Much was accomplished in several key areas during Teresa Tomlinson’s two terms as Mayor of Columbus, Georgia.
Excellence in Civic and Fiscal Management
- Columbus named one of the top fifty best-run cities in America in 2016, 2017, and 2018. In 2018, Columbus was ranked 24th.
- Ranked 22 on a fiscal health index of 116 US cities with populations greater than 200,000. Rankings based on city-published financial reports from 2015, scored and reported by thefiscaltimes.com, January 2017.
- Balanced the budget for the first time in 16 years using no reserve funds.
- Received the Government Finance Officers Association Distinguished Budget Presentation award for the 26th year in a row and our FY2016 Comprehensive Annual Financial Report received a clean independent audit.
- Provided city and county services at the remarkably prudent cost of $1,300 per person.
- Reformed the city’s pension plan saving taxpayers some $18 million since 2013 and $55 million in the first 10 years, while dramatically increasing plan funding.
- Successfully defended lawsuits attempting to usurp the executive budgetary policy-making authority of the mayor, and the legislative budgeting power of the Columbus Council, thereby protecting the fiscally responsible handling of public monies.
- Increased recycling by 237%, saving Columbus taxpayers millions of dollars in deferred costs.
- Passed comprehensive employee healthcare reform reducing costs by millions of dollars, and established an employee health and wellness center thereby decreasing the rise of healthcare costs to employees and taxpayers.
- Instituted workers compensation administrative reforms saving more than one million dollars.
- Achieved national accreditation (with a nearly perfect score) of Columbus’ previously scandal-ridden Parks and Recreation Department, and received the Department of the Year Award, from the Georgia Recreation and Parks Association.
Public Safety Achievements
- Crime is down in Columbus, GA 42.2% from its height in 2009, just prior to Teresa Tomlinson’s tenure, dropping from 15,606 Part-1 crimes to 9,028 crimes. That’s 6,578 fewer crime victims.
- Increased police officer salaries by 22%.
- Received Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement (CALEA) reaccreditation for the Columbus Police Department for the eighth straight time, placing the Columbus Police Department among the top 166 law enforcement agencies (out of some 20,000 law enforcement agencies) in the country.
- Reformed Muscogee County Prison, increasing professionalism, safety and employee morale, and granting the most GEDs of any state work camp.
- Implemented the Rapid Resolution Initiative at the Muscogee County Jail, which in the first year reduced direct costs by more than $500,000, reduced indirect costs by more than $100,000 and reduced the jail population by 5%.
- Implemented the Police Retention Pay Plan in order to address pay compression and retention issues.
- Established a Pastor’s Police Academy to bridge the experiential and information gap between our law enforcement officers and our citizens.
- Established regular prayer vigils to raise public consciousness and help end violence.
- Invested in Intelligence Led Policing to provide the Columbus Police Department with state-of-the-art technologies to fight crime.
Leadership and Innovative Solutions
- Won a Harvard University Kennedy School of Business Bright Ideas Award, for the Save-A-Pet Plan, and reduced the animal euthanasia rate from 80% in 2010 to 17% in 2017 and increased adoption by triple digits.
- Saved Sweet Briar College. In 2015, after the startling announcement of the potential closure of her undergraduate alma mater, Sweet Briar College in Virginia, Mayor Tomlinson joined with thousands of alumnae across the nation to raise $28.5 million in 110 days and convert more than $12 million of that to cash in 70 days in order to fulfill the terms of a court approved settlement, which saved the college and kept the doors open, where it thrives today. She was a primary witness in the court case that was successful before the Virginia Supreme Court and was involved in discussions with the Virginia Attorney General’s Office regarding the saving of the college. Mayor Tomlinson delivered the 2015 commencement speech, thought to be the college’s last; but, instead, the speech became an endorsement for liberal arts education, an indictment of the failed leadership of the past and a rallying point for the effort to save the college.
- Provided constituents with direct access to their mayor through quarterly forums called Let’s Talk with the Mayor and social media.
- Partnered with the Chamber of Commerce and other stakeholders to set a multi-year vision, known as Columbus 2025, to reduce poverty, improve the quality of the workforce and increase prosperity throughout Columbus.
- Through Mayor’s Commission on High Speed Passenger Rail, completed feasibility study which demonstrated that a rail line connecting the Columbus, Georgia airport and Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport would be profitable (1.2 profitability ratio) in the first year of operation, allowing for private investment and the payment of construction debt, and potentially making Columbus the low cost airline carrier hub for the region.
- Instituted tax allocation districts to encourage the revitalization of previously blighted areas, including City Village and the Liberty District .
- With community partners and through the national Zero 2016 campaign, reduced homelessness by 25% and veteran homelessness by 62%.
- Constructed new biking/walking trails, known as the Dragonfly Trails, to create 60 miles of connected trails throughout the city, including trails and streetscapes in previously blighted areas.
- Returned 2.2 miles of the Chattahoochee River to its natural state creating the world’s longest whitewater course in an urban setting.
- Saw the renaissance of the city’s downtown, creating a bustling dining/entertainment district, known as Uptown, with more than 25 restaurants and bars.
- Achieved bronze level Bike Friendly City status from the League of American Bicyclists, while achieving silver level Bike Friendly Business status for the Columbus Civic Center.
- Adopted best practices “complete streets” standards to make roads safe for pedestrians and cyclists, as well as vehicles.
- Named Top 100 Best Places to Live by Liveability.com (2013).
- Columbus Whitewater course named one of the “Twelve Greatest Man-made Adventures on the Planet” by USA Today.