Speaking for Catoosa County was Board of Commissioners Chair Steven Henry.

Henry opened by talking about how thankful and humbled he felt to be at the event. “This county that I get to represent,” he said, “is a place I love.”

A lot of things in the county, Henry said, are not as flashy as in city government. “We’re the backbone that works with and helps the city governments.”

Henry emphasized unity in government, working as a team. He said he felt blessed to have good people to work with in the county and the cities, as well as on the school board, and while not elected, in the Chamber of Commerce.

Some specifics Henry shared and peppered with names of people he wanted to recognize included:

Helping to fund the Chamber of Commerce again.

The work of the Catoosa Economic Development Authority in courting new businesses.

The county’s partnership with Ringgold.

Great strides in public safety, including the “consolidation of the fire departments,” which Henry said was a good thing, contrary to some public opinion. Henry cited the ISO rating of the county fire department, which he said was 5 when the current fire chief took over and is now a much-improved 3.

New county control of ambulance service.

The updating of the CAD system that improves dispatching for emergency services.

Henry praised the work going on toward the new college and career academy. “Our job,” he said, “is to get the next generation ready to take over.” He said we haven’t done a great job of preparing the next generation but that the college and career academy is a good, positive step in the right direction.

The county, said Henry, has a new chief financial officer who has brought employees into the improvement process by asking them individually for their input.

Catoosa County continues to have one of the lowest tax rates in the state, Henry said. He said when he took office, Catoosa had the 16th lowest taxes of all the counties in the state and now stands at the seventh lowest.

Henry said he is pleased with the representation Catoosa County residents have at both the state and federal levels and with how accessible those elected officials have been.

The county, said Henry, is building a new website in an effort to be more open and available to residents. He said plans are in the works to live broadcast commission meetings.

Henry also praised programs at the recreation center, the library and the senior center and said that the animal shelter would be extending its hours to be open on Saturdays soon.

CHI Memorial Hospital Georgia, in Fort Oglethorpe, said Henry has been making a huge investment in the community and now has 32 beds in operation.

Henry took the opportunity of his State of the County address to praise Fort Oglethorpe City Manager Jennifer Payne-Simpkins, who will be leaving for a new job Dec. 3. “Jenny Simpkins, in my opinion — I’m probably about to get into trouble — has been the best city manager that Fort Oglethorpe has ever had.”

The county, Henry concluded, is strong financially at all levels. He reiterated the good relationships all levels of government have with one another: county, cities, and state and federal representatives.

“A lot of positive things go on each and every day,” said Henry. “I am blessed to be here and I am thankful to be here.”

Tamara Wolk is a reporter for The Catoosa County News in Ringgold, Ga., and Walker County Messenger in LaFayette, Ga.

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