The state of our county is easy to describe with just one word — awesome.
We have almost everything going for us in Cherokee County, and I love sharing the reasons why. In January, I followed tradition by giving a State of the County address. Here’s a summary.
We’re the fastest-growing county in our region, despite mostly conservative growth management practices. That’s partly because of our great location, “where metro meets the mountains.” It’s also because of the strengths we’ve built on together.
• Schools. One of best public school systems in Georgia, as well as Chattahoochee Tech and Reinhardt University.
• Taxes and financial management. Lowest Board of Commissioners-controlled tax and debt burdens per capita of any county in the region. Among the lowest in the state. Solid financial reserves. AA+ bond rating.
• Public safety. Second lowest crime rate in the region. Nationally accredited Sheriff’s Office, Marshal’s Office, and 911 Center. Excellent fire insurance rating. Ambulance service rated best in the state.
• Parks. Forty baseball/softball diamonds; 27 rectangular athletic fields; 17 playgrounds; world-class aquatics center; second indoor recreation center coming soon; green space and land for more parks. Recreation staff named best in region.
• Thriving economy. Lowest unemployment rate and third highest median income in the region. Growing job opportunities. Great economic development team.
• Health care. We’re now a regional health care center.
• Growth management. We realized sooner than most fast-growing counties that our growth needs to be managed, and we’ve done a better job than most. We still can achieve a well-managed buildout that preserves our small-town and semi-rural quality of life as we grow. That’s what our land use plan calls for, and we’ve mostly followed it for the past 13 years.
• Joint planning. We need a joint city-county plan that allows the cities to grow appropriately while maintaining lower-density and semi-rural areas elsewhere. Not easy, but I believe we can get there.
• Roads. We need to catch up, but help is on the way. Major improvements will begin soon on Highway 20 and Bells Ferry Road. Trickum Road at Highway 92 will be rebuilt. The I-575 interchange at Town Lake Parkway will be expanded. Several congested intersections will be converted to roundabouts. Interim improvements are coming on Highway 140 to hold us until the state eventually four-lanes it.
• Keep services up, taxes low. Keep expanding public safety and other services while keeping taxes low. We’ve done well so far. We may not always be able to roll back tax rates fully to offset rising property values, but I’m confident we can keep our taxes lower than almost all other Georgia counties.
• Economy and tax base. Keep attracting good jobs and nonresidential tax base. Accelerate workforce preparedness for good trade and technical jobs.
The Bottom Line
Together, we can overcome our challenges and continue to keep Cherokee County an awesome place to live, the best in the metro Atlanta region, and one of the best anywhere!
I’m interested in your thoughts. Email me at email@example.com.
– Harry Johnston, chairman of the Cherokee County Board of Commissioners. He’s a retired CPA and accounting manager, and a former district commissioner.