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Nash delivers State of the County address

DULUTH — With employment up and opportunities rising, Commission Chairwoman Charlotte Nash said Gwinnett has a promising future in Wednesday’s State of the County address.

“It’s tempting sometimes to see nothing but the negative — the obvious results of a worldwide economic downturn, vacant businesses and foreclosed homes. Sometimes it’s easy to lose heart. And I’m not pretending we have no challenges,” Nash said, addressing a crowd of hundreds of business and civic leaders. “However, I believe we already have the key to continued prosperity in our hands; that is on the firm foundation this community has created to this point.”

A year since her election to office on the heels of the resignation of her predecessor, Nash said the county commission has made strides to shore up ethical standards and tighten up county finances without a drastic cut to services.

With a good credit report even after the federal credit rating dropped, stellar reviews from an insurance ratings group on fire and 911 services and just a week after the conclusion of a settlement to a three-year-long service dispute with cities, Nash said the county is poised to return to the promise it had before the economy turned.

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For more from the State of the County, including the prepared text of the chariman's speech, photos, a poll and the material distributed to attendees, CLICK HERE.

“We excel at all the basics — infrastructure, transportation, health care and education. Plus, I believe this is one of the best places in the country to conduct business, to raise a family, to retire and to just plain enjoy life. So yes, our future looks promising,” Nash said. “Only catch is, we just have to manage our way through current conditions while preserving our ability to take full advantage of the recovery when it comes.”

While stretched dollars are being carefully managed to make sure repairs aren’t deferred too long, Nash said doing more with less has helped officials to find creative ways to provide service. One example is the capturing of methane gas from sewage treatment to generate electricity at the plant.

“As the national economy begins to stabilize, we’re going to work to stimulate our local economy and to seize opportunities for improving for improving our quality of life and the business environment in our community,” she said. “We’ll continue our conservative approach to county services and infrastructure as we protect and encourage vital public and private investments that strengthen our success in Gwinnett County. With your help, we will build on the strong foundation of all that has been built together in the past.”

Nash called on leaders to help with a new volunteer initiative.

She announced the formation of the “Operation Good Neighbor” program, volunteers, churches, businesses and others will help deal with quality of life issues left behind by foreclosures.

Gwinnett Clean and Beautiful has agreed to lead the effort, she said, which helps address issues the county can’t handle directly, since resources can’t be used to clean up private property.

“We’re going to count on pulling together and organizing volunteer efforts,” she said, also addressing a push to have volunteers help with services such as parks and libraries. Information is available on volunteergwinnett.com.

Raymer Sale, the chairman of the Gwinnett Chamber of Commerce board, said officials’ accomplishments in balancing the county budget without dramatic cuts was admirable.

“They are very protective of our tax dollars and that means volumes,” he said, adding that a lean government is best.

Herman Pennamon, a Georgia Power executive who was one of several residents to work on the budget issue, said seeing the city and county leaders come together after years of animosity made him optimistic about the future.

“For us, that was huge and very much needed,” he said. “It’ll help us all work together to make things better.”

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