A Celebration of Community, The Mayor’s State of the City Address

On the night of Wednesday, January 10th, I walked into a room full of beautifully dressed businessmen and women, government officials and their families. People were talking and laughing while drinking their beverages and enjoying the event hall of the Cherokee Run Club House. The event, A Celebration of Community was exactly that, Community. The community came out to celebrate the people who have worked hard to make Conyers a thriving city. The night began with Mayor Randy Mills saying that he had the “dubious honor for the last time to call this meeting to order.” Highlights of the night included the transition of the mayor, new council members, honoring outgoing council members and honoring the outgoing mayor.

Mayor Randy Mills opened with his handing over mayoral responsibilities to Mayor-Elect, Vince Evans. He told a story about his drive in the morning and how beautiful the sunrise looked. He said, “We are in great shape and as the sun rises tomorrow, this community is going to be in great shape with the leadership we have.” Mayor Mills passed the baton to his long-time friend to take the city into the next steps of growth. The companionship between these two men was astounding. The City of Conyers should feel secure in knowing that the vision of Conyers will be carried on by Mayor Evans.

Mayor Mills also stated that Blair Barksdale would be sworn in as a councilwoman. He remarked that he remembers when Blair’s mother was pregnant with her. He has obviously has known this family for some time and commented that Blair grew up on Main Street in Olde Town. Jacob Bailey, from Beasley’s Pharmacy in Olde Town, also joined the City Council after being an important part of this community for many years. The two new members will be a valuable addition to the city council. Jacob Bailey with his business-minded perspective and Blair Barksdale with her perspective as a young woman. This council is going to be a force to be reckoned with.

Chris Bowen “rolled off,” Gerald Hinesley announced,  from the city council after 27 years of service. “I guess you could say that tonight is the end of a 27-year error,” Hinesley quipped. He corrected himself and said he meant to say era. He wittingly alluded to Chris being old but honored his commitment to this community. Bowen was a leader in the endeavor of building the Georgia International Horse Park. He also played a primary role in the parks and trail systems in Conyers and Hinesley said that it has been his honor and privilege to serve with Chris. “After serving 27 years, Chris Bowen is rolling off this council having made it and this city much better than when he got here.” Thank you, Chris Bowen, for your hard work and dedication.

Cleveland Stroud began his speech by saying most would believe that there is some sophisticated thought process that goes into choosing the mayor. He said that it was not the case for the selection of Mayor Mills. He joked about a certain armadillo race which was the determining factor for Mills becoming mayor 20 years ago. Stroud said, “True Story!” When Mayor Charles Walker decided to not run for re-election, the City Council members at the time decided one of them should take Walker’s place as mayor for continuity of the spirit cultivated by the Council over the years. They decided they would settle the debate with an armadillo race while on a retreat in Texas. The armadillo picked by Randy Mills won the race and that was it. Stroud said that Mayor Mills won and “thank God he did.” Mayor Mills stepped up and changed the city of Conyers in significant ways. Mayor Mills had a hand in making Conyers/Rockdale the “Hollywood of the South”, and we all benefit from his hard work. When Mayor Walker stepped down, Mayor Mills said, “All over Conyers, you will see his footprint.” Stroud said that where Mayor Walker’s footprints ended, Mayor Mills’ footprint started. He ended his tribute with this, “but along with yours, there were some small footprints that belonged to a really wise armadillo from Texas.” Thank you for serving this community. Thank you to Mayor Mills for your sacrifice. Coach Stroud whimsically said, “Now how this armadillo knew this, I don’t know.”

Chris Bowen and Randy Mills both received lifetime memberships to the Cherokee Run Golf Club in honor of their faithfulness and service. Tony Lucas, the city manager of Conyers presented outgoing Mayor Randy Mills with the honor of renaming the Olde Town Conyers Pavilion as the Randal S. Mills City Center Park.

Mayor Evans closed the night of significant events with his State of the City Address, which was full of promises of a fruitful future for the city of Conyers. Mayor Evans pledged to focus on decreasing crime, economic development of the city and transportation. He said he would work harder on decreasing crime and informed everyone that crime has been decreasing already. He also stated that he would work hard to protect businesses in Conyers as well as figure out how to make the city suitable for more business to come. He mentioned the Salem Gate Do-Over and the new Eastmore development. He noted that there have been many improvements in the area of transportation. He also spoke about continuing to work on Hardin Street behind the library. He mentioned the new parking lot in Olde Town which will help with transportation issues. He spoke of the need for the city to be transparent. Evans noted that he heard it said somewhere that “openness is the basis for a free society.” He wants to have a more inclusive environment, which means that communication will be constant between the Mayor, the City Council and the citizens of Conyers and Rockdale County. He wants Conyers to be a community that takes care of its own people. He has dreams and visions of Conyers that he plans to work towards and the camaraderie among the council and the Mayor is impressive. As a resident of Rockdale County, I know my family and community is in safe hands with these men in charge.

Lauren Roberts

Editor and Project Director of eMetro Times