Georgia Municipal Association Presents Lifetime Achievement Award to Former Executive Director Jim Burgess

June 27, 2023


SAVANNAH, GA – The Georgia Municipal Association (GMA) presented longtime retired executive director Jim Burgess with the Lifetime Achievement Award during its annual convention in Savannah on Sunday, June 25. Burgess served as GMA’s executive director from 1983 to 1995 and played a significant role in shaping the many programs and services currently offered by the organization.

“We thought it was appropriate to include him because of his deep knowledge of GMA’s history and the tremendous impact he has had on the growth and development of the Association for many years,” said GMA CEO and Executive Director Larry Hanson.

Julie Smith, GMA president and mayor of Tifton; Jim Burgess, former GMA executive director; Larry Hanson, GMA CEO and executive director.
Pictured: Julie Smith, GMA president and mayor of Tifton; Jim Burgess, former GMA executive director; Larry Hanson, GMA CEO and executive director.

In 1963, Burgess left a position at the University of Georgia to join the association staff as Associate Director. Four years later, Burgess left GMA to start his own consulting business helping cities. For sixteen years, he channeled his passion for helping to improve municipal governance and operations by providing a range of technical assistance services to cities in Georgia and beyond. One of his accomplishments includes helping with the formation of the first city-county consolidation in Georgia, in Columbus and Muscogee County. 

In 1983, after the current GMA Executive Director Elmer George decided to retire, Jim was appointed by the Board of Directors to serve as executive director. Jim served in that role for twelve and a half years. During his tenure, GMA acquired, renovated an expanded its headquarters building in downtown Atlanta. Other accomplishments include establishing a multi-million dollar bond pool for equipment lease purchasing for cities, creating and expanding employee benefit and risk management programs, and launching a downtown development program. 

Additionally, numerous successes were experienced at the State Capitol. Burgess led efforts to pass bills that curbed unfunded mandates and permitted the annexation of unincorporated islands by ordinance. Burgess also played a major role in the passage of the Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax statute as well as lobbying for the creation of four-year terms for city elected officials and a uniform municipal election date.   

After his retirement from GMA at the end of 1995, Burgess decided to run for mayor in his hometown of Social Circle. He held this post for fourteen years and remained active as a member of GMA. Burgess is the author of the book “Improving Local Service Delivery” that was first published in 2019.    

“Jim is a remarkable individual, and what he has accomplished on behalf of cities and this Association for six decades is truly amazing. He has been a friend and mentor to many, myself included, during his storied career,” said Hanson. “This award has only been presented to a small number of individuals, and Jim is certainly a worthy recipient.”

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About the Georgia Municipal Association: Based in Atlanta, GMA is a voluntary, non-profit organization that provides legislative advocacy, educational, employee benefit and consulting services to all of Georgia’s 537 cities. GMA anticipates and influences the forces shaping Georgia’s cities and to provide leadership, tools and services that assist municipal governments in becoming more innovative, effective and responsive. Created in 1933, the Georgia Municipal Association (GMA) is the only state organization that represents municipal governments in Georgia. For more information, visit


Latisha Gray, Director of Communications
Office: 678-686-6242
Cell: 404-809-9457

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