By Larry Hanson, GMA Executive Director
Wow, what an amazing Annual Convention we experienced in Savannah! We saw record-setting numbers with convention attendance at over 2,300 city officials and guests present, over 2,100 training seats filled and a record number of exhibitors. We’re proud that our member cities and their elected and appointed officials see the value of training, education, networking, relationship building and learning from experts and from each other.
We made several changes to the convention schedule this year and most were very well received. Many of the changes resulted from feedback we received from you, our members, over ears and we appreciate that. I hope you enjoyed the opening general session and the three shorter presentations centered around leadership, courage and inspiration. It was exciting to have an astronaut, a Super Bowl champion and a former CEO in our midst to share powerful messages. We’ve emailed all convention attendees an evaluation survey asking for feedback so that we can continue to improve and be responsive to your constructive ideas. Please take the time to share your feedback, and rest assured that we read and discuss every response.
One of the things that impresses me the most about GMA and city officials is that we are about more than just gathering to celebrate our successes and accolades. While that is certainly important, it’s also important to have the courage to discuss the challenges we face in our communities. We are willing to have honest discussions about challenges such as literacy, human trafficking and workforce development to name a few. It takes courage to tackle challenges, but it’s the only way we can address them and make our communities even better in the future. Thank you all for your engaged participation in GMA and for making our association successful, forward thinking and member centered.
Among the many takeaways for me from the convention were the reminders of the importance of courage, of teamwork, of realizing it’s OK to have civil debate and of addressing and overcoming adversity and challenges. It’s not just through our similarities of serving cities and sharing our stories that make us better; it’s also our differences and even our difficult conversations that open our hearts and minds to views of others. Through this we gain a better understanding and appreciation of viewpoints different from our own.
GMA is blessed to have all 538 cities as members and the leaders who provide invaluable guidance. We must respect that in any family, organization or institution there are times where disagreements or differences of opinion occur. The fact that we may have a different position should not define us. What defines us is how we handle disagreements and differences. That’s why it’s critical for any family, governing body or organization to resolve to move past differences and build consensus. Being together and being united is what leads to success. The sky is the limit when we appreciate our similarities and respect our differences. Let’s continue to be Cities United as we Lead to Succeed.
This article first appeared in the July/August 2019 edition of Georgia Cities Magazine. Click here to read the issue.