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Retreat to move forward
Screven groups hold annual gathering
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SYLVANIA - Screven County and Sylvania officials held their annual community-wide retreat at TMT Farms to evaluate expectations and determine goals for the coming year.

Pat Merritt, Manager of Community Development for Georgia EMC, facilitated for the group of 42 community leaders who participated in the planning event.

Represented at the retreat were the Cities of Sylvania and Hiltonia, Sylvania's Downtown Development Authority/Better Hometown, Screven County's Chamber of Commerce, Commission, Board of Education, Community Collaborative, Industrial Development, Airport, and Hospital Authorities.

The effect of a retreat like this one, Sylvania's Mayor Margaret Evans told the Herald, is that it breaks down barriers between separate community organizations.

After the chief elected officials of each entity shared their priority initiatives with the group, participants were asked to join in an exercise of vision.

They were asked to imagine the year 2015 with the grant of three wishes for the "brightest and best future for Screven County."

After numerous "news headlines" and scenes were envisioned, commonalities were found and prioritized.

"We know where we want to go," said Will Boyd, County Commissioner Chairman, "we just need to get in the same vehicle."

As the 10 community entities collaborated, an achievable vision was realized. Obstacles and assets were determined before an action plan was drawn.

The process of creating the action plan involved everything from refining goals to determining who would be responsible for taking leadership roles and discussing timelines and funding for each step of the plan.

Three major goals clearly rose to the top this year, said Merritt: improve communication between community organizations/agencies, strengthen economic development efforts, and promote positive leadership.

At next year's retreat, participants will be asked to report on their progress on the goals developed, she said.

"The real value of this retreat will be realized," Merritt said, "when the participants follow through on the action plan and accomplish the goals that they have collectively agreed upon."

It will take the cooperation and collaboration of each group represented to achieve the bright future envisioned, she said.