For more than 24 years, the growth of the Cobb County, GA was managed by David Hankerson, a 1973 graduate of then-Fort Valley State College. The native of Waynesboro, helped to oversee a county possessing a budget of $800 million and employing more than 5,000 people. It is now home to more than 748,000 residents and numerous companies.
While the average tenure for county manager is three to five years, Hankerson notes that his career as Cobb County manager spanned 24 1/2 years.
Hankerson attended FVSC with hopes of being a farmer, and learned to understand plant and soil relationships as an agronomy major. He credits his success to his rural upbringing and study of agronomy at FVSC for providing a strong foundation.
“It helped a lot,” he said. “When I first left Fort Valley, I went to work for the USDA (U.S. Department of Agriculture) at the Soil Conservation Service (now known as the Natural Resources Conservation Service) from 1973 to 1984.”
In 1984, Hankerson’s career took an unexpected turn when Cobb County recruited him from the federal government to lead all of its development and build a customer service force. In 1993, he was named county manager. Numerous projects critical to growth were completed during his tenure, including infrastructure construction, environmental enhancements, and customer service improvements.
“We got a road built called the East-West Connector (Barret Parkway) that previous administrations have tried to get done since 1958,” he said.
Hankerson’s ability to work with people and get projects completed has not gone unnoticed. The Hankerson Safety Village Building, a facility used to train firefighters and emergency medical responders, is named in his honor. On May 17, 2017, U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-Ga) read a resolution on the Senate floor honoring Hankerson for his efforts, noting that county revenue quadrupled with Hankerson as manager.
“He is one of the shining stars in the state of Georgia today, in Cobb County,” said Senator Isakson.
“He was very kind, and I wasn’t expecting it,” Hankerson reflected. “It is quite an honor when you have a United States senator do that, and he did it without talking to me or anyone else. He is a good friend and he’s watched me most of my career with Cobb County. ”
The FVSC graduates says that he does any job he performs with passion. Since stepping down as Cobb County manager earlier this year, Hankerson still keeps busy. Presently, he works with the Association for County Commissioners of Georgia (ACCG) as director of civic and intergovernmental affairs. He said he accepted the job because it gives him an opportunity to work with youth, most notably through the Georgia Civic Awareness Program (GCAP), a community awareness program for high school students, and the Georgia County Intern Program (GCIP), which gives scholarships to interns.
Hankerson said that by working within the system, he was able to overcome challenges he faced in his career.
“I was always professional,” he said. “I’ve never been one that got frustrated with challenges. I just learned how to work around or within those challenges or found a way to get done what I wanted to do.”
In his spare time, Hankerson still gets his hands in the soil by working in his garden growing produce and spends time with his family. He says vegetable gardening is therapeutic for him and gives him a chance to test his crop-growing skills. He also shares the fruits of his labor.
“I have a small truck crop up in Cobb, so I give everything away,” he said. “I don’t sell anything. I love to give to the community, senior citizens or other groups. I just love to share. I’ve been blessed.”
Hankerson, 71, is married to his wife Janet and has four adult children.
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