Georgia Steering committee puts rural issues at forefront for state officials, sets priorities to watch
ATLANTA (Mar. 8, 2023) – Today, the Rural Voices Georgia Steering Committee, part of Rural Voices USA, took its fight for rural Georgians to the Georgia Capitol where it placed its priorities in front of lawmakers. Pictures from today’s event can be found here.
The Georgia Rural Voices Steering Committee said it will hold policy makers accountable on its rural policies to benefit workers and families across the Peach State and in turn, strengthen Georgia’s economy.
Rural Voices’ priorities are focused on actionable strategies to heal the rural-urban divide in Georgia in a bipartisan way by focusing on the issues facing rural Georgia that are causing a loss of jobs and population.
“Today, we asked lawmakers to consider three priorities: First, to set up a rural economic development fund to strengthen ties with our rural economic development authorities and make sure they are equipped to do all they can to support rural jobs. Second, we're pushing for rural broadband be elevated to a top priority. Affordable and dependable high-speed internet is a critical lifeline that connects people to schools, telehealth and jobs. For farmers, processing plants and manufacturers, it’s needed to advance their businesses. Third, we know that rural healthcare is an issue of survival for people who don’t have nearby access to care, and we’re asking for that to be a priority,” said Rural Voices Georgia Steering Committee Chair Susannah Maddux of Macon.
Rural Voices says Georgia’s rural areas are suffering from lost opportunities. These include a need for further investment in manufacturing, the processing of protein and Georgia crops, job training, healthcare and technology. Georgia’s rural areas are losing hospitals, doctors, nurses, clinics, veterinarians, farmers and other producers because they don’t have the resources to stay in place. People are leaving. But rural Georgians want opportunity.
“We want to make sure our officials have the information they need to have a thought provoking understanding of the problems facing Rural America and Rural Georgia. We will then work with our officials to move quickly and decisively to help solve Rural America and Rural Georgia’s problems,” said former House Speaker Terry Coleman of Eastman.
Members of Rural Voices Georgia include rural leaders, educators, agricultural leaders, farmers and current and former elected officials, including former Gov. Roy Barnes, and former House Rep. and CEO of Stuckey’s, Stephanie Stuckey.
“We are Georgians who are concerned that rural issues are too often ignored and rural residents are too often left behind,” added Roy Barnes, former Georgia governor and a Marietta lawyer and farmer. “We want to make sure these priorities are top of mind for Georgia lawmakers. We want them to work every day to be champion for rural policies like broadband and health care access that have enormous importance to people living in rural areas.”
Below is the list of priorities announced by Rural Voices for Georgia.
The Georgia Steering Committee advances these three priorities to state, local and federal policymakers to benefit rural Georgians.
Strengthening Rural Economic Development
· We recommend the state of Georgia set up a fund for rural economic development. The fund would strengthen ties with local economic development authorities and facilitate using economic development tools like new market tax credits, opportunity zones and other incentives.
· We want to help position Georgia for next generation, value-added processing such as making new products from plant materials.
· We also support more producer-owned processing of proteins and Georgia crops.
· While much progress has been made on rural broadband issues, expanding broadband is essential to the vitality of rural communities. Affordable and dependable high-speed internet is a critical lifeline that connects people to schools, telehealth and jobs. For farmers, processing plants and manufacturers, it’s needed to advance their businesses.
· We recommend the state rapidly deploy the funds available through the 2021 federal infrastructure act by working with local EMCs, power companies and other providers so that we have universal broadband coverage across the state and a continuous process for improving and maintaining high quality internet access.
· The closure of rural hospitals is reaching pandemic proportions across rural Georgia. The lack of doctors, nurses and clinics is having a negative effect on quality of life. We recommend incentivizing hospitals, clinics, doctors and nurses to operate in rural Georgia.
· We support the expansion of the training opportunities for veterinary and medical professionals across Georgia and the expansion of loan repayment programs to veterinarians, doctors, nurses and medical technicians who commit to working in Georgia’s rural areas.
· We recommend leveraging federal resources to improve healthcare and support our rural hospitals and healthcare facilities.
· We recommend more transportation options for people needing to go to medical appointments in rural Georgia.
RURAL VOICES GEORGIA STEERING COMMITTEE
Rural Voices Georgia is part of Rural Voices USA, a leading national non-profit that organizes rural Americans to advocate, communicate and hold policy makers accountable for rural issues.
Rural Voices Georgia is focused on actionable strategies that will heal the rural-urban divide in Georgia in a bipartisan way to reverse the loss of population and jobs in rural areas. The steering committee includes rural advocates, agricultural leaders, farmers, CEOs, educators and current and former elected officials and is part of Rural Voices USA, a leading national nonprofit that organizes rural Americans to advocate, communicate and hold policy makers accountable for rural issues.
