As the Rome City Commission prepares for a fresh start Monday — with three newly-elected commissioners taking their seats — three veteran commissioners shared their top priorities for 2020 for this issue of the Rome News-Tribune.
♦ Commissioner Wendy Davis said that, first and foremost, she wants to listen to the ideas of her newest colleagues.
“They were elected promoting change and I want to be somebody who facilitates a good hearing of their ideas for change,” said Davis, who was first elected to Ward 2 in 2013. “Sometimes people who want to make change have to stand on the side and holler a minute.”
The 1987 Berry College graduate said she feels the city made good progress toward addressing the issues of poverty and homelessness this past year. She said she wants to make sure that momentum continues as the Homelessness Task Force evolves into the Interagency Council on Poverty & Homelessness.
Finding ways to incorporate more affordable housing in Rome should be a major focus of those efforts, she believes.
“I’ve done a lot of research on what other cities have done and there are so many different avenues we could pursue,” she said. “There are cities across the country that have virtually eliminated homelessness. But we not only need to add housing for those at the lowest end of the spectrum, but also for working families who are having a hard time finding reasonably-priced homes.”
Davis, who spent more than 25 years fostering civic engagement as a political strategist, also wants to continue to work toward getting more Romans involved in the community and city government by becoming more “plugged in.”
“I have a strong desire to work on building neighborhood connections and connecting them to the city,” said Davis, whose profile on the Rome Commission web page outlines the various steps already taken to keep residents informed, such as live streaming meetings and having the “MyRome” smartphone app. “I don’t want to put my cart before my horse and so at this point I can only tease about my ideas. But I’m only one of nine votes. Just because I have an idea, doesn’t mean it’s going to happen.”
Former mayor Jamie Doss, an Ameriprise financial adviser first elected to the commission in 1994, expressed excitement about the upcoming completion of the Mount Berry Trail on the western flank of the Oostanaula River.
“It’s such a beautiful trail and the trail users will be amazed,” said the Darlington and Berry College graduate who serves on the trails committee. “You pass a lake and you’re on the opposite side of the river from Ridge Ferry Park and you actually cross under the bridge and start following the Oostanaula River. It’s going to be our best trail yet.”
Other than making sure the city’s transit system is meeting as many needs as possible as plans are unveiled later this year, Doss said he’d like to see more incentives for encouraging development in the River District, as well as increasing promotion of Rome as a tourist and sports destination.
“It’s going to be an exciting addition to downtown as we blend the two together,” said Doss, adding he believes it will be important for the commission to work together on common goals, instead of splitting off into small factions. “If we’re divided into small groups, we’ll struggle to accomplish anything.”
Craig McDaniel, a commercial real estate agent who previously served as president of Georgia Northwestern Technical College, said he’d like to focus on community revitalization — particularly ♦ in West Rome.
“We’ve had the greatest amount of job loss and the loss of retail in West Rome,” said McDaniel, a Rome native and graduate of Rome High School who holds four college degrees. “We need better code enforcement and marketing on the vacant buildings there and we need to get some industrial property along Tech Parkway that belonged to Berry College.”
Cleaning up the corridors coming into downtown Rome and expanding the city’s focus on downtown development across the river also are major priorities for the former chairman of the board of Greater Rome Chamber of Commerce.
“We need to do a better job of branding Broad Street. That’s our crown jewel,” he said, adding he agrees with incoming commissioner Mark Cochran about the importance of catering to the desires of younger people wanting to settle in Rome. “It’s kind of difficult for young people graduating from schools here to get excited about staying because there’s not enough of a variety of things for them to do or places to work. That needs to change.”
The remaining three veterans on the board — Mayor Bill Collins and Commissioners Sundai Stevenson and Randy Quick — will be featured in a future report.
The three commissioners being sworn in Monday — Bonny Askew, Jim Bojo and Mark Cochran — shared their goals in a previous issue.