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New year, new commission and, potentially, a new mayor in Rome

New Rome City Commissioner Elaina Beeman will be sworn in Monday along with returning commissioners Jamie Doss and Randy Quick as part of the board’s first meeting of 2022.

Among the other items on the agenda for the meeting at 6:30 p.m. in City Hall will be the annual election of the city’s mayor and mayor pro tem. Current Mayor Craig McDaniel was elected to the post in 2021, and it’s not uncommon for a commissioner to keep that role for two years before passing on the gavel.

Commissioners will have a first reading for several proposed amendments to the Unified Land Development Code, including a controversial request to reduce the side setback and road frontage for residential lots to as little as 40 feet. The planning commission deadlocked during a meeting last week so the request moves to the city commission without a recommendation.

They will also hear another ULDC amendment request and some zoning requests that were recommended for approval by the planning commission. An amendment concerning townhomes as well as duplexes and triplexes would allow their construction along major streets, with some restrictions.

Commissioners will also hear first readings of two rezoning requests for residential developments.

One request is for a proposed townhome development along East First Avenue. It’s seeking to rezone the property at 410-414 E. First Ave. from community commercial and light industrial to multifamily residential.

The other is for a 210-unit apartment complex that would be a mix of one-, two- and three-bedroom apartments, built by Gateway Development on Woodrow Wilson Way.

During the premeeting caucus — which begins at 5 p.m. in the Sam King Room at City Hall on Broad Street — Northwest Georgia Department of Public Health Director Dr. Gary Voccio will give commissioners a briefing concerning the spread of COVID-19.

Berry’s Viking Sports Alliance allows female student athletes, alumnae a chance to connect and strategize

For many college seniors, graduation can seem like a looming precipice — a transition away from classes, close friends and, in some cases, teammates. For Berry College female athletes, though, there’s now an option to help navigate the challenges that come with approaching the next stage of their lives.

Abbeygail Gamble is a Berry senior with just a semester to go before graduating with degrees in exercise science and sports administration. Since her freshman year, she’s been paired through the Viking Sports Alliance with Hannah Porter, a 2018 graduate who has acted as a mentor in areas like networking, graduate education and showing support for others.

Parker, who played soccer for Berry, wondered what she’d say to Gamble, a softball player, when she found out they’d been paired.

“Oh no! I know nothing about softball,” she remembered thinking.

The two women quickly found that the sports alliance is designed to reach well beyond their athletic endeavors, however.

Parker, who spoke at the first VSA event in 2019, says she’s found the annual meetup allows alumnae to spend dedicated time with their assigned student athletes discussing goals, potential career connections and the ever-challenging work-study balance.

“It’s a nice way to get started on those difficult conversations,” Parker says.

Ginger Swann, assistant athletic director of sports medicine for Berry, functions as senior women’s administrator and is a key organizer of the VSA meetings. Mentors, she explains, receive support for the hour before meeting their student athletes with a rundown of the packet. Students then come in and find out who they’re paired with. The packet walks athletes through a kind of interview preparation process and helps athletes tell their own stories and unpack the ways sports have influenced their experiences.

“We try to pair them based on their sport or based on their major,” she says. “We’re trying to help them figure out their story as far as how athletics influences their characteristics.”

The VSA came out of an existing program for female networking as a more concentrated effort to pair Berry athletes with mentors and help them “understand that athletics is a unique experience that can really help shape them,” Swann says. “I think that’s what Berry is about for these people — shaping them and helping them figure out what their niche is … I think it goes all the way back to our roots.”

The first two years, the event took place at Oak Hill, and last year, although the threat of COVID-19 changed the delivery, it went on over Zoom with students running things from the Cage Center. It was gratifying for Gamble to witness the alumni who made time for students, even with added challenges.

“It was really cool to see how many people gave their time, even during the pandemic,” she says.

Although some mentor-athlete pairings can change, Parker and Gamble have chosen to continue their connection, and the mentorship has grown into a friendship with Parker texting Gamble before her first home soccer game and mailing her an inspirational book.

