The i love macon campaign is the rallying cry of Macon’s recent 5 under 40 class, and they are inviting city residents to pledge their love, support, and advocacy for the city. Julia Wood is one of the founders of the campaign and she recently took some time to answer a few questions. You can learn more about the campaign on the i love macon website.
You’re one of 5 who created the i love macon campaign. Tell us a little about yourself and what has endeared you to Macon.
I’m originally from Louisville, Kentucky and people always ask how I ended up here. I went to UGA just like my older sister and I met my husband, Lynn, while I was there. Lynn and I moved back to Macon after college, and we’ve been back for 10 years. I just love Macon’s small town charm! I love that if you have an idea, you can do it!
This campaign began as an initiative of the 5 Under 40 group. How did the conversation first get started?
5 Under 40 is a now 10-year tradition of Macon Magazine’s July Issue. I’ve always loved reading the stories of the leaders, and I’m honored to be among them now. For the issue, the young leaders were asked to answer a series of questions, which were published in the magazine. Two of the questions were, “What are attributes of Macon that community members can be proud of?” and “What is your favorite thing to do in Macon?”
Just before we were selected, the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation published the results of their “Soul of the Community” three year study, which measured what attaches residents to their community. The findings for Macon were not very positive, but the most shocking part was that Macon ranked lowest in aesthetics, openness, and social offerings. Ironically, those were the things that our group of young leaders loves about Macon!
As a group, we talked about how local residents are often Macon’s toughest critics, and we knew that it is easy for people to complain. So we came up with the idea to create a campaign that would solely focus on the positive attributes of Macon.
And so far you’ve had over 4,000 signatures towards your goal of 10,000 – how do you explain the great support and enthusiasm the campaign has received?
It’s simple. Maconites really do love Macon. And when people sign the pledge and say something they love about Macon, it reminds us all of the attributes of Macon that we can be proud of. The diversity of opinions is reflected in the responses and the signers are reinforcing that there are LOTS of reasons to really love Macon.
You’ve setup Summer Pledge Signings throughout the city and local businesses are hosting signing parties – where has the largest amount of support come from?
The largest amount of pledge signers have not come from a single source. By far, leveraging the networks of people in Macon has been our best tactic. That’s why the pledge signing events have been effective. If a company or organization hosts a signing and all of their employees or customers sign, it doesn’t matter if it is 10 people or 100 people, it means that we’ve covered an entire group. And hopefully each member in that group will find 5 more people to sign the pledge.
Macon is a city largely known for its music and architecture, but there’s certainly more to it than that. What do you believe makes our city so unique and loveable?
While we have some very visible reasons to love Macon, like music and architecture, some of the best reasons to love our city are very personal. We get lots of responses that people simply love Macon because they were raised here or their family is here. In a smaller town, those interpersonal connections are really valued, and that translates to our love for our community as well as its people.
The revitalization of Macon has been an ongoing effort shared by many. When you think about organizations impacting our city right now, who comes to mind?
The revitalization of Macon is one of my favorite things about Macon. It’s an opportunity to participate and create the future that you want to see for yourself and your community. Lots of groups are involved in impacting our city’s future, but what I love is the paradigm shift in the way that changes are being made. With support from our established leadership, Macon is transitioning to a very grassroots-led community. The creative class is emerging, and the ideas of all people, young and old, are valued.
Do you see this campaign being a part of their efforts?
I think this campaign has been supported by many of the traditional leaders, both young and old, in our city. But what I love is that it is a campaign for the people. You do not have to be a mover and shaker to participate in the campaign.
Beyond signing the pledge, what else do you expect to see come from this campaign?
I’m not really sure, and that’s the beauty of the campaign. We had a lot of questions when we launched the campaign. People wanted to know if it would be used to move political agendas or benefit specific groups. I think people were skeptical about the simplicity of the campaign. And it may end up mobilizing people around specific issues, but that is up to the people who sign! Only time will tell what the unintended impact of the campaign will be.
One campaign goal is to promote conversation about improving Macon, but it’s difficult for a conversation to lead to action. In what ways do you hope these conversations produce fruit for our community?
Personally, I would consider the campaign a success if it just impacted the conversations. Often times perceptions are reality, and I believe that just asking people to speak about the positive (while acknowledging that our city faces problems just like other cities) is enough! But if those conversations lead to action, all the better!
What do you think it’ll take to begin hearing more about Macon’s positives than about its negatives?
There will always be negatives, and the vocal minority will always exist. But I hope that people who love the city will use the campaign as a forum to continue to tell Macon’s story and share all the reasons why they love our community.