This article appeared in the June 2017 issue of the Georgia's Cities newspaper.
It could be said that people in public office march to a different beat, and that can be a good thing. In several cities across Georgia, residents are reaping the benefits of their elected officials’ musical talents.
Pine Lake Mayor Melanie Hammet
Take Pine Lake for example. Singer/songwriter and Pine Lake Mayor Melanie Hammet uses her musical talent to teach youngsters about city administration.
“We hold Town Hall meetings just for the kids so they can learn more about the city,” said Hammet. “I wrote a song called ‘Itty Bitty City,’ and all the kids sing it when they come. They are very candid about telling me what we can do to make our city better. And the parents aren’t invited to the meetings. The kids call them their meetings with the mayor and they get really excited to attend.”
Winterville Mayor and musician Dodd Ferrelle formed his own band at age 16, and performed at local festivals and community events. He’s toured around the country and has recorded nearly a dozen pop/rock albums. His love of music and the arts is serving him well as mayor. In fact, his strong feelings about the arts prompted him to initiate a community garden mural project in Winterville.
Winterville Mayor Dodd Ferrelle
“It [the mural project] underscored the importance of all kinds of art with a multi-generational project that helped empower our youth as contributors to the community,” said Ferrelle. “Art—no matter what form— comes from the heart and we’re all about protecting our sweet screen-door community that we have.”
Ringgold City Councilmember Randall Franks is considered a household name to those in the music and television world. Named the unofficial “Appalachian Ambassador of the Fiddle,” appearing as Officer Randy Goode on television’s “In the Heat of the Night,” and a regular performer at the Grand Ole Opry, he took to music as a kid.
“I was a sickly child and couldn’t participate in athletics, so I took up music,” he said. “While I was still in elementary school, we had a group of kids that got together with our parents’ blessings every Friday night for a jam session. And by the time I was 13, we started a band.”
An inductee in the Country Music Hall of Fame and a former winner of the Grand Master Fiddling Championship, he now hosts the National Fiddling Championship at the Country Music Hall of Fame in Nashville. He’s recorded his own music, worked as a session musician with some of the biggest names in the business and traveled around the world.
“Music and the arts give young people the chance to tap into something that can change their lives,” he said. “It can enlighten us, challenge us and help build character. It makes us think and can take us anywhere we want to go.”