Parker has gone on to earn a master’s degree in health and exercise science from Wake Forest University and is now in a PhD program for exercise science at the University of South Carolina. For her, a chain of female leadership above her has been influential to her growth, and she looks back on her time at Berry and sees herself in the students there.

For current VSA athletes, seeing their mentors graduate and thrive, she says, “provides an opportunity for female athletes to see themselves.”

After graduation, she says, “everything changes.” The mentorship program “kind of closes that gap a little bit.”

Gamble, possibly drawing a bit from her mentor’s graduate school experience, has plans to pursue a master’s degree in business. And although their time together through VSA is drawing to a close, the two women have forged a friendship that seems destined to last as they move forward into new chapters.

“It’s been really so fun. It’s been cool to see her grow,” Parker says. “I want to see her continue to flourish.”

Rideshares, cityhood debate among focuses for Rep. Lumsden

The Georgia House of Representatives will convene at 8:30 a.m. Monday in a nod to the UGA Bulldogs’ football championship faceoff that night against Alabama’s Crimson Tide.

It’s the constitutionally prescribed first day of the state legislature’s annual session, which has historically started at 10 a.m.

“It will be a short day, I suspect,” said Rep. Eddie Lumsden, R-Armuchee. “And we’re taking Tuesday off, so people can get back and recover.”

The game is at 8 p.m. in Indianapolis. Lumsden won’t be in the crowd rushing to the airport at the fall of the gavel, but like millions of others he’ll be watching from home. Then on Wednesday, the session starts in earnest, with Gov. Brian Kemp’s State of the State address and budget presentation set for Thursday.

“The budgets are always something that gets top priority,” Lumsden said.

He expects education and teacher pay raises to take center stage this year along with public safety and mental health. Legislation to eliminate the permit requirement for carrying handguns also will be on the table.

“Constitutional carry will get a thorough discussion this session — although I’m not sure what the outcome will be,” Lumsden said.

As a member of the House Governmental Affairs Committee, he also expects to be heavily involved in “cityhood” debates.

“It’s not only Buckhead,” he said about the community seeking to break away from Atlanta. “Several other places around the state have made some requests.”

Lumsden chairs the House Insurance Committee. He said he’ll be looking at a package of model legislation dealing with auto insurance rates.

Rideshares such as Uber and Lyft have created “a little bit different dynamic,” he said, because private vehicles are used for commercial purposes. Georgia has some regulations in place but 32 states have adopted the model legislation and he’s going to look into it.

Dental insurers also have a proposal that will go to his committee, although he hasn’t had a change to examine the details yet.

The retired Georgia State Patrol trooper and former Floyd County commissioner also said the GBI and city and county government groups typically bring legislative proposals to him as well.

“As you go along, things pop up,” Lumsden said.

Floyd County Schools to vote on ELOST resolution Monday

The Floyd County Board of Education will be voting Monday on a resolution that would clear the way for a new 1-cent education local option sales tax package to be placed on the ballot in May.

If passed, the package would allow Rome City Schools to build a new Rome Middle School, while Floyd County would focus on multiple infrastructure projects.

Some of these projects include new roofs and HVAC systems for all schools, a kitchen renovation for the Armuchee High School cafeteria, fieldhouse renovations at Coosa and Armuchee High Schools and new lighting systems at all four high schools.

However, full support from the county board of education is up in the air as board member Chip Hood continues to advocate for the Armuchee High School modernization project.

Although it was part of the previous ELOST, the Armuchee project has met with multiple setbacks and delays for a variety of reasons, although other projects have been completed.

Hood is requesting all projects that are specific to Armuchee to be listed as “Tier 1” to make sure they’re built.

If the ELOST isn’t passed during the May election, none of the Floyd County projects or the RCS projects will come to fruition.

Also on Monday, the school board will be electing a new board chair and vice chair for 2022.

Board members will also be going over the first reading for a new media center policy to be implemented in all schools.

The agenda also includes a letter between the school system and Citigroup Global Capital Markets Inc. to give the superintendent permission to sign off on bonds in the case the ELOST is approved.

The pre-meeting caucus will begin at 5 p.m. in the superintendent’s office at the Floyd County Schools Building at 600 Riverside Parkway. The regular meeting will begin at 6 p.m.