The Millenial Microphone Check-in Columbus, GA: The City's Absence at a Pivotal Crossroads

The Millenial Microphone Check-in Columbus, GA: The City's Absence at a Pivotal Crossroads

By Demetrius McBride

It was easy to feel the hope for growth and change in Columbus, Georgia, on October 19, 2023. Over 30 young professionals from all over the state came together for an essential presentation as part of the “Young Game Changers” program of the Georgia Forward project. They wanted to grapple with some of the most critical problems that Columbus and Muscogee County have. Nevertheless, what should have been an extraordinary opportunity for the city to connect with its future leaders to bridge the gap was marred by the conspicuous absence of key city officials.

The questions that were asked were of the utmost significance. How can Columbus better foster inclusion from all members of the community? How can they use the assets they already have to stimulate innovation and attract a variety of industries? How can they keep the younger talent they have and keep them interested in working in the city? Moreover, most importantly, what are the most effective ways for the city to reduce income inequality and increase economic mobility, particularly in the impoverished neighborhoods of South Columbus?

The irony is that our Mayor, city manager, police chief, sheriff, and city council members were not at this important meeting, even though they invested $75,000 ($50,000 in capital and $25,000 in in-kind donations) of city funds in the program. This absence was a missed chance to discuss Columbus’s future growth and progress. I will state that State Representative Teddy Reese was present and engaging with the initiative, however aside from newcomer Tyson Begly no other city officials of note were present.

As the saying goes, the proof of the pudding is in the eating. Mayors from other cities and municipalities across the state, such as Monroe, LaGrange, and Dalton, GA, saw tangible results within six months to a few years of hosting the Young Game Changers initiative. Their city officials recognized the potential of this collaborative effort and engaged actively. As the second-largest city in the state, Columbus could lead by example and show how genuine engagement and investment in the next generation of leaders can lead to remarkable progress. Nevertheless, city officials need to catch up to 2023.

It is not enough for Columbus’ “leaders” to merely tout support for initiatives on paper. The city must breathe life into these endeavors through active participation and collaboration. The time for inaction has passed; it is time to show the citizens of Columbus that the officials we “trust” and vote for are ready to rise to the occasion and lead in progress, inclusion, and opportunity for all of Columbus residents. Columbus citizens deserve nothing less.

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