On the eve of me personally paying seven figures in taxes to the federal and the Georgia state government, I found myself standing over potholes in my broader neighborhood the size of a small car, and large enough to take off a wheel.

And this visual example of public sector neglect also left me wondering why dedicated officials from the area, would let this obvious risk to public safety go, for almost a year. Yes, these potholes have been there for going on — a full year. And this is the point.

Big dreams for cities and communities, and their necessary large private investments, require these same leaders — to repair the potholes. But it’s not about the potholes, it’s about that thing called leadership. And leaders, understand that small things matter. Small things, including potholes. Maybe especially so.

And so, I cared so much ‘about the small things,’ that I wrote a joint letter to the five mayors and commissioners that together lead the area. I immediately received not only responses, but personal visits, from area Mayor Vince Williams, and Commissioner Charles Rousseau.

Mayor Vince Williams of Union City, and President of the National League of Cities

I commend them both. The area of Fayetteville and Union City are very fortunate to have them representing their areas.

Fayetteville Commissioner Charles Rousseau

Also, Paul DeNard, representing the State of Georgia Department of Transportation, was also responsive and helpful. Even the local sheriff, Sheriff Barry H. Babb.

Unfortunately, the street in question was not in any of their districts or areas of responsibility. The others addressed in the letter, leaders including South Fulton and the City of Fairburn, largely did nothing. For — almost a year. Actually, one of the city leaders actually did repair two of the four potholes after my second or third outreach, but then left the other two — un-repaired (and this part is a tad bit laughable, if not ridiculous…), because they were ‘not in their district.’ But they were two feet away.

And this, is also the point. Right answer, to the wrong questions. The right question is, and should always be, ‘is the public’s safety at risk?’ And the answer to this, directs all other leadership actions that follow. This is public leadership lesson 101.

Areas like North Fayetteville are positioned for measured growth, and possibly hundred of millions of dollars of private sector investment. Investments in needed retail, key commercial development, and well planned residential communities.

When I look at places like Manhattan and and Los Angeles, I see mature cities where the wealth has already been created. You can go there to live, and live well, but the wealth has already been created in these places.

I was attracted to Atlanta because I knew that this was a city ‘where the hockey puck was heading.‘ In other words, where wealth and opportunity were headed, ‘next.’ And from this lens I created and launched the Promise Homes Company, which grew a portfolio of over $150 in affordable single family rental homes. I also moved the global headquarters of Operation HOPE to Atlanta.

And this is why I also personally invested in the North Fayetteville, Ga area, because I saw — and still see — a place of undervalued beauty, sustainable growth, and opportunity there. It is also a place ‘where the puck’ is going. In other words, economic growth for the future.

But, they have to fix the potholes first. And the leaders in the cities and municipalities in the area must learn to work together, as a collaborative, if not coordinated team. And to be better responsive to the public. The public that put them into office, to begin with. And the ones like me, who pay the taxes to keep governments running.

John Hope Bryant, Entrepreneur, and founder of Operation HOPE, Bryant Group Ventures and The Promise Homes Company.

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