by Clarence Thomas, Jr.
If there is anyone that now knows about sinking or swimming it would be Milledgeville Mayor Gary Thrower. Despite treading some rough waters since taking office last August, his head is still above the wet stuff following his first 10 months in office and that's a good thing according to him.
Thrower outlasted former Milledgeville Mayor Floyd Griffin and civic activist Melba Burrell in a special election last June and July following former Mayor Richard Bentley resigning in February 2015 prior to being arrested a month later and being charged with insurance fraud.
Thrower says his toughest challenge since taking office has been seeing things through the eyes of others. But he is committed to changing that he says. That attitude has proven helpful in navigating the various personalities and agendas of Milledgeville City Council. "I feel we are all working for the same goal. What we have to do is do a better job of creating and maintaining a team atmosphere," Thrower said.
Thrower is not a veteran Politian but you wouldn't know it by the way he fires off answers related to his ten-month old tenure. When asked about his accomplishments he points out efforts that he is most proud of. Some include key appointments. Another calls for the exploration of potential SPLOST projects. Working with city planners on a major downtown development and getting a municipal web site on line is underway. While there are other noteworthy areas that Thrower has tackled he says his administration's best moment was the way it, along with other city departments, handled a crippling water main break that forced Milledgeville leaders to implement a state of emergency that saved money and lives. "It couldn't have gone any better," he said. "We made a quick, good decision that I believe was the right one at the right time."
Timing is everything. Thrower is also the beneficiary of a potential economic boon to the local economy. Two companies recently committed to coming to the city bringing with them several hundreds of much needed local jobs following the loss of Central State Hospital, the Youth Development Center and Shaw Industries in recent years. Thousands of jobs were loss as a result of the closings. Thrower believes the public shares his perception concerning his efforts and Baldwin County resident Charles Birton is one. Birton is a former Milledgeville resident that’s pleased and impressed with Thrower’s effort. "He's a quiet guy that seems to listen before formulating an opinion about the needs of residents. It's important to have this kind of leadership since we have some important changes occurring," said Birton referencing the addition of jobs.
Thrower's attention now is on year two. His plans call for increased transparency and exposure of city activities through marketing, enhancing customer service, promoting a team atmosphere and expanding the Oconee River Trail. The goal Thrower says is increased quality of life for local residents. He gives himself a passing grade as August approaches. And is proud that the sentiment in the streets is the same. "Milledgeville is a great place to live. This has really turned into a destination," Thrower said. "We just want people to feel good about this town. We want to make sure we are doing everything to help Milledgeville."
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