In this episode of the South Georgia Insider Podcast, we're talking to Valdosta Mayor Scott James Matheson. The term "baptism by fire" is probably the best way to describe Matheson's first year in office.
Before his official swearing-in ceremony on Jan. 9, 2020, Matheson met with residents concerned with a massive wastewater spill, which happened in early December.
A topic of concern for decades, the City of Valdosta has invested millions of dollars toward sewer rehabilitation projects and new construction.
Matheson says the wastewater infrastructure represents an "all-in commitment" from the city and represents an economic advantage in recruiting new industries.
On March 13, as the emergence of COVID-19 began to sweep across the U.S., Matheson recalls being notified that the school systems were shutting down in response to Gov. Brian Kemp's declaring a public health emergency.
As the statewide shutdown coincided with the annual Azalea Festival, Matheson says he had concerns and met with festival organizers.
One of Valdosta's signature events, the Azalea Festival, located in Drexel Park, draws between 20,000 to 30,000 people.
The decision to cancel was not easy. "We made the right decision that night," he says. "A year removed, and with eyes wide open and people starting to get vaccinated, I am glad we held it this year."
Matheson is working with city council members and local leaders on various projects. On March 19 and 20, the City of Valdosta completed its 2021 Annual Strategic Initiatives Summit, and Matheson says it was a chance to get together and remind everyone that "we are all on the same page."
"We are moving the city forward in a very fiscally responsible manner," he says.
At the top of the list are infrastructure and transportation projects, including a possible second water treatment plant in the city's south end.
Since taking office, Matheson has been advocating for a reliable, cost-efficient transit system. "It was my platform when I ran [for mayor], and I wanted to do it responsibly."
The City of Valdosta launched its In-Demand public transit system on April 27 to provide Valdosta residents with convenient and affordable public transportation options.
Downtown revitalization continues with the construction of an amphitheater across from City Hall. A two-phase project, with an open area for people to bring their chairs and blankets. Construction has started and is expected to be completed by mid-October. The second phase will include a water feature and space and utilities for food trucks.
All aboard! Matheson is working toward bringing a passenger train to downtown Valdosta. While still in the planning stage, Matheson says there are public/private partnership opportunities, and he believes the project will create significant revitalization and become a regional tourism draw.
Join us next time as we continue to promote South Georgia as a great place to live, work, play, and visit.
Thanks to our sponsor Smalltown Broadcasting and WDDQ, home of the Scott James Matheson Show, where you can listen to live from 6 a.m. to 9 a.m., Monday through Friday on Talk 92.1 http://talk921.com/ or through the TuneIn app https://tunein.com/radio/Talk-921
South Georgia Insider is produced by Spencer Van Horn, Smalltown Broadcasting.