According to Dr. Stephen Covey, in order to be effective one must “begin with the end in mind”. He further states that effectiveness requires that “mental creation precede physical creation.” Last week, members of the Varnell community were introduced to the Varnell 2020 Vision. The presentation of the Vision by Mayor Dan Peeples was wonderfully refreshing. His energy and passion was indicative of a Mayor and Council who are not just talking, but a group of leaders who are committed to action.
Since being elected by the citizens of Varnell, Mayor Peeples and the current Council have worked tirelessly to imagine a new Varnell. And with a blank slate in which to draw on, they have a unique opportunity to truly improve a growing community. They have spent months talking to citizens and talking among themselves about what Varnell could be. And in a time when most governments are solely focused on cutting budgets and eliminating services , the Varnell leadership presented a beautiful picture of what their community can be given hard work, resources, and a little luck.
The Mayor and Council propose three areas of focus: the Cleveland Highway commercial corridor, a new Downtown, and recreation / leisure amenities. In recent years new development has grown along the existing commercial corridor and has plenty of available land to support continued growth. The expansion of public sewer will fuel additional quality growth. The vision outlined plans to recruit businesses that are not currently available in Varnell such as a dry-cleaning business, a law office, a hair and beauty business, and additional restaurants.
Mayor Peeples jokingly remarked during his presentation that a recent forum caller inquired as to where Downtown Varnell is located. The Mayor aptly responded that the forum caller precisely made the point that the community needs a downtown. Creating a “downtown” business district is not new. All downtowns were built new at some point. The Mayor and Council plan to design such a business district, gain approval from the Varnell citizens, and then build the district as resources are available.
The focus area of recreation and leisure already has assets that add value to the Varnell community. The Varnell Springs has been enhanced recently with walkways and paths that will protect the spring while also allowing continued use. The recreational complex located adjacent to Varnell Elementary is already in great demand. But the vision calls for enhancements to the walking trail such like new park benches and new decorative lighting.
Varnell was recently awarded a community block grant to build a community center. Using skilled inmate labor from the Georgia Department of Corrections, the initial price tag will be reduced significantly allowing the City leaders to build an open-air picnic shelter behind the community center.
The City of Dalton has also benefitted from a vision from its elected leaders. Mayor Pennington and the Dalton City Council knew that the tax rate in the City had reached a level that threatened it from being competitive, especially given the economic climate of recent years. They set out to not only reduce the size of the city government through reducing taxes, but to also maintain current services at a level that citizens would not notice. The City of Dalton employees, department leaders, and the elected leaders epitomize doing more with less.
The current members of the Whitfield County Board of Commissioners also have a vision. Given our community’s high unemployment rate, they are extremely focused on economic development. They are so focused some have criticized some of their decisions like the recruitment of IVC to build their North American cooperate office and manufacturing facility here and their decision to purchase 180 acres of land off the Carbondale exit on I-75 to build the Carbondale Commerce Park.
For those that will become employed again or those who improve their employment through a better job, the decisions of the County’s leaders will be praised. And for the rest of us who will one day have less of a tax burden because more businesses invested here and grew the tax digest, we are grateful for the vision of our County Leaders. And for those still unemployed, these decisions will pay off sooner rather than later in providing more employment opportunities for our neighbors.
As a taxpayer, a citizen, and a community stakeholder, I am grateful for our community leaders who choose to serve as elected officials. And those that lead our communities proactively with the benefit of a Community Vision, I applaud you! On behalf of a grateful community – Thank You!