At our house we now have five dogs. Four of them stay in the house.
You know what that means. Every once in a while you have to let them all go outside. It’s best if you can take them on a walk. But, if you can’t, you open the front door and they run out.
You see, they have to stretch their legs. And chase squirrels. And sniff. And all the other stuff that dogs do when they are no longer cooped up in the house.
Then you have to round them all up.
A master dog trainer would open the door, give a command, and the dogs would trot inside in single file.
But, I’m no master dog trainer. So, I call the dogs. They scatter to the winds. This one is under the bushes. That one is sunning on the porch. I scoop one up and the other three trot in different directions.
It reminds me of how government usually works. Lots of unrelated units, each with their own priorities, chasing their own squirrels and oblivious to the others.
That’s why Thursday was so special to me.
The day began on the front steps of the Fayette County Justice Center. About a hundred folks were there. Mayors. The sheriff. Police chiefs. School leaders. County commissioners. City councilmen. Legislators. Business leaders. Active community volunteers. On and on.
I believe the NAACP may have organized the event. Representative Virgil Fludd moderated.
The reason for the gathering? We have had two murders in Fayette County in the past two weeks.
The message? We love this place and we’re all in this together. Law enforcement, the schools, business, local government—all for one and one for all.
It didn’t end there.
As soon as the meeting ended, Sam Sweat, the Assistant School Superintendent, followed me into the courthouse so I could sign a memorandum of understanding. That’s what you call an agreement between government agencies to cooperate.
Sam has organized quarterly meetings between the police chiefs, the sheriff, Fayette school officials and me for as long as I have been DA. A spirit of teamwork has developed and we all communicate and ward off problems before they become unmanageable. The memorandum of understanding is just one of the fruits of those meetings.
Then, I got a call from detectives working one of the murder cases. They needed me to call the GBI to ask that they expedite some testing to help us catch one of the killers. The GBI responded within seconds.
I went to the sheriff’s office where a witness to one of the murders was being interviewed. The witness brought a lawyer and his father. All wanted to help.
I left just in time to get to our Griffin office. I needed to interview a potential prosecutor. As soon as I finished, I went to see the County Manager. I asked if he would be willing to meet with the other county managers in the circuit to discuss an idea that would save tens of thousands of dollars each year on our health insurance costs. He eagerly agreed. By the end of the day another county manager had agreed to meet. I’m certain the other county managers will, too.
As the sun went down, I couldn’t help but reflect upon the day. So this is what it looks like.
“Government of the people, by the people, for the people.”
Scott Ballard is District Attorney of the Griffin Judicial Circuit, which consists of Fayette, Pike, Spalding and Upson counties.