In his inaugural State of the County address, Rockdale County Chairman Oz Nesbitt expressed his desire to work more closely with stakeholders and outlined his vision to fight crime, deter blight and boost economic development.
Nesbitt said while some of his goals are long-term, others could be accomplished immediately.
Nesbitt announced, for example, that the county and the city of Conyers would jointly host job fair this spring and fall. Nesbitt said the collaboration came about after the Board of Commissioners accepted an invitation to attend the city’s planning retreat in January, a few weeks after he took office. Nesbitt called the retreat “historic,” saying the leaders had a productive, three-day meeting where they shared concerns and ideas about how to move the county forward. Now, the BOC, city officials and Rockdale School District leaders are meeting monthly to mobilize resources, “laying all the dead cats on the table,” Nesbitt said.
“We are working together. “You’re going to see collaborative results,” Nesbitt said in his March 9 address hosted that morning by the Conyers-Rockdale Chamber of Commerce and Council for Quality Growth. The county address was one of two Nesbitt delivered that day.
Nesbitt said he envisions establishing a public-private partnership to boost economic development and bring more shopping, lodging and dining. He said the initiative includes utilizing the county’s parks to host concerts, festivals and other events and hiring a deputy director of operations and a deputy director of marketing communications and tourism as part of the initiative.
“Every time development candidates come in to Rockdale County, they are looking at parks and recreation sites and they’re always asking for parks and recreation information. If it’s important to them, it should be—and it must be—important to us,” Nesbitt said.
The chairman praised Sheriff Eric Levett for reducing the crime rate in Rockdale by almost 30 percent, the lowest the county has witnessed in the last five years with burglaries down more than 50 percent. As a big proponent of public safety who spent 15 years in law enforcement, Nesbitt said he plans to advocate for all of the tools and equipment needed to deter crime, provide for community policing, sub stations in high crime areas, training and to implement meaningful youth programs. He said $700,000 in federal funding has been earmarked for policing efforts targeting the Fieldstone View and Country Walk communities near Salem Road.
Nesbitt promised a “much more assertive approach” to crack down on blight. He said plans are being made to hire a code enforcement manager and additional code enforcement officers. He said for now, however, his chief of staff, Hambrick, would oversee code enforcement and his Public Relations Department would launch a campaign to educate the citizens about the impact of blight on the county.
“It’s not that we are seeking to harass or punish anyone, but we must all do our fair share to ensure the prosperity of this community. It’s not a county or city problem. This is a community issue that must be addressed by working together,” said Nesbitt, He said a number of community clean-up campaigns are being organized starting this spring and providing education to residents on keeping the county clean is a top priority.
“The more local homeowners know and understand about how much code enforcement issues can impact their property values and their wallets, the more support we will have for improving the image of Rockdale County,” Nesbitt said.
Nesbitt said he has charged each department with creating a 90-day action plan.
He said a new strategist has been hired to assist the county in its Human Resources Department, which is undergoing an “extreme makeover.” The name of the HR Department, Nesbitt said, has changed to the Office of Talent management to reflect the county’s mission to recruit topnotch people. He said The Chairman’s Office has begun to organize an employee committee to start planning “Employee Appreciation Day” activities and to provide feedback on how the county can improve employee morale.
Nesbitt said the county plans to create a hiring center where job seekers can come in and use computers to look for jobs outside of county government.
Nesbitt said in addition to addressing economic development with jobs, the county also plans to increase water and sewer rates.
“For our community to continue to grow, we must face some critical sewer capacity issues that must be addressed,” Nesbitt said. “We are in the process of designing a new wastewater treatment facility to accommodate our projected growth. Believe it or not, water and sewer capacity is one of the most critical elements of economic development negotiations, as companies and developers considering building plants, facilities or homes in the area demand assurances that their water needs can be met.”
Nesbitt said he is pleased with the teamwork concerning the Board of Commissioners and he believes it is the glue to making things happen.
“The teamwork and the connectivity that we have as a board are pretty remarkable, and we bring incredible energy and synergy to the table when we meet,” said Nesbitt in praising Commissioner Doreen Williams for completing a strategic plan that includes citizens input and Commissioner Sherri Washington for initiating her Tea Talks as a way to engage residents and stakeholders on their issues and concerns.
“I am challenging us to turn the page on the issues of the past and focus forward on a new, shining version of the best county in the state of Georgia,” Nesbitt said. “This is a whole new approach to governing in Rockdale County – a collaboration among all of the stakeholders to arrive at a mutually beneficial destination. My goal is to help create and sustain a stable county structure that is relationship driven, provides exceptional services and incorporates the latest technology. I promise you a county government that is less bureaucratic and more constituent driven. With your help, I am certain we will all get there together.”