Courtesy of KBA, Photo taken by Amber Roldan
The Kennesaw Business Association (KBA) hosted its first State of the City address luncheon of the new year on Tuesday, January 12th. Governors Gun Club hosted the prestigious event working closely alongside the event’s generous sponsor, Loud Security Systems. After a year of chaos and uncertainty, everyone in attendance beamed with gratitude. Chatter and laughter quickly filled the conference hall as doors opened to guests.
KBA began in 1975 with two missions: to “promote and preserve the historical heritage of downtown Kennesaw” and to encourage local businesses to do business with each other. Since then, they have grown to over 425 members. KBA diligently works to connect with each member to successfully cater to the needs of each local business and organization. Over 50 networking events each year allows the organization to flourish, allowing them to create a more efficient business organization.
KBA’s honored guests found their seats and greeted friends as they made their way to the lunch buffet catered by the gun club. After everyone made their plates and found their seats, KBA’s 2021 president, Cassandra Stiff, took the stage. She graciously welcomed everyone, thanking all of the attendees for taking time out of their busy schedules to attend. Stiff reflected on the hardships that 2020 forced upon KBA and the city of Kennesaw.
“Let’s use 2020 as hindsight, into what we are looking to have accomplished. Let’s use our unexpected experience and our unexpected learnings from 2020 to leverage our business for today, forward facing,” Stiff said.
Succeeding Stiff’s introduction, KBA’s family pastor and spiritual leader, Avery Headd, led the audience in prayer asking for prosperous leadership and success in the new year. KBA’s chairperson of hospitality, Kim Moore, followed Pastor Headd. Moore welcomed honored guests in attendance including: Randy Scamihorn, Tommy Allegood, and various members of the City of Kennesaw Police Department and local CCSD administrators including NC principal, Matthew Moody, and NC athletic director, Matt Williams.
After various speakers following Moore, Kennesaw Mayor and NC staff member, Derek Esterling, made his way to the stage while enthusiastically singing along to Bon Jovi’s “It’s My Life.” After 6 years of consecutive annual speeches at KBA’s state of the city addresses, Easterling became quite accustomed to the concept. However, this particular luncheon held a special place in the mayor’s heart. 2020 marked a year of unforeseen darkness, yet the extra free time gifted Easterling’s parents with the knowledge and expertise of navigating an iPad and Facebook Live. So, for the first time ever, Eastlerling’s parents virtually attended his State of the City address and listened to him speak.
Easterling began his presentation reflecting on the repercussions 2020’s health crisis brought upon the city of Kennesaw. He brought to mind the challenging decisions and policies made in the early months of the pandemic, then revealing that the city of Kennesaw secured 1.8 million dollars in Federal Cares Act money to dedicate towards enhancing Kennesaw’s safety and stopping the spread of COVID-19. This money went towards the installation of touchless water faucets and advanced audio and visual equipment to safely continue critical communication.
“Life may never be the same as it was, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be better. It’s possible that 2021 will bring lessons of resilience and a conquering spirit,” Easterling said.
Easterling reassured his audience that despite the multifaceted obstacles faced in the past year, the city of Kennesaw would triumph in 2021. He emphasized the importance of restoring the economy while simultaneously prioritizing public health.
After exasperated years of diligently pushing Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax, the program received its long-anticipated approval. Kenesaw SPLOST consists of 34 million dollars put back into the city of Kennesaw. Easterling proudly shared how he plans to effectively distribute this money in an effort to better the city of Kennesaw. SPLOST dollars will allow Kennesaw’s Depot Park to welcome a new amphitheater and expanded parking lot. This money will also cover the expenses for building a new recreation center. Aside from SPLOST dollars Easterling detailed numerous renovation and construction projects happening within his beloved city.
Easterling’s natural leadership complimented his public speaking skills and ability to command a room, allowing his positive message of perseverance and goals for 2021 to effectively reach and inspire his audience.
“Leaders must know the capabilities of the members of their group. The more capable the member, the better the result. Our team is a leader and we are leading the way to a bright, and successful future,” Easterling said.