As we begin a new term on the Cherokee County Board of Commissioners, it’s a great time to take stock of our county’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats.
Cherokee has a long list of strengths. Some are pure gifts from God, including our fabulous geography and climate, and our location where metro Atlanta meets the Appalachian Mountains. Our community has had a hand in creating others. Our schools are top-tier. We have five vibrant, thriving cities, and enjoy low unemployment.
Your county government is in superb shape, financially. Our combined county-controlled tax rates are now the fourth lowest of all 159 counties in Georgia! We have better cash reserves and less debt than most other counties. Yet, our public safety and most other services rank with the best in the state.
In much of the county, we have managed our growth and development better than most fast-growth counties. We have a land-use plan in place that, if followed, allows reasonable growth, preserves our quality of life, and gives infrastructure and services a chance to keep up.
I believe these strengths make Cherokee County one of the best places in the world to live.
One weakness is the fact that some of our roads, mostly state highways, are severely congested and in need of expansion. While Highway 20 is about to be improved from Canton to Cumming, as is a section of Bells Ferry Road, including Little River Bridge, planned improvements to Highway 140 are still too far away.
Too many of our citizens have to leave the county each day to work, reducing their quality of life and crowding our most congested roads.
Our greatest opportunity is for the cities, county and our citizens to come together around a growth and development plan that allows high-quality and a moderate quantity of residential growth, while bringing good jobs. It’s a plan that identifies and funds infrastructure and services to keep pace with the growth. I think we’re on the cusp of achieving this kind of unity. It’s my No. 1 goal as your commission chairman.
Our greatest threat would be failure to manage our growth and development. We need to plan, fund, and provide infrastructure and services necessary to support it.
We’ll never all agree on all the details. Those who make their living from development naturally want more, and most others will want less. The threat is that we let those differences divide us to the point that we squander this golden opportunity to make Cherokee the best it can be. We simply can’t let that happen.
– Harry Johnston, chairman of the Cherokee County Board of Commissioners.