Gwinnett County drew international attention twice in one week in April. With one event, we actively sought to turn the world”s eyes to Gwinnett as we celebrated the return of pro golf. The inaugural PGA”s Greater Gwinnett Champion”s Tour at TPC Sugarloaf in Duluth gave us the chance to shine the spotlight on great players playing a great course in a great community. For two days, the Golf Channel beamed beautiful images of our sought-after lifestyle around the world. With the azaleas in full bloom, it was springtime and Gwinnett County sparkled. Congratulations to Stan Hall, Gwinnett Sports Commission Executive Director, and his team for an outstanding tournament!
But the other event was horrific. A desperate person took five firefighters hostage in his home at gunpoint. His utilities were shut off for nonpayment and the house was in foreclosure. After hours of fruitless negotiations, members of our SWAT team took bold action and rescued the hostages.
While I wish that our employees and their families could have been spared the risk and stress they went through that day, I have never been prouder of our county public safety folks. They all displayed absolute professionalism and bravery throughout the situation. Without the level of calmness and patience they demonstrated, things could easily have spiraled out of control.
The contrast between these two events is striking. On the one hand, life is a celebration as thousands of Gwinnett residents gather to watch the world”s greatest golfers compete. On the other hand, like a slap in the face, we are reminded that a seemingly routine call for emergency help can morph into a life-threatening situation for our first responders. Even this terrible event, though, proved that Gwinnett is a great place to be, as our public safety professionals protected the community and each other.
As local officials, we actively pursue high-profile events like the PGA Tour because of the exposure, the prestige, and the potential revenue they bring to our economy. At the same time, we are saddened by incidents like the hostage taking.
As we are fond of saying, Success Lives Here. We”ve won national recognition for our schools, our parks, and our libraries. We have the world”s best public safety personnel and world class medical care. We”re also home to four Fortune 550 companies – and we host operations for hundreds of internationally based businesses.
Yet all is not rosy. As a community, we must do what we can with our limited resources to help each other thrive and prosper. We must help each other because it”s simply the right thing to do.
The Gwinnett Coalition for Health and Human Services (770.995.3339) and the United Way of Greater Atlanta (211) are two organizations that connect people to assistance. I encourage you to share these phone numbers with anyone who may need a helping hand.
And – thank a public safety hero today for what he or she does every day!