Young Gamechangers Present Big Ideas to Milledgeville on December 8th

Staff Report From Middle Georgia CEO

Friday, December 1st, 2017

For the last five months 50 of Georgia’s brightest young professionals have researched Milledgeville’s history, met with community leaders, toured campuses and neighborhoods, interviewed retirees, and re-imagined downtown in their quest to come up with big ideas and innovative solutions to some of the area’s most persistent challenges. Their hard work will be revealed when they present their final recommendations on Friday, December 8 from 2-4 pm. The event will take place at Simply Southern Barn, 135 Forte Drive NW, Milledgeville, GA 31061. It is free and the public and media are invited. If you plan to attend, please RSVP here:

“The businesses and political leadership in Milledgeville/Baldwin County have given the Young Gamechangers tremendous support during our time here,” states Kris Vaughn, Executive Director of GeorgiaForward. “I knew we were going to enjoy working with this community when we had a full house welcome us at Georgia Military College on the very first day of the program! We are excited to share the final recommendations with area leaders and the community.”

The Young Gamechangers are made up of professionals from across the state between the ages of 24 and 40 who work in diverse sectors including business, law, non-profit, arts and culture, education, finance, politics, tourism, marketing, urban and economic development.

Below are the four challenge questions that the Young Gamechangers have been working on:

Education: In what ways can the citizens of Milledgeville/Baldwin County positively support
and promote the public-school system, thus strengthening the opinion of our future workforce
and its economic impact on the community?

Retirees: How can Milledgeville/Baldwin County incorporate and engage their growing retirement community and, in turn, provide an exceptional quality of life and the necessary resources to retain them?

Branding/Signage: With Milledgeville/Baldwin County’s central location and gateways created by major traffic thoroughfares, in what ways can the community improve its entrance points through the creation and incorporation of a unique brand image?

Economic Development: How can the community realign and refocus Milledgeville/Baldwin County to become the booming economic driver it once was while diversifying its employment sectors?
Here’s an introduction to some of the Young Gamechangers with a few sneak previews.

John Noah Jackson is a proud native of Milledgeville. He is currently the Maintenance Manager for Parking and Transportation at Georgia College & State University, where he keeps the wheels turning on a fleet of forty vehicles. John earned both his BBA and MBA from Georgia College & State University.  Off campus, he is currently serving his third four-year term on the Baldwin County School Board. Since his first election at the age of twenty-three, Jackson has worked tirelessly to improve the Baldwin County School System. During his tenure, Baldwin High School’s graduation rate has risen from 77% in 2008 to 86% in 2016.  Jackson and his wife, Rachel, live with their two children in Milledgeville.

“I’m enjoying the Young Gamechangers program for several reasons,” states Jackson.  “Usually we are told to be reasonable in our thinking, so to have a challenge to dream big is great. Working with such a diverse group of people is really driving the conversation and helping us push the envelope.”

“Our group is tackling the economic question,” he continues. “Let’s just say that one of the things we are discussing is totally transforming downtown and it’s a radical, big idea.”

Dorie Paulk Bacon serves as the Executive Director of Screven County Development Authority, but has been involved in economic development for more than a decade. She has experience in tourism, small business development and industrial recruitment.  She has worked on regional and statewide initiatives, including serving as a member of the GEDA Board of Directors and former Chair of the Greater Savannah Regional Alliance. She is an MPA and a Certified Economic Developer. Bacon is a graduate of the Georgia Academy for Economic Development and Leadership Southeast Georgia. She lives in Sylvania, GA.

“We are working on the education question, which has to do with the perception of what public education means,” says Bacon. “It’s a complicated issue, but we have some interesting ideas about how to define success in public education and even how to celebrate it!”

“I like the Young Gamechangers formula for putting together each class with one third being from the host city, one third being from Atlanta, and one third from Greater Georgia,” she adds. “It provides a great balance of viewpoints and perspectives that brings together the mosaic of all that is Georgia.”

Brittany Bullock, a native of Augusta, GA, is a High Demand Career Initiative Program Specialist at the Georgia Department of Economic Development. She works with industry leaders, educators and workforce developers to design initiatives to overcome a variety of workforce challenges. Brittany received a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science from Georgia Southern University and a Masters of Public Administration from the University of Georgia. Brittany lives in Atlanta, GA.
“Learning about retirees has been eye opening and there has been a lot of research involved,” states Bullock. “Older people are more active than we imagined, so we had to expand our idea of what a retirement community is, and what it can look like. We are talking about healthy lifestyle facilities, lifetime learning, a diverse lineup of entertainment offerings and much more. I think people will be surprised by the scope of our ideas.”
Whitney Gibbs works in marketing technology, designing and managing business processes and technology. She has handled media relations and social media management for several elected officials, political organizations and non-profits. Gibbs graduated from the University of Georgia with a BA in Political Science. She and her husband live in Atlanta, GA.

“I’m also in the education group,” explains Gibbs. “We are grappling with how to update the perception of public schools, using positive real-lfe stories through effective communication channels. I don’t want to give too much away, but we are encouraged by how many people we spoke with who are passionate about their community and would like to be involved in the process of change.”

Sharah Denton has 10 years of experience in public relations, community service and non-profit leadership. Most recently she served as Development Director for the homeless shelter, Lowndes Associated Ministries to People, and now serves as the News Liaison and Creative Writer for In early 2016, she was elected Interim Georgia President for NCNW and later that year as National Young Adult Vice Chair of NCNW. She is the founder and Past President of the Valdosta-Lowndes Metropolitan Section of NCNW. She is the 2012 Valdosta Woman of the Year, 2013 MetroOne Valdosta’s 4 Under 40 recipient, and 2013 Georgia Trend Magazine’s 40 Under 40. Originally from Stockton, CA, Denton and her children live in Valdosta, GA.

“Our group is working on branding,” says Denton. “Milledgeville/Baldwin County is a beautiful place and we want to make sure that our ideas respect the rich history of the area, while at the same time bringing a contemporary feel and vitality to their branding.”

“I hope the community sees our effort and that we are invested,” she adds. “We want to help them tell their special story to the world. Ultimately, we’d love to see some of our ideas come to life!”