By Mary Catherine Gaston
A self-described product of her involvement in 4-H as a teen, Anna Strickland's heart is filled with appreciation and hope for rural Georgia communities like the ones in which she grew up and has spent the last decade serving. The leader of Madison County's Chamber of Commerce has words of encouragement for other rural people and the places they love.
Rural Roots: Anna's rural roots run deep: her ancestors were among the first settlers in Forsyth and Cherokee counties. Throughout her lifetime, she watched as her hometown of Ball Ground changed rapidly with the growth of Georgia's capital city. Since graduating from the University of Georgia with degrees in agricultural communication and agricultural leadership, Anna has held multiple professional positions serving rural communities in Crisp, Hart and Madison counties.
What makes her a hero? Anna feels blessed to have realized her life's purpose early on, and she's eager to use her skills and passion to effect positive change for rural communities throughout Georgia. "While I have roots in rural Georgia, rural Georgia has continued to mold my outlook on community and economic development," she says. "From a statewide position with the Georgia Agribusiness Council serving agribusinesses predominately operating out of rural Georgia to my various positions in rural communities as the 4-H agent in Crisp County, the Archway Professional in Hart County, and the Chamber Executive Director in Madison County, I possess a unique appreciation for rural Georgia’s unending contributions to our state, our nation, and our world." She's quick to share the "hero" title with her team of professionals and volunteers at the Madison County Chamber as well. "Our member businesses and organizations are heroes because they have made the decision to invest in the future prosperity of their community. Rather than being bystanders to the goings-on in their community, they are actively effecting real change through their involvement in our committees and various projects and initiatives."
A cause that is close to her heart: Without a doubt, Georgia 4-H. "From pledging my head to clearer thinking in my first 4-H club meeting as a fifth grader, to teaching others the pledge as a 4-H agent, and now as a member of the Georgia 4-H Advisory Committee, no financial contribution or amount of volunteer service will ever begin to repay this incredible organization for the impact it has made in my life," Anna says. "Positive youth development organizations such as Georgia 4-H are among the most powerful tools in combatting many of the challenges facing rural communities. If we care about rural Georgia, we will invest in these organizations wholeheartedly with our time, talent and treasure."
Something she wants every rural (and non-rural) Georgian to realize: Anna shares a quotation from Katherine Miracle that she holds dear: "Do not wait on a leader...look in the mirror, it's you." "My leadership philosophy is that leadership is available to everyone, no matter your position or profession. I want rural Georgians to know, especially in this election year, that they are their communities' most important leaders. I challenge them to discover their leadership niche in their community, hopefully through their local Chamber of Commerce!" Anna firmly believes that people make the difference, and you won’t find better people than those in rural Georgia.
Where she sees hope for rural communities: "Human capital is arguably the most valuable asset for community and economic development," Anna says. "I see hope for rural communities in the young talent that graduates from their high schools each year. The communities that collaborate on strategic public/private partnerships aimed at retaining young talent and preventing rural brain drain will be the communities that ultimately succeed."