Former Georgia Gov. Roy Barnes
Barnes is a lifelong Georgia public servant who served 8 terms in the Georgia State Senate, three in the Georgia House of Representatives, and one as Governor. As governor, he prioritized education reform and raising the academic standards of Georgia schools. He’s the recipient of the 2003 John F. Kennedy Library Foundation Profile in Courage Award.
Former House Speaker Terry Coleman
Coleman is a member of the Rural Voices USA national board of advisors. He spent 34 years in the Georgia General Assembly. His political skill and ability developed into key appointments as chair of Public Safety, Natural Resources and the Environment, and Ways and Means, of which he was chairman for 12 years. When he was Speaker of the House, he cast the deciding vote to change the State Flag. He left the legislature in 2007.
Augusta Mayor Dr. Hardie Davis Jr.
Davis is the 84th Mayor of Augusta and has served as the mayor of consolidated Augusta-Richmond County since 2015. He’s the second African American elected mayor since the city and county governments consolidated in 1996. He previously served in the Georgia House of Representatives from the 122nd district from 2007 to 2009 and in the Georgia State Senate from the 22nd district from 2010 to 2014.
Davis is a community advocate in Rome who served as a Rome City Commissioner for 8 years, a member of the Democratic National Committee since 2012, and a Democratic Party of Georgia activist and leader for more than 25 years. Davis has keen insights into rural America and the issues people face, particularly in the Appalachians.
Former State Rep. Winfred Dukes (D-Albany)
Dukes was born and raised in Mitchell County and now serves as chief executive officer of Dukes, Edwards and Dukes, Inc., a family-owned construction real estate firm based in Albany. First elected in 1997, he’s received numerous awards and honors for outstanding contributions in business and community service for his community.
Fuse is a retired educator from Sumter County who specializes in rural issues in some of the poorest counties in Georgia. He serves as a convener of the South Georgia Voters’ League, Inc. and lives in Americus.
Dr. Anthony Holloman
Holloman, of Macon, was appointed Commissioner of the Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference, the college athletic conference affiliated with the National Collegiate Athletic Association at the Division II level, consisting primarily of historically black colleges and universities, mostly in the South. Holloman previously served as Fort Valley State University’s VP for University Advancement and Athletics and Executive Director of the FVSU foundation. He brings a deep knowledge of both educational and athletic issues from the rural South.
Huerta is the outreach manager for Northwest Georgia for the Latin American Association. Based in Dalton, he looks to improve access to critically needed services for the rapidly-growing Latino community in northwest Georgia. LAA’s focus areas include legal immigration services, economic empowerment, youth education and civic engagement.
Susannah Cox Maddux
Maddux is the owner, publisher, and editor in chief of Macon Magazine, a bi-monthly publication in its 36th year celebrating local soul in Macon and surrounding region. She grew up in a family of storytellers, many of whom were farmers, in Monroe, North Carolina. She quickly found home in Macon thirteen years ago, when she started listening, connecting, and creating through her first business, Goods Public Relations. She is passionate about building community, advocating for rural Georgia, and connecting people, with intention. She also is co-founder of The Web, a women-centered work club headquartered in Downtown Macon that offers an active network of support for the work-life blend.
Register has spent her career working on rural issues focused on education and healthcare. After spending 13 years on the Grady County Board of Education, she served as the legislative advisor on education and rural issues to state Senator Jen Jordan. She lives in Cairo and raises grassfed beef and collects goats. She also led her own political consulting firm, served as a senior policy advisor at lobbying firm Capitol Affairs becoming a senior research manager at Healthy Mothers, Healthy Babies Coalition of Georgia. She’s the past chair of WIN List Georgia’s executive committee, a political action committee dedicated to electing Democratic women to office. She brings valuable expertise on the health and education policies affecting the rural-urban divide in Georgia.
Stuckey is the CEO and granddaughter of the founder of Stuckey's Corporation, the roadside oasis since 1937. Stuckey’s offers motorists a friendly stop where they can relax, refresh, and refuel, known for Southern hospitality, candies and their world-famous pecan log roll. The company fell out of the family’s hands for decades, but with family back at the helm, she is rebuilding this classic, nostalgic brand. The lawyer also brings experience as the Chief Resilience Officer of the City of Atlanta and she served 14 years in the Georgia House.
Zajac has spent his career working on issues facing his community in Cherokee County. He has served as the first vice chair of the Cherokee County Democratic Party and as Voter Protection County Coordinator, a role in which he organizes efforts to ensure elections occur freely.
About Rural Voices USA
Rural Voices USA organizes rural people to advocate, communicate, and hold policy makers accountable for rural issues. We are a nationwide network of rural leaders, farmers and community members working ensure rural voices are being heard on key policy issues that impact them and their families. For more information, go to https://www.ruralvoices.us/.
Images of rural Georgia for media use are here.
Media contacts Rachel Tobin, firstname.lastname@example.org, 404-276-5930
Julie Bryant Fisher, email@example.com, 678-522-8470