Public Servants Luncheon marks 15 years
by Jessica Loeding
Aug 30, 2014 | 1294 views | 0 0 comments | 14 14 recommendations | email to a friend | print
For Mitchell Bagley, public service means double duty.

The Cartersville Fire Department captain stepped outside his emergency response role to tackle the Taylorsville mayor job, and on Sept. 11, volunteers and organizers from around the county will come together to honor public servants like Bagley.

“I think it is human nature to take things for granted. When we turn the electricity or gas on, when our statement for services is correct, when we call emergency personnel and they show up, or when we go to bed at night and expect to be safe, I’m sure we take those for granted,” said Parnick Jennings, founder of the Public Servants Luncheon. “But, if we did not have someone working, those services would not be delivered.”

Bagley believes the luncheon offers the public a chance to recognize those employees working behind the scenes to keep operations running smoothly.

“It does annually just give them some kind of something to show them that they are appreciated by the public. ... It is appreciated by all the public servants,” he said. “I won’t say it’s more important, but those of us who are out on the road every day and in the public eye that actually get the ‘thank yous’ or the ‘good jobs’ from the public. The ones behind the scenes that are in the offices or either work in the jail that … ain’t out in the public, … that’s a way for them to actually get appreciation for what they do because they’re not out in the public’s eye every day. They are behind the scenes. 911, for instance, the only time they hear from the public is when someone has an emergency, but this dinner actually gives them recognition for their jobs from the public.”

Began in 2000 with roughly 300 people at Dellinger Park, the luncheon stemmed from a need Jennings saw in the community.

“I started the luncheon after seeing a number of employees of the City of Cartersville and Bartow County going above and beyond what was expected and never getting thanked by the citizens,” he said. “I recall seeing a gentleman on the City of Cartersville sanitation truck working in a thunderstorm on Erwin Street. And, when I passed by I thought, I ought to do something to thank him for that.”

Fifteen years later, Jennings continues to see meaning in offering the meal to local public servants.

“When I started the event, I don’t think I even thought about doing it another year, much less 15 years,” he said. “… I have long held the belief that for something to last, it has to have value. I always say that when I am asked to serve on a board of directors of an organization or serve on a committee, ‘What is the value?’

“I believe that the value of the Public Servants Appreciation Luncheon is twofold. The first value is to the people that come year after year. I’m sure there are people that have attended all 15 of the luncheons and the value they see is being acknowledged by the community in what they do to make Bartow County such a wonderful place to live and work. And the second value is one of the things that I love about our community. Our business community sees value in helping each other; they want these men and women to know how much they appreciate the hard work of the public servants.”

That connection between the community and those serving and protecting is evident in those giving of time and resources to produce the luncheon.

“You will notice that each and every one of the sponsors are local businesses. They are not from Atlanta, Marietta or out of state,” Jennings said. “That is the way it should be. By the same token, our small businesses especially need the public sector to buy locally whenever possible. I don’t mind telling you, it makes my heart hurt when I hear about one of our governmental bodies or school systems buying out of town instead of buying locally.”

Scheduled for 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 11, at the Cartersville Civic Center, the Public Servants Luncheon will offer a T-bone steak meal with all the trimmings from Flavorful Events.

“One thing that really helps the luncheon is all the people that make homemade desserts and bring them to the civic center that morning. The folks really like that,” Jennings said. “… People are always welcome to volunteer to help serve, refill tea, help clean up, or just come thank our public servants for what they do.”

When Bagley sits down to lunch beside his counterparts, the time spent catching up will be the most appreciated portion of the meal.

“Being able to see people I don’t see and sitting and talking with the public servants that I don’t see on a regular basis and actually seeing the elected officials that are in a public servant’s capacity actually getting to see them and talk to them, the camaraderie of the whole dinner itself, I guess you could say, between the public servants throughout the county [is what I enjoy most],” he said.

Sponsored by Fleetwood Security and Electronic Services, Bank of the Ozarks, Parnick Jennings Funeral Home, ShawHankins, Black Oak Asset Management, IHOP, Terry Reid Hyundai, The Daily Tribune News and WBHF AM1450, the luncheon program featuring the playing of taps, a three-volley salute and the last fire call will begin at noon.