Business

Giving thanks in Gwinnett

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By Jim Maran

As we look forward to a new year, it is only fitting that we take the time to pause and give thanks to the unsung heroes and their accomplishments that keep Gwinnett a great place to live and do business.

These heroes include the leadership, administration and staff of our county government, our award-winning public school system, and our 15 unique municipalities. Without their steady vision and execution of day-to-day operations, Gwinnett would not be the leading community it is today.

First, let”s give thanks to the county”s leadership. Considering Gwinnett currently stands at 714,000 residents and is adding 25,000 people each year, the county runs a lean, efficient operation and continues to enjoy an enviable "AAA" Bond rating from Moody”s, Fitch, and Standard and Poor”s – placing Gwinnett among one of only 20 counties in the nation to earn "AAA" designation from all three agencies.

We enjoyed a smooth transition in leadership and served as a model for all of Georgia when an unexpected crisis arose by effectively servicing more than 10,000 Hurricane Katrina evacuees.

Thanks to "Operation Fixing Broken Windows" there is stronger enforcement of existing codes and ordinances, enhanced ordinances designed to clean up run-down areas, and more police officers on the streets. Over time, this will revitalize parts of Southern Gwinnett into more attractive real estate for infill development, economic development and more.

The county has also made tough financial decisions this year that will ensure we are able to maintain a solid infrastructure for many years to come. We have nearly 60 more police officers patrolling our streets this year than we did last year and their pay is the highest in the area, helping us recruit the best to become Gwinnett”s finest.

Next, let”s give thanks to our public school system. We”re home to Georgia”s largest and most diverse public school system with more than 100 different languages spoken in our schools – and yet we consistently outperform our peer systems in the state and rank among the best school systems in the nation in achievement.

Gwinnett juniors topped state results for the Georgia High School Graduation Test tying the highest-ever passing rate in social studies and mathematics. Nine out of every ten Gwinnett schools met the state”s accountability goals.

A record number of students took Advanced Placement tests last year and the system”s mean score remains higher than state and global averages. Gwinnett test-takers set records on the verbal and math sections of the 2005 SAT Reasoning Test resulting in the highest-ever total score. Twenty-seven of our schools were recognized by the state for improving and promoting academic excellence. The accolades go on and on.

And finally, let”s thank the leaders in each of our 15 municipalities, whose successes are too numerous to mention. Their leadership impacts us significantly as we carry out our day-to-day lives in each of our hometowns. Their vision has created a renaissance in their downtowns and created a vibrancy in the quality of living that makes each town and city unique and special. It is that uniqueness that helps set Gwinnett apart from our