Next week marks the first annivesary — if you want to call it that — of Al Hodge’s stunning retirement announcement from the Rome Floyd Chamber. Spin it as they might, supporters of the move to seize economic development from the chamber are still arranging deck chairs.
Stoked by a surprise County Commission vote in November, it took months for the city and county to come to any sort of agreement on even the very basics of the breakout economic development plan. Missy Kendrick was hired to lead the new department effective Aug. 1 under the management of the Rome Floyd Development Authority.
But as late as last week, the custody battle over the Greater Rome Existing Industries Association was continuing. City Manager Sammy Rich, in an email to city commissioners on Oct. 4, had this update:
“I had a very productive meeting this morning with the Chamber of Commerce and Mark White representing GREIA. I think everyone now has a better understanding of the intent to work together to grow jobs and facilitate expansions of our existing industry. Part of the plan from the newest endeavor is to have an agreement in place between the chamber, Rome Floyd Development Authority and GREIA that spells out the working relationship. The chamber is reviewing now and that should be to GREIA very soon.”
The reason: GREIA in September not only said no but “hell no” to a bid to move it from under the chamber. Keep an eye on this one.
In a related update, the Polk County Standard Journal on Friday reported Terry Schwindler has been hired to replace Kendrick at the Development Authority of Polk County. Schwindler is leaving a similar position in Putnam County. Schwindler has a marketing degree from the University of Florida and an Master’s in Business Administration and Marketing from Kennesaw State. She starts in November.
What about North Rome? Thursday evening, the monthly meeting of the North Rome Community Action Committee was held at North Rome Baptist Church. The key issues were to be the homeless, the Census and housing.
But a dominant theme also getting some of the attention was of an expanding South Rome Redevelopment concept. According to the Rome News-Tribune, the community development committee heard about expanding on the successes in South Rome and some availability in West Rome. The simmering City Commission election has put West Rome in the spotlight following incumbent Commissioner Craig McDaniel’s crack about parts of Rome resembling Third World countries.
North Rome advocates say their neighborhoods need assistance as urgently as communities off Shorter Avenue. Look for updates here as well.
Watch the ‘theme’ of the final weeks of City Commission campaign: Advance voting starts Monday for six seats on the Rome City Commission and the only thing we can monitor right now will be turnout. With early voting taking place at a new spot — the health department on East 12th Street — we’re curious to see how the count goes over the next 15 weekdays.
Will a brisk turnout favor five of the incumbents on the ballot or the four challengers? And with more than 19,000 people eligible to vote early or on Nov. 5, are we looking at a 30 percent turnout or something above 50 percent?
At least two forums are set for the coming week — Tuesday and Thursday — and, after that, it appears to be left to the candidates. We’re seeing campaign themes starting to follow one challenger’s highly aggressive development and reinvestment pitch. Given the headlines from the commission since the November 2015 election, a “stay the course” push by incumbents might fall flat.
With growing concerns about government operations and decision-making becoming “unglued” in recent months topped with the retirement and resignation of two midlevel city of Rome employees following a police investigation last week, this could be one of the most interesting election cycles we’ve seen in years.