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MURPHY: County address offers stage for a fresh start

J.K. Murphy

J.K. Murphy

I've sat through 11 State of the County Addresses since moving to Gwinnett in 1998. Some have been long and some short. Some filled with fancy video and music and some bare bones. Some have been well delivered and some interrupted by laryngitis and malfunctioning teleprompters. Some were interesting and some not quite so.

But of all those varied State of the County Addresses, the one coming Wednesday is the most important.

The reasons are obvious.

After decades of an unblemished image, Gwinnett County government has taken a beating: an indicted commissioner, a chairman who quit, the trash hauler debacle, indecisiveness on tax hikes and/or service cuts, the complete inability to come to terms with Gwinnett's municipalities on how to deliver services to the citizenry. Need I go on?

At one point, the five-member commission was down to three. It operated without a chairman for months. During that leadership void agenda items were pushed back. Plans were put on hold. And everyone waited. (Even the State of the County address, normally delivered early in the year, was delayed until a new chairman was on board.)

In contrast, past addresses have been delivered when the county was running on all cylinders. Growth in the population, the economy, public amenities, tax revenues and business development enabled past chairmen to brag on accomplishments and the ever-improving quality of life in Gwinnett. Times were good.

When the good far outweighs the bad, it's easy to talk. But when recently elected Chairwoman Charlotte Nash takes the podium at the Gwinnett Center on Wednesday at the luncheon sponsored by the Gwinnett Chamber of Commerce and Council for Quality Growth, she's facing more problems than progress.

As the top elected leader for Gwinnett County, she's been handed the difficult tasks of restoring trust in local government, resolving long-lingering issues, balancing a bothersome budget and quelling the general uneasiness of Gwinnett's citizens, and, oh yes, dealing with an airport issue that's split the citizenry. That's no short order.

When the electorate voted Nash into office March 15, it made the right choice. At this challenging juncture, Nash is the most knowledgeable person regarding the ins and outs of Gwinnett County government. She spent a career -- three decades -- as a county employee, working her way up to the top administrator post. No one else is more qualified.

By Wednesday, she'll have been in office 52 days. The commission is whole again. It's time to hear a plan.

While serving as county administrator to Chairman Wayne Hill for a decade, the county was clicking. No doubt Nash put the finishing touches on a lot of those glowing State of the County Addresses. On Wednesday, she'll be delivering her own.

Those listening to the address (or reading about it in the Daily Post) are hoping to hear remedies for our ills and solutions to our problems. Gwinnett citizens are ready to leave the past behind and move ahead. I'm hoping to hear specifics on how we plan to get there.

And that's why this address in particular is critical. People are done waiting. It's time to get moving. And Wednesday's address is the perfect stage for a fresh start.

J.K. Murphy is publisher of the Daily Post. Email him at jk.murphy@gwinnettdailypost.com.