For the past several years, leadership from various walks of life across Polk County have gathered for a dinner and a session to celebrate all the positive results of planning and hard work within various organizations.

Whether it be the Chamber of Commerce’s growing list of events and opportunities for members to work together or the County Commission’s passage of a new pay scale, there’s always items of note that help improve the lives of citizens across Polk.

This year, officials focused primarily on one big topic between the various presentations: ways that local government and organizations are helping to make the lives of people a little better every day.

Chamber Executive Director Blair Elrod also used the occasion as a chance to celebrate board members from the organization who have finished out their service and are moving on to other areas where they can help, and one person in particular that stepped up for months to provide a lending hand.

Risa Foley stepped in to provide her services to the Chamber while Elrod was out on a leave of absence caring for her newborn son Truett. Foley was presented an award for her efforts from July through September.

The Chamber, who organizes the State of the Community annually, presented their annual achievements to the county as a whole.

Included among those were dozens of events, new membership and more. Following Elrod’s presentation, Development Authority of Polk County’s chair Jamie Morris came to to the podium to provide an overview of where the organization promoting economic development opportunities have achieved.

Their biggest item of the night was the introduction of the DAPC’s new CEO and President Terry Schwindler. She replaced Missy Kendrick, who in past months took on the role of heading up the Rome-Floyd County Development Authority.

Morris also praised the expansion of businesses and industries in the county including his own Cedarstream, who opened their new facility in the Cedartown Northside Industrial Park in early 2019, and for the newest addition to the county, the new Interntional Union of Operating Engineers Local 926 training facility being built on property next door to Cedartown Middle School.

Other local achievements praised over the past year included County Commission Chair Jennifer Hulsey’s positive review of the county’s improved pay scale approved in past months and implemented in mid-October. She talked about the overall effort to equalize pay for county employees and increase competition in starting salary for new hires with other municipalities around the region.

Hulsey also talked about the ongoing work on the Cornelius Moore Field runway extension, annual paving, and the county’s continued lawsuit over operations at the Grady Road Landfill. Hulsey called on people to report problems around the landfill to the county commission.

As of press time, the lawsuit remained in limbo waiting for a new hearing in the Tallapoosa Circuit Superior Court that has been continued several times.

In news from the cities, Commission Chair Matt Foster praised new restaurants like Kizuna and WNB Factory, the forthcoming Popeye’s Chicken and dozens of other new businesses within the Cedartown City Limits as sign of progress. He also talked about recreation opportunities on the rise for local youth, including the soon-to-be fully completed soccer complex at Goodyear Park on West Avenue, and praised the growth of youth participation over the past year in several sports.

Foster also praised new events like the Holloway Hunny Pot Festival as examples of how officials are trying to attract more people to come to town and create new business opportunities along the way.

Rockmart Mayor Steve Miller in his final State of the Community address used his time to talk about improvements in Rockmart, opportunities like the filming of “Irresistible” during the spring months in downtown, and even the purchase of new public safety equipment, including the largest single purchase of a new ladder truck for the Rockmart Fire Department.

Miller also made a plea that received a round of applause from the audience for local leadership to come together and work out a paid/volunteer fire department that would serve the needs of the whole county, and not just the individual cities or unincorporated areas.

The Polk School District also got the chance to provide positive feedback on the year as Superintendent Laurie Atkins discussed increasing graduation rates, the success so far of Graduate Polk and how educators are helping students and their families with a variety of needs, and much more.

State Rep. Trey Kelley spoke about the accomplishments on the state level, including a reduction in state income tax rates, full funding for education and increases in pay promised by Governor Brian Kemp for teachers, and the work being done to increase broadband access to rural customers.

The annual State of the Community address is held in late October as a way for officials to showcase what has come, and preview some what will be the focus of the new year.

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