only crowd, and there wasn’t much standing room. About 70 people attended the partnership’s quarterly meeting in a room at the Museum of Aviation.

McMahon retired as commander of the Warner Robins Air Logistics Center with 34 years of service in the Air Force. When board Chairman Brad Fink asked for the vote on the selection of McMahon for the job, it was instantly met with a loud round of yays, to which Fink responded, “Nays, get the hell out.”

Then the crowd gave a standing ovation.

In his 20 months as commander at Robins, McMahon constantly preached the importance of the center’s many organizations working together toward their common goal. That theme was largely credited to his success in turning around the center’s performance.

In his first comments to the partnership, he delivered essentially the same message.

“This isn’t about Houston County, and it isn’t about Warner Robins,” McMahon said. “It is about Middle Georgia as a team working together unified to do what’s necessary to support this great installation.”

The partnership is an organization of business and community leaders who work to promote Robins Air Force Base and defend it in the event of a Base Realignment and Closure Commission.

Retired Maj. Gen. Rick Goddard, senior adviser to the partnership, will continue as interim leader of the organization until McMahon’s Sept. 1 start date.

Prior to the vote on the new organizational structure, Goddard explained the reason behind it was a desire to make the partnership a 501(c)(3) organization, which would make donations tax exempt. However, a 501(c)(3) can’t lobby Congress, which is an important role of the partnership.

Therefore the new organization establishes two boards, with one to be a 501(c)(3) and the other to have a lobbying role.

For that reason, instead of having an executive director, the partnership will now have a president/CEO to manage the two boards.

The meeting drew leaders from around Middle Georgia, including Macon Mayor Robert Reichert. He spoke to the group after the announcement.

“I just wanted to let you know that we stand shoulder-to-shoulder with you,” he said. “We recognize the significance of coming together as a region and cooperating.”

Warner Robins Mayor Chuck Shaheen said after the meeting that McMahon was the right choice for the job.

“I think the future is bright for the Robins region with Gen. McMahon,” Shaheen said. “He is a great leader. He brings us in and makes us all feel a part of the team.”

On paper, McMahon wouldn’t appear to bring much more to the partnership than Goddard, who also once served as commander of the Warner Robins Air Logistics Center. However, just before making the announcement Goddard pointed out he is more than 10 years retired and doesn’t have the connections within the Air Force that he once did.

“It has always been evident to us that you need to have currency, someone who understood what the organization of the Air Force has transferred into, who understands the leadership principles of those sitting in the seats today,” he said.

To contact writer Wayne Crenshaw, call 256-9725.