Growing things is just in his nature

by Russell Boone

Posted on Nov 27, 2017

David Hankerson, a 1973 graduate of Fort Valley State College, served as Cobb County manager for 24 years before taking over as director of Civic and Intergovernmental Affairs for the Association of County Commissioners of Georgia.

David Hankerson, a 1973 graduate of Fort Valley State College, served as Cobb County manager for 24 years before taking over as director of Civic and Intergovernmental Affairs for the Association of County Commissioners of Georgia.

Cobb County, Georgia, once a sparsely populated suburb located in the Atlanta metropolitan area, is now home to more than 748,000 residents and numerous companies.

For more than 24 years, the growth of the county was managed by David Hankerson, a 1973 graduate (agronomy) of then Fort Valley State College (now University). A native of Waynesboro, Hankerson helped to oversee a county possessing a budget of $800,000,000, employing more than 5,000 people.

The Burke County resident attended FVSC with hopes of being a farmer. “To be a farmer, you have to understand plant and soil relationships, so I figured I wanted to go into agronomy,” Hankerson said.   

He gives credit to his rural upbringing and study of agronomy at FVSC for providing a strong foundation for his success. “It helped a lot. 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 {NRCS}) from 1973 to 1984.”

In 1984, his career took an unexpected turn when Cobb recruited him from the federal government to lead all of its development and build a customer service force before being named county manager in 1993. Hankerson said during his 24-year tenure as county manager, a number of projects were successfully completed.

“We got a road built called the East-West Connector (Barret Parkway) that previous administrations tried to get done since 1958. We got all of the permits to get it completed two or three years after I got on board,” Hankerson said. He also elaborated on the Hankerson Safety Village Building, a facility named in his honor that is used to train firefighters and emergency medical responders. In addition, Hankerson supervised projects in Cobb County that improved everything from environmental concerns to customer service.

He added that during his years as county manager, Cobb County was never involved in any corruption or scandals. “We had pretty tight policies and we put together a good quality staff, and that was just great. It was known as a well-run and managed county,” Hankerson said. He was also pleased to leave the job on his own terms. Hankerson said the average tenure for a county manager is three to five years, especially in big government. “You either move, or you’re fired. I was able to stay there (in Cobb) for 24 ½ years, so it was a good career,” Hankerson said.    

Additionally, Hankerson’s ability to work with people and get projects completed has not gone unnoticed. On May 17, 2017, Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-Ga) read a resolution in the halls of the U.S. Senate honoring Hankerson for his efforts. “He was very kind, and I wasn’t expecting it. 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 (Isakson) is a good friend and he’s watched me most of my career with Cobb County. To have that done on the floor of the United State Senate is quite an honor,” Hankerson said.

The FVSC graduate said any job he takes, he does it with a 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 for the state. He said he accepted this job because it gives him an opportunity to work with youth. “We have two programs; one is the Georgia Civic Awareness Program (GCAP), a community awareness program for high school students. The other is Georgia County Intern Program (GCIP), which gives scholarships to interns,” Hankerson said.

Hankerson said by working within the system, he was able to overcome the challenges he faced in his career. “I was always professional. 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,” Hankerson said.

In his spare time, the agronomy major still gets his hands in the soil by working in his garden growing produce, as well as spending 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. 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 said.

Hankerson, 71, is married to his wife Janet and has four adult children.

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