Donna Armstrong Lackey

Donna Armstrong Lackey

Gov. Brian Kemp has appointed a University of West Georgia official to the state’s Community Affairs board this week.

Donna Armstrong Lackey, the university’s director of public service and outreach, has spent 34 years in the field of economic, workforce and community development, according to a release from the governor’s office. She was among 23 appointees to state boards by Gov. Kemp this week.

She is a 34-year member of the state’s Economic Developers Association and has served 12 years as Carroll County’s non-public representative on the Three Rivers Regional Commission.

This commission is a 10-county regional organization focused on community planning. It includes Carroll, Butts, Coweta, Heard, Lamar, Meriwether, Pike, Spalding, Troup and Upson counties.

Lackey also represents the university on the Three Rivers Workforce Development Executive Board, the University System of Georgia Regents’ Advisory Committee on Community Engagement and Service, and the University System Georgia Economic Development Committee.

Because of these leadership roles, Lackey told the Times-Georgian on Wednesday that being appointed to the state Department of Community Affairs board is not much different from what she has been doing for more than three decades.

“The community affairs board really has three initiatives in state government, it’s actually more than that, but it’s to strengthen the dynamics of rural Georgia, to leverage public-private partnerships, enhance improved technologies throughout the state and to support home ownership among Georgians,” Lackey said.

The state Department of Community Affairs (DCA) addresses several issues across Georgia, such as affordable housing, infrastructure improvements and expanding broadband access to rural residents. These are all things Lackey has worked on in her 34-year career.

“I’m hoping that it will allow me to have an impact on good planning and quality growth around the state of Georgia,” she said. “My involvement with the DCA board I hope will open up conversations and put a higher emphasis on the great talent and research we’re doing here at the University of West Georgia.”

She said there are “pockets” of the need for affordable housing in Carroll County, particularly for affordable workforce housing. She added potential employees may decide not to come to the county if they cannot find an affordable place to live.

“Some of our employment base who can’t find the housing near their employer, we lose them to other communities,” Lackey said.

On broadband access, she said the state community affairs department has been one of the “founding conversationalists” on how to expand access to more residents in rural areas of the state.

“Much of the state’s research and analysis of broadband needs across the state has been developed by the DCA staff,” she said.

For example, electric membership cooperatives were allowed to partner with internet service providers to create more broadband access after Gov. Kemp signed that legislature into law in July 2019.

Since then, internet service providers such as SyncGlobal in Bremen and Comcast have been working to increase broadband access to areas of Carroll, Haralson and Heard counties.

“The work of DCA was instrumental in the policy making, not only at the DCA board level, but also the reporting that went to the state legislature with the legislation that has been passed within the last couple of years,” she said.