“I enjoyed every moment of it,” she says. “It was never dull”
The Georgia Municipal Association honored Harrison with an induction into the Municipal Government Hall of Fame at the association’s annual convention in Savannah Monday, June 28.
The Hall of Fame honors municipal officials who exemplify the best in public service, and who, throughout their careers, have made extraordinary contributions to their communities and Georgia’s cities.
Harrison retired as city administrator and finance officer in 2007.
Calhoun Mayor Jimmy Palmer worked alongside Harrison for about eight years and remembers her as “easy to work with.”
“She helped train several mayors with her knowledge and expertise,” he said. “It was fun working with Cathy.”
Harrison chuckled at the “training” statement. She worked with three mayors: W.C. Burdette, John Meadows and Palmer.
“All three of those mayors were excellent,” she said, noting that each have brought great advancements for the city.
Harrison herself helped to engineer some big steps forward for Calhoun.
Among her favorite projects was the relocation of the raw water intake system to the Coosawattee River, a project that took place in the late 70s and early 80s.
The city received a $5 million Federal Housing Administration Loan and borrowed another $5 million in bonds. Harrison kept the loan money invested throughout the construction process and the city used the bonds to pay for construction. At the time, interest rates were excellent — 22 percent, she recalls.
She saw the city garner $1 million in interest from the loan money. Investment legalities were a little different back then in regard to arbitrage, she noted, so it was legal to invest the loan money.
During Harrison’s tenure, the city’s population more than tripled and the combined general fund and utilities budgets grew from $6.4 million to almost $94 million.
“She was instrumental in managing the city’s growth and played a key role in many initiatives that have contributed greatly to her community’s quality of life,” said GMA Executive Director Jim Higdon.
“Cathy was very, very involved with GMA,” Palmer said. “The honor was well deserved … we’re proud of her.”
Harrison, who actually spent 46 years in the workforce — before joining the city staff, she was employed with Calhoun First National Bank (now BB&T), the county board of education and Dixie Bell carpet company — says the hall of fame induction was a “humbling” experience.
“Ninety-nine percent” of the city employees she worked with, she said, “Forgot about self. They really were dedicated to public service.”
The citizens themselves played a significant role in moving the city forward, Harrison said, and she was eager to interact with them.
“I always kept my door open,” she said.
A career of accomplishments:
According to the Georgia Municipal Association, under Cathy Harrison’s leadership, the city purchased the current city hall building and depot, helped create a technical school, established a city-owned golf course and created a recycling center.
Harrison was also credited with helping to create a Stay in School Task Force to address adult literacy and the school dropout rate and serving as a charter member of a community leadership program through the Chamber of Commerce.
She was also very involved in GMA, serving on the board of directors, the Workers’ Compensation Self-Insurance Fund Board of Trustees and numerous committees. She also served as president of the Georgia Municipal Clerks and Finance Officers Association.
Based in Atlanta, GMA is a voluntary, non-profit organization that provides legislative advocacy, educational, employee benefit and consulting services to its 500 member cities.