Staff Photo by: Brendan Sullivan The "General" Grizzly of Georgia Gwinnett College addresses senators in the Senate Chambers rostrum during the annual Gwinnett Day at the State Capitol in Atlanta on Wednesday.
ATLANTA -- The Georgia Gwinnett College mascot General Grizzly glad-handed with the best of the politicians Wednesday at the State Capitol.
The big stuffed bear brought some comic relief to a day filled with tense discussions, including a vote on a constitutional amendment on charter schools.
But the reason for his visit was quite serious: showcasing the second-largest county in Georgia at a time when legislators are deciding its future.
"Our purpose is to show the whole state, the General Assembly and executive officers ... we want to show what we bring to the table," said the Gwinnett Chamber of Commerce's Jann Moore about the annual Gwinnett Day event.
With 26,000 businesses in the community, the Chamber of Commerce is using the platform to talk about issues that could help the private sector create more jobs.
Those include a proposal to end a sales tax on energy for manufacturing and a committee working to "stop the red tape," and find ways to ease regulations, Moore said.
"It's just tooting our horn about how great Gwinnett is," she added.
Sen. Don Balfour, R-Snellville, said Gwinnett Day isn't as much for local legislators as it is for those in other parts of the state. For example, he said he always learns a little more about Savannah on Savannah Day each year.
"I saw the bear here. It's fun," he said. "That's a great asset we have in Gwinnett County."
That knowledge helps when issues, such as funding for the fledgling Georgia Gwinnett College, come up, legislators agreed.
"When people see who we are and what we are, it's very important when we start asking for things," said Rep. Brooks Coleman, R-Duluth. "It's good to showcase our county and what we do for our state."
Rep. Donna Sheldon, R-Dacula, who introduced the Gwinnett leaders in attendance from the well of the House chambers, said the community is an integral part of the top issue at the General Assembly this year: jobs.
"It's great to have Gwinnett citizens down here, seeing how the process works and to have input," she said.