Grateful for opportunity to serve

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My eight years of service on the City Council of Peachtree City will come to a close the end of this year. Amid a range of emotions, what I’m feeling most is grateful. I am grateful to have had the opportunity to serve the citizens of this wonderful city for so many years.

Serving on City Council brings with it incredible opportunity and privilege that started with campaigning. Campaigning is hard. It is exhilarating, stomach churning, rewarding, and exhausting. It is a roller coaster of speeches and events. Friends, family, neighbors, friends you didn’t know you knew, all turn out to unify, work together, and get your message out. Going to the polls and seeing my own name on the ballot was a moment I’ll never forget. I am grateful to have had the opportunity.

Earlier this year, I was invited as a council member to read a proclamation for a wonderful lady’s 100th birthday. The event was held at Ashley Glen and her entire family – children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren – gathered for the occasion.

As I read the list of “whereas” and “therefore” statements, I looked up and realized that the birthday honoree’s family members were all leaning in, listening intently, and no doubt recalling personal moments with their Nana.

I was thunderstruck. I could barely read another word as I wondered how I became so very blessed to be a part of this beautiful family for these few precious minutes. It was an honor I will never forget.

I have especially enjoyed working with young people. At times Council would invite winners of reading competitions or other school events to a City Council meeting for recognition. Mayor Fleisch and I have welcomed Girl Scouts to City Hall, invited them to sit in our council seats, and discussed how local government works.

I love the annual Student Government Day in which McIntosh High School students assume the roles of various city officials, and then we all meet for pizza to talk it over. It is my hope that every child learned that this is their government and that city leaders are neighbors, people who work for them.

I have enjoyed behind-the-scenes tours of exciting places and projects like the Lake McIntosh Dam. Former County Administrator Jack Krakeel – a top notch professional I still admire – and I used to visit the dam construction site and keep up with progress on this amazing project. Now, I enjoy monitoring progress on the Lake Peachtree Dam, another once in a lifetime opportunity.

On a sunny day in 2011 I visited the Paschal Fire Station where Ron Mundy, our PTCFD trainer, suited me up with 60 pounds of firefighter gear and led me through the training building while it was burning.

Wearing gear that was, in and of itself, so heavy and cumbersome I could barely catch my breath, and crawling on hands and knees through darkness, acrid smoke, and temperatures so high you could cook food, was an experience I will never, ever forget. And my appreciation for the members of our fire department shot up exponentially.

As a council member, I have broken ground for exciting new economic development projects, served Meals on Wheels, toured Promise Place, worked shoreline cleanups with teenagers, and undergone weapons training with the PTCPD. I have judged essay contests, installed officers at the American Legion, and given speeches for our Rotary and Kiwanis Clubs, learning something new and valuable with each and every event.

As a result, I have learned how good government works. I have learned that we must keep good relationships – with each other, with the county, and with the state – if we want to be successful. I have learned that “politics” means knowing who can help you get the job done.

I like politics. And I like knowing how to get the job done for our citizens. Although I was not always successful in finding solutions, it was an honor to have had the opportunity.

In 18 years of living in Peachtree City, I have never felt unsafe. That is a claim that few people on the planet can make. It is a testament to our police, fire, and EMTs that we have the luxury of knowing we can live a good life founded on living in a safe and secure community. This is to thank each and every member of our Peachtree City public safety departments.

Peachtree City has a staff that is second to none. Without exception, everything I have needed – information, meeting dates, contacts, maps, position papers, schedules, budgets – I have had at my fingertips, provided promptly, professionally, and cheerfully by our staff. It is staff that does the legwork, and it is staff that made my job easy. This is to thank Jon Rorie, Betsy, Debbie, Pam, and the Peachtree City staff members throughout City Hall and every department. You are the best.

As fellow council members, the five of us have had our disagreements. We have argued, debated, and fought – but always behind closed doors, and always because each and every one of us cares so deeply about what we are doing here.

Mayor Fleisch has my full support, and with she and Kevin Madden joining Phil Prebor, Mike King, and Terry Ernst on City Council, Peachtree City is about to move forward like never before, and Peachtree City will be better than ever before.

Congratulations to you all. Serving with you has been a privilege.

The city customarily provides a gift as a tribute to an outgoing council member. I asked that my gift take the form of books donated to our library. I requested that the materials contributed in my name be focused on topics of diversity and inclusion, and Library Director Jill Prouty chose titles that speak to my heart.

With privilege comes responsibility. Having the privilege, opportunity, and power of an elected leader at any level carries with it a responsibility to make sure everyone’s voice is heard. Diversity never weakens a community, it strengthens it, and Peachtree City will be at our best when everyone has a seat at the table.

I recently received an email from a citizen I have never met, who thanked me for my service with this: “For the different topics I have done research on since becoming a homeowner here in PTC in 2012 I have felt that you represented me and our community well … I want to let you know I sincerely appreciate you and the time you put into making and keeping our home a great place to live.”

I am humbled to know this is Peachtree City. This is what we’re all about.

And I am grateful.

[First elected in 2009, Kim Learnard represents Post 3 on the City Council of Peachtree City. She lives in the Hip Pocket Road area of Peachtree City, the original residential neighborhood of the state’s first “planned city.”]