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Dolly Parton once wrote that no amount of money putting “band aids on sores.”
could buy from her the memories she had of then, but “No problem corrects itself if you just leave it
no amount of money could pay her to go back and live alone,” says Magwood-Thomas. She also says that the
through it again. need for community leaders to work together is
It’s this coming to terms with the past that allows imperative.
one to go forward into the future. Moultrie’s newest “One person can’t do it,” she says. During her
city council member, Susie Magwood-Thomas, has campaign, she says that naysayers doubted her victory
had a varied past, but she says she believes she is now was possible because the other candidates had lived in
where she is meant to be. Moultrie their entire lives, while she left and returned
“I bloom where I’m planted,” she says. “I think only 3 years ago.
God led me here to make a difference.” Magwood- “I regret that I left Moultrie in the first place,”
Thomas was elected to the city council last November Magwood-Thomas says. “I really love it here.” She
filling the seat vacated by Betty Haggins, who held the says that she believes had she not left that she would
position for 8 years. She represents Northwest have known more of the city’s needs upfront and
Moultrie; an area which she says is plagued with could possibly have already made a significant
misconceptions. difference. But, she says that leaving and then return-
“I’m not afraid to live there,” she says. “I’m not ing has allowed her to see Moultrie more objectively.
afraid to walk the streets there.” She says that while “It’s not how long you’ve been in a place,” she
campaigning for city council, she made it a point to says. “It’s what you’ve accomplished since you’ve
get out and meet the people of the area and did most of been here.”
it by walking. Magwood-Thomas says that part of the The 65-year-old Moultrie native grew up in the
misconception of Northwest Moultrie is due to the northwest part of the city, but moved to Miami in high
perception that is implanted in people’s minds that it is school. After graduation, she returned to southwest
nothing more than an area of high crime. She says that Georgia to attend Albany State College. Magwood-
the appearance of poor, yard-sitters or people hanging Thomas spent more than 20 years in corporate Amer-
in the streets perpetuates the myth, but she says the ica working for BellSouth, then Southern Bell, before
vast majority of these people are minding their own retiring in 1991 and converting her garage into a child
business. She attributes this to the lack of recreational care center. By the late 1990s, she operated two cen-
outlets available to those in the area. ter-based facilities in Decatur and downtown Atlanta
“They don’t have anywhere else to go,” says Mag- that enrolled more than 200 children. In 2006, after
wood-Thomas. According to The Observer, only 11 moving back to her hometown, she worked part time
percent of registered voters in the area went to the as the site director of the Primetime program at the
polls. She says the low turnout is a result of people Moultrie YMCA and as an adjunct instructor at Moul-
not understanding the importance of their vote. trie Technical College.
“I think the key to all this is education,” says Her journey, she says, has been far removed from
Magwood-Thomas. “I really do believe that.” As a the path she thought her life would take and that
member of the city council, she says she hopes to everything that has happened to her since moving back
bring attention to the need for community revitaliza- to Moultrie has been contradictory to her original
tion. She says that there is also a need for more active plans of opening a child care facility in the city. Upon
community policing in the area, which she believes moving back, her mother’s health began to decline and
would alleviate some of the crime. However, she says Magwood-Thomas ultimately became her primary
these needs are not unique to her jurisdiction, and she caregiver before her brother moved in to help. Pearl
believes that everybody wants a better quality of life, Magwood died in November 2009 shortly after her
not only those living in Northwest Moultrie. daughter was elected to the Moultrie City Council.
“Northwest is not the only part of Moultrie need- Magwood-Thomas says after learning of her victory,
ing improvement,” Magwood-Thomas says. She also she went immediately to her mother.
says there are dilapidated buildings ruining the appear- “She said, ‘You wanted it didn’t you? I knew you
ance of the city in both Southeast and Northeast Moul- would get it.’” Magwood-Thomas says. She says that
trie that need attention. She says that the problems her mother has always been her hero and that she
that plague Northwest Moultrie cannot be resolved by instilled in her the value of hard work and
Winter 2010 Moultrie Magazine 17
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