A friendship reaching from one side of the state to the other brought Columbus, Ga., Mayor Teresa Tomlinson to Augusta on Thursday.
Tomlinson and Augusta Mayor Deke Copenhaver joined together to build a relationship between the two cities. In her talk during the Augusta Metro Chamber of Commerce economic luncheon, Tomlinson listed ways Columbus and Augusta are similar: population, consolidated governments, their location on the state line and rivers, and diverse communities with almost identical budgets.
“You’re comparing apples to apples,” she said.
Sworn into office in 2011, Tomlinson gained statewide notoriety for initiatives including prison reform and economic development. Copper thefts in Columbus dropped more than 47 percent after she organized a task force that fostered cooperation among citizens, scrap metal dealers and law enforcement officials.
During the luncheon, Tomlinson detailed a turning point in Columbus’ development. The city recently blew up the dam on the Chatahoochee River to create 2.2 miles of white water rapids to increase tourism. She said the explosion was symbolic of the renaissance Columbus and other Georgia hub cities are going through – something that can grow only through cooperation.
“It was a wonderful thing to see all that bubbling under the surface explode in the breaching of that dam,” she said. “There was just this moment in time where the entire community realized we’re never going back; it’s irreversible now.”
Copenhaver and Tomlinson plan on maintaining a conversation, not only for the cities’ benefit but for the state’s, too.
“She’s truly remarkable and I told her, you’ve said everything this audience needed to hear,” Copenhaver said after the talk. “For us to speak with one voice in Atlanta, that’s powerful.”