During his 10-year NFL career, Corey Chavous considers being named captain of the St. Louis Rams, Arizona Cardinals and Minnesota Vikings his highest honor.
Next in line is a proclamation by the leader of his home community, Augusta Mayor Deke Copenhaver, touting the Pro Bowl safety’s “selfless efforts in positively impacting the lives” of area youth.
The Aiken native was recognized June 28, 2008, while visiting Augusta’s top football prospects at T.W. Josey High School to lay the necessary “building blocks” for the young athletes to obtain a rewarding future, the framed declaration read.
“It was a tremendous honor,” Chavous said of the proclamation last week. “I was humbled, because I never expected it, and quite honest, I think I was undeserving.”
Chavous’ proclamation is one of 1,167 Copenhaver has issued during his nine years in office.
Though he denied a request to designate a national Scientology day in Augusta – his only rejected proclamation – the Christian mayor declared June 28 as Gay Pride Day in the city earlier this year, sparking some criticism.
Since at least 2008, Copenhaver has consistently declared a day in honor of 911 dispatchers, a week for allied health practitioners and a month for disability awareness, children support services, and Confederate history and heritage.
He has also issued proclamations to celebrate the establishment of the Aquinas High School Key Club and the rise of science, technology, engineering and math programs on the collegiate level in Augusta.
Though the service is technically free and split almost evenly between honoring special people and events in the city, online records show taxpayers still bear some cost.
This year alone, Copenhaver has signed 70 proclamations and 46 certificates of mourning for deceased residents, which together have cost more than $2,250 to frame, according to the city’s online check registry.
The mayor said last week that signing proclamations ranks high on the list of events he can use to celebrate the community, which includes ribbon-cutting ceremonies, monument dedications and offering people keys to the city.
“To be recognized by the mayor’s office, I believe it makes citizens feel more a part of the city and helps create a sense of civic pride in the community,” Copenhaver said.
Though the mayor’s office tracks proclamations only back to 2006 and records for past mayors were not available for comparison, Copenhaver argued that the high volume of proclamations he’s signed does not diminish its impact on the community.
“They mean so much to people,” he said. “More than I ever imagined before I took office.”
For example, Copenhaver has celebrated school anniversaries and city sports championships and honored the Augusta Red Cross, American Legion and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People’s Freedom Fund.
Among the people he has recognized include George “Al” Turner Jr., who coached Hephzibah High School’s baseball team to its first state championship in 1972; Ed Turner and Number 9, a Beatles tribute band that holds the record for sold-out concerts at the Imperial Theatre; and Bishop Rosa Williams for serving more than 30 years as pastor of Everfaithful Missionary Baptist Church.
“It is a pretty heartwarming display when I walk into a home or business with a proclamation hanging on the wall in honor of a person or event,” he said. “Those memories are probably the ones citizens have most approached me about during my time in office.”
What deserves a proclamation is up to the discretion of the mayor, who asks residents for at least two weeks’ notice and provides a template on the city’s Web site for guiding submissions to executive assistant Natasha McFarley.
“Some people actually think I write every proclamation, but if I had to do that, it would be a bit challenging,” Copenhaver said.
He said people mostly submit requests for him to honor deceased Augusta natives for contributions made to their community, but that he generally honors the death through a certificate of mourning.
As he nears the end of his term in December, Copenhaver said he is often asked why he doesn’t proclaim a day in his honor.
“I don’t think that’s appropriate,” he said.