On Monday, LaGrange Mayor Jim Thornton was inducted into the Georgia Municipal Government Hall of Fame at GMA’s annual convention in Savannah.
The Georgia Municipal Government (GMA) Hall of Fame recognizes municipal officials who have made extraordinary contributions to municipal government and who have been a strong supporter of the GMA. The GMA advocates for cities across the state and provides training and resources for city leaders.
To be eligible, elected officials and municipal officials must have at least 15 years of service in municipal government in Georgia. The Georgia Municipal Association advocates for cities across the state and provides training and resources for municipal leaders.
“It has been a great honor and privilege to lead the municipal association and serve the cities of Georgia,” said Thornton. “Georgia is our nation’s largest state, thanks in large part to the strength and vitality of its cities, including LaGrange, which continue to lead the state into a more prosperous future.”
Thornton recently completed his term as President of GMA for the year 2021-2022, in his place as the new President of GMA is Julie Smith, who is the Mayor of Tifton. After serving as GMA President, Thornton will serve as Past President for one year. This means that Thornton will still be an Association Officer (GMA) for one more year and as long as he is a city elected official.
Thornton is a member of the board and executive committee, he said, and will be referred to as a past president at future GMA sessions.
After being recognized for his dedication and stepping into new shoes as past president, Thornton plans to remain engaged with the GMA.
“GMA is such a great resource for LaGrange and such a great help to all of our cities,” Thornton said. “As long as I remain in office as mayor, I intend to remain very involved with GMA. One of the benefits of GMA is that we can share ideas and resources. What I have discovered is that there is absolutely no magic solution to problems. But what you can do is sometimes learn from the mistakes of others, who have tried different things, but there are no magic solutions.
Thornton said his experience with GMA gave him insight into how other cities in the state operate. LaGrange, he said, was noted by GMA as a leader statewide, although he said there was still plenty of knowledge LaGrange could take away from other communities.
“Other cities look to us for leadership because we often lead by example,” he said. “For example, at this GMA session, one of the big discussions was how to improve policing and how to make policing more effective and how to bring police closer to communities. GMA has asked our Chief of Police, Lou Dekmar, and the Mayor of College Park to lead this discussion as other cities are struggling with the same issues.
LaGrange’s progress as a community was most notable at the last GMA convention, Thornton noted.
LaGrange’s Thread trail system, for example, was an idea inspired by a similar project Carrollton had. Thornton said Newnan in turn found inspiration for a similar trail project at LaGrange.
“Different cities share ideas from time to time, and that’s definitely going to continue and that’s one of the great things about GMA,” he said.
Throughout his tenure as a GMA member and elected LaGrange, Thornton was able to learn from other mayors and learn a few things about LaGrange that he didn’t expect, he said.
“Georgia is a big state with 537 cities that come in all different shapes, colors and sizes. We tend to think of LaGrange as a small town,” Thornton said. “If you put us on this list of 537 cities, we are in the top 37 in terms of size. We are a bigger city by Georgian standards than others might think. Another thing you find out is that the needs of cities and the issues they face are pretty much the same. If you talk to the mayor of any of those 537 cities, they’re all going to be talking about the same issues, public safety, housing, labor, transportation. It’s just a difference in scale,” Thornton said.
Thornton served on the GMA Board of Directors and previously chaired the Legislative Policy Council, Federal Policy Council, Member Services Advisory Council and Municipal Government Policy Committee. Thornton was also named co-chair of the GMA Equity and Inclusion Commission.
Thornton was elected to the LaGrange City Council in 2009 and after serving a full term on the council was elected mayor in 2013. Thornton remains active in his church at LaGrange First United Methodist Church and serves as Chancellor of the Georgia Annual Conference of the North, making him the primary legal adviser to the United Methodist Bishop of Atlanta.