One Valdosta-Lowndes Ushers in New Era of Collaboration; Hires Mary Beth Brownlee

Staff Report

Monday, May 22nd, 2023

Some say good things come to those who wait. Making good on this claim, the leadership of Valdosta and Lowndes County is proud to announce the official launch of One Valdosta-Lowndes. A joint endeavor of key strategic partners, One-Valdosta Lowndes (OVL) stands to deliver on the promise of good things to come as the initiative represents years of hard work and a true commitment to the future success of all of Lowndes County. 

A partnership of the Lowndes County Board of Commissioners, the City of Valdosta, the Valdosta- Lowndes County Development Authority, the Valdosta-Lowndes Chamber of Commerce,Valdosta State University, South Georgia Medical Center, and Georgia Power Company; OVL is positioned to bring a spirit of collaboration, vision and action towards achieving the shared goals of the community.

Housed operationally within the Valdosta-Lowndes Chamber of Commerce, OVL is positioned to serve as a catalyst for growth and change by bringing business and industry, the faith community, and the nonprofit sector to the table with its public sector partners to facilitate positive development and economic opportunity in Lowndes County.

With Mary Beth Brownlee having recently been named as the Director of OVL, dedicated staff and leadership is in place to bring the 2021 OVL Community & Economic Development Plan into fruition. 

Valdosta-Lowndes Chamber President & CEO Christie Moore shares her excitement about the launch of OVL, “The most successful communities in Georgia and across the United States have one major quality in common: collaboration. One Valdosta-Lowndes is committed to working collaboratively with partners across our community to ensure economic opportunities and an enjoyable quality of life for all. The Chamber is honored to house OVL and to provide the necessary staff and operational support to ensure the initiative is successful. We are thrilled tosee OVL launched and excited to see what the future holds.” 

Lowndes County Commission Chairman Bill Slaughter echoes the enthusiasm shared by Moore, “This is a big moment for all of Lowndes County. The rollout of One Valdosta-Lowndes will be a community effort to bring forth ideas, implementation and completion of efforts to improve the quality of life for the citizens of Lowndes County! I ask that our community welcome Mary Beth Brownlee as the One Valdosta-Lowndes Director. I have complete confidence in her helping us make Lowndes County as the best place to live, work and raise our families!”

Brownlee most recently provided support and technical assistance to counties and elected officials across the state of Georgia as a member of the Association County Commissioners of Georgia (ACCG) County Consulting Services team. Brownlee was the Founding Executive Director of the One Sumter Economic Development Foundation in Americus, Georgia, and she continues to serve on the Board of Directors. During her tenure at One Sumter, the organization has raised $3.7 million dollars—parlaying those financial commitments into an additional $37million in capital investments to the community. Driven by a love of public service and helping communities find common ground and progress, where previously thought not possible, Brownlee is excited to be tapped to lead One Valdosta-Lowndes.

Sharing her vision for OVL, Brownlee says, “One Valdosta-Lowndes has the potential and the expectation to be a gamechanger for Lowndes County. As the much talked about ‘capital’ of South Georgia, OVL can address those issues that are either no one person’s or entity’s responsibility—or take on those challenges that are so important, so all-encompassing, that it is everybody’sissue, but because of that, very few know how to step up or take that on in a way that truly engages the entire community.” 

She continues, “Working around the state, and particularly with One Sumter, has given me the perspective to appreciate true grassroots enthusiasm and understanding of how essential it is towards creating real change. Something I think many in Lowndes County are looking for, but may not know how to make it happen. I look forward to leveraging that experience here in mynew hometown, and in what is, and will always be, my daughter’s hometown.” 

The work of One Valdosta-Lowndes will be led by the OVL Advisory Council, comprised of representatives from the founding partners and leaders from across the community. The Council currently consists of the following members:

Johnny Ball (South Georgia Medical Center), Clinton Beeland (CJB Industries), Thressea Boyd (Valdosta-Lowndes Chamber of Commerce), Joe Brownlee (Georgia Power Company), Dr. Richard Carvajal (Valdosta State University), Paige Dukes (Lowndes County), Mayor Scott James Matheson (City of Valdosta), George Page (Valdosta-Lowndes County Parks & RecreationAuthority), and Andrea Schruijer (Valdosta-Lowndes County Development Authority). Christie Moore will provide general oversight and connection back to the Chamber and its Board of Directors. 

Highlighting both the spirit and need for collaboration, Valdosta Mayor Scott James Matheson offers his perspective as to why OVL is essential for the community’s shared success. “There is great energy in Valdosta and Lowndes County. We have local governments, a university, South Georgia Medical Center, Development Authority, Chamber—all who go to work every single day focused on doing what is best to grow and prosper our community. Too often we don’t have the opportunity to stop and get in the same room together to talk about our common goals and objectives, what really needs to happen to move our community forward.” He continues, “One Valdosta-Lowndes is the mechanism to do that, to harness those great energies into a single, driving and focused effort.” 

The efforts of Brownlee and the OVL Advisory Council would not be possible without the incredibly strong foundation that was put into place early on by OVL’s Steering Committee and its partners. Originally co-chaired by VSU President Dr. Richard Carvajal and Georgia Power Vice President for South Region Audrey King, and later by Scott Purvis, Community Development Manager for Georgia Power’s South Region, their collective leadership and vision for what ‘could be’ over the last six years has been the guiding force in making One Valdosta- Lowndes a reality. 

Adopting a new vision that positions the community to be “united and forward-thinking,” the OVL Steering Committee was incredibly thoughtful and deliberate in creating this expectation. President Carvajal shares his appreciation to the committee and its efforts, “It has been an incredible honor to co- lead this group, knowing every member truly cares about the future of our wonderful community,” he says. “We look forward to continuing to work together for years to come tackling the big projects that will make Valdosta and Lowndes County even better.” 

“The Steering Committee is to be commended for doing an excellent job,” Purvis adds. “There is now a clear direction forward—we know where we need to go and, most importantly, we now have the roadmap to get there.” 

VisionFirst Advisors, based in Tallahassee, FL, provided on-the-ground support during the initial planning effort from 2017-2020. Before making recommendations regarding ways to improve Lowndes County, they conducted in-depth personal interviews with nearly 80 community and business leaders, and they collected input from more than 600 residents via a community survey.

Phase Two, the launch of OVL, begins immediately with the establishment of the OVL Advisory Council and staff to guide the effort. In addition to identifying early priorities in which to demonstrate impact, OVL anticipates engaging in a capital campaign to raise the additional funds necessary to take on those large and comprehensive community priorities. Through the rollout of the campaign, One Valdosta-Lowndes will engage in an intentional outreach effort to make sure all voices have a vested interest in the final OVL priorities and the shared outcomes that will shape Lowndes County well into the future. 

As a founding partner of OVL, Valdosta-Lowndes County Development Authority Chair Brad Folsom believes the One Valdosta-Lowndes initiative will provide a collaborative framework and define strategies to enhance economic growth. “The initiative will be part of a broad economic development strategy that offers a roadmap for achieving long-term prosperity,” Folsom says. “Through collaborative efforts, there are many opportunities to unite the private and public sectors to develop projects that will positively transform our community.”

Another early investor in OVL, South Georgia Medical Center President and CEO Ronnie Dean expresses his excitement for the initiative and the commitment it will take. “Everyone involved with the One Valdosta- Lowndes initiative has demonstrated the highest level of commitment to seeing our community grow and prosper. Without question, we are much stronger together as one.”


For more information about One Valdosta-Lowndes and its initiatives or to contribute through volunteerism or financially, please contact Director Mary Beth Brownlee at (229) 262-7543 or at[email protected].