Local leaders speak on challenges and triumphs

By: Jonathan Martin Email
By: Jonathan Martin Email

March 8, 2007

AUGUSTA, Ga.---Top leaders from Augusta, Columbia County and Fort Gordon got together at Augusta's Pinnacle Club this afternoon for the State of the Region address.

Each of them spoke about the progress in their communities and the challenges they're facing, and they all had very different things to say. Mayor Deke Copenhaver says there are many new things going on in Augusta right now, and Columbia County Commission Chair Ron Cross says there's not much new in his area. For their respective counties, though, they say it's a good thing.

Cross told the group that besides the need for more room in the justice center, things in his county are delightfully dull.

"Delightful because a lot of things are going on, and dull because for some reason we don't seem to have any controversial issues at this point and time," he said.

Augusta Mayor Deke Copenhaver had lots to talk about, saying the city's bad budget days are now past. He touts recent major job announcements as proof the city is moving forward.

"In the last year, the progress made by our city has been nothing short of remarkable," he said.

While the number of new businesses is rising, the mayor says there are some other numbers he's not be proud of.

"We must never forget that 20 percent of our citizens live below the poverty line."

He announced an ambitious goal to reduce Augusta's poverty rate by at least three percent within four years.

Finally, Fort Gordon Deputy Commander Brig. Gen. Ron Bouchard spoke of a big gain for the post, with plans for a $5 million law enforcement center. He also said the loss of Congressman Charlie Norwood's advocacy would be strongly felt.

Amid scandal at Walter Reed Army hospital, Gen. Bouchard says the care at Augusta's VA and at Fort Gordon are top notch.

"Our soldiers have the best quality of life we can possibly provide them."

Before today's address, former Augusta Mayor Charles DeVaney was honored, and we learned there are plans for a bronze plaque to honor him on the Riverwalk. What will be interesting in the coming weeks is how the mayor plans to drop the poverty rate.

You can read the full text of Mayor Copenhaver's speech by clicking here.

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