The road more traveled
I-75 became the focus of attention as the Georgia Department of Transportation promoted a plan to transform a grassy median into express lanes.
Advocates and opponents weighed in on both sides of the issue, the latter praising its economic development aspects, the latter questioning whether public safety was adequately considered.
The city of Stockbridge reversed a 35-year policy by deciding to form its own police department again after shuttering it in 1978 in favor of county law enforcement.
Mayor Mark Alarcon said it was a positive move for local public safety, not a negative comment on the Henry County Police Department.
County Police Chief Keith Nichols said, “I obviously have mixed emotions regarding the end of this relationship. On one hand, I am saddened by this decision but comprehend why they decided to pursue this path.”
His department fought a crime wave of robberies as gunmen raided the tills of discount stores.
But DUIs were down, leading the department to accept the Mothers Against Drunk Driving of Georgia ninth annual Law Enforcement Golden Shield awards.
Aside from being named the statewide law enforcement agency of the year for 2012, five officers were individually recognized for their efforts to curtail driving under the influence.
Voters approved a six-year extension to the special purpose local option sales tax, which has in its $190 million budget a $4 million police station in the Fairview community – where ground was broken in July for a new, privately funded medical center – and $6 million for fire stations in the Luella, Mount Carmel and Kelleytown areas.
Another $5 million will help fund an $18 million, 80,000-square-foot building on the Southern Crescent Technical College campus.
McDonough can anticipate $4 million for a cultural center, Locust Grove, $2.75 million for a police station, Hampton, $600,000 for parks and Stockbridge, $8.25 million for water system improvements.
The city of Stockbridge continued to make news with its economic development program, which barreled along with increasing momentum throughout the year.
Within a matter of months after hiring former Henry County Chair B.J. Mathis as its economic development guru, the city landed a high-speed Internet company headquarters, more jobs, a theater company, a Main Street program, a business association and more.
“We’ve already had the phone buzzing off the hook with developers and business owners,” David Milliron, also a new hire as city administrator, said in February.
A square deal
The McDonough Square took off in a flurry of activity, like moviemaking and promotional efforts like the scarecrow and Christmas tree decoration contests, along with a Ladies’ Night Out campaign that brought shoppers out on Thursday evenings.
Tinseltown invaded as the ABC-TV series “Resurrection” taped episodes in the Square, the courthouse and a cemetery and Tyler Perry made his most recent feature film “A Madea Christmas” on the Square, including a cameo by Mayor Billy Copeland.
The county was saddened to hear in July of the death of Sgt. Eric T. Lawson, 30, of Stockbridge, killed in action during his third deployment to in Afghanistan.
Stockbridge Mayor Mark Alarcon said in a statement Lawson received numerous awards during his decade of service as a cargo specialist.
“On behalf of all the grateful citizens of Stockbridge we wish the family and friends of Sgt. Eric Timothy Lawson our deepest sympathies and condolences. Know that you are not alone in your pain at this terrible time in your lives,” Alarcon said.
The city of Stockbridge observed the retirement of long-time councilman Harold Cochran, who lost the municipal election to Anthony Ford.
During 36 years in public service, Cochran served as councilman or mayor pro-tem and on the finance, community relations, public safety, public works and pension committees.
In his first years on the council, Cochran was instrumental in abolishing Stockbridge’s police and fire departments, but became the namesake of a new county police precinct in 2011.
New faces of 2013
New names will be on the mayoral and city council plaques at four city halls as municipal elections created a flurry of changes in leadership.
Tim Thompson is the new mayor of Stockbridge, while Steve Hutchison unseated Hampton Mayor Chris Moore.
Incumbents kept their city council seats in Locust Grove and Hampton while turnover was the rule in Stockbridge and results were mixed in McDonough.
Also new, although not yet in place, is the future superintendent of Henry County Schools Rodney Bowler, replacing Ethan Hildreth, who announced in September he is retiring.
Bowler was promoted from assistant superintendent for administrative services.
Educational advances continued with standardized test results, which exceeded state scores, and the graduation rate, which rose.
Garth Potter of Union Grove High School in McDonough was named the 2014 Henry teacher of the year.
2013 Henry County teacher of the year Barbara Rosolino, an English teacher at Eagles’ Landing High School in McDonough, beat out 145 competitors to become a finalist for 2014 Georgia teacher of the year.
Let me be brave
Also competing for her county, Special Olympics volunteer, coach and athlete Marnie Hornsby represented Georgia in the Winter Games in South Korea in its Alpine skiing event.
The county water authority also scored victories.
Meter Madness, literally a nuts-and-bolts competition, rendered the first state championship for the county as Dwayne Lenning broke the event record and built a water meter out of parts not once, not twice, but three times.