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MWA Bids Farewell to Three Board Members

Jan 19, 2021 by Chris Wood, Ph.D.


Mr. Bert Bivins ended his tenure on the MWA Board after 25 years of service. The MWA bid farewell in January to Bivins, Larry Schlesinger, and Merritt Johnson, III.

The MWA welcomed three new Board Members to the ranks in January, but before doing so, Authority officials gave thanks during the season of Thanksgiving to the three outgoing Members for their service.

“These three men brought great experience and passion to their respective seats on the (MWA) Board, and we are grateful for their leadership and dedicated service,” says Tony Rojas, MWA Executive Director and President. “They have left a lasting, positive impact on our organization.”

Mr. Bert Bivins

The senior Member retiring from public office is Mr. Bert Bivins, who has served on the MWA Board since 1995. He was one of the two appointments from the elected members of the Macon-Bibb County Commission. His first tenure began when he was a Bibb County Commissioner and continued through Consolidation. Mr. Bivins did not seek re-election for his seat as District 5 Commissioner.

Mr. Bivins began his last re-appointment to the MWA Board in January of 2017. He served as Vice Chairman of the MWA Personnel Committee, while also serving on the Board for the Macon Water Alliance, which is the Authority’s non-profit public education and outreach organization.

In September of 2013, Mr. Bivins celebrated his election to the District 5 seat on the then newly consolidated Macon-Bibb County Commission, winning without a runoff. He had served previously as the District 2 representative on the Bibb County Board of Commissioners.

At the time of consolidation, Mr. Bivins was Chairman of the Committees on Properties and Ordinances & Resolutions for the Bibb County Commission. In addition to serving on the Commission and Authority Boards, Mr. Bivins has served as the liaison for the Macon-Bibb County Land Bank Authority, Health Department, Middle Georgia Regional Commission, and the Macon-Bibb County Economic Development Opportunity Council.

Mr. Bivins was born in Kathleen, Georgia, but moved to Macon-Bibb County when he was two years old. He was raised in Macon during a time when he was one of the first African American students to integrate Bibb County public schools.

Mr. Bivins worked professionally for 30 years as a civilian in electronics at Robins Air Force Base, followed by another 10 years as a 5th and 6th grade teacher in the Bibb County School System. He graduated with a degree in middle school education from Fort Valley State University.

Mr. Larry Schlesinger

The MWA also bid farewell at the conclusion of 2020 to its second appointed Board Member from the Macon-Bibb County Commission — Mr. Larry Schlesinger. Rabbi Schlesinger represented District 2 on the Commission since Consolidation, and he had been a City Councilman for the City of Macon prior to that, dating back to his election in 2007. He began his tenure on the MWA Board in April of 2018, and he served as Vice Chairman of the Authority’s Finance Committee.

A native of Washington, D.C., Rabbi Schlesinger received his B.A. in Religion from The George Washington University in 1973. He went on to rabbinic studies at the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in New York City, where he received his M.A. in Hebrew Literature in 1976, Rabbinic Ordination in 1978, and its Anna Lurie Prize in Human Relations and the Saul Aronwitz Prize in Jewish History. In 2003, the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion conferred upon him the degree of Doctor of Divinity.

Rabbi Schlesinger has been very active in Macon community affairs and civic activities. He is a graduate of the Leadership Macon Class of 2006, a member of the Rotary Club of Macon, and he serves the Bibb County Sheriff’s Office as a deputized chaplain. He has served as President of the Macon Chapter of the American Cancer Society, as well as a Board Member of Macon’s Center for Racial Equality, the Booker T. Washington Community Center, the Macon Symphony Orchestra, the Cox Capitol Theatre, the Grand Opera House, and Macon Area Habitat for Humanity. He is a religion columnist for the Macon Telegraph, an adjunct professor in Mercer University’s Department of Religion, and he has authored and published articles regarding Bob Dylan’s Jewish ties and spiritual journey.

In November of 2007, Rabbi Schlesinger was elected by popular vote to a city-wide seat on the Macon City Council. During that initial term, he served as the Chairman of the City’s Community Resources and Development Committee, as well as a member of its Public Safety Committee and the Police and Fire Pension Board. Re-elected again in 2011, Rabbi Schlesinger was appointed President Pro Tempore of the Macon City Council by its members, serving as a member of the Council’s Community Resources and Development Committee, Public Safety Committee, Employee Development and Compensation Committee and the Fire and Police Employees Retirement System Board.

In January of 2014, Rabbi Schlesinger was elected to the District 2 seat of the consolidated Macon-Bibb County Commission and was re-elected to serve another four-year term in 2016. He completed his tenure on the Commission by serving as the Vice-Chairman of the Economic and Community Development Committee, and as a member of its Operations and Finance Committee.

Rabbi Schlesinger vacated his District 2 seat on the Macon-Bibb County Commission to run for Mayor in 2020.

Mr. Merritt Johnson, III

Finally, Mr. Merritt Johnson, III completed his time on the MWA Board after winning a Special Election in June to fill the remaining term of long-time District 2 MWA Board Member Javors Lucas, following Mr. Lucas’ death in October of 2019.

Mr. Johnson is a Macon Native who has lived in Bibb County his entire life. In addition to representing District 2 on the MWA Board, he served on the Authority’s Engineering and Personnel Committees.

As a young businessman, his dedication and professionalism are reflected in two decades of experience in the insurance industry, including seven years as a local busines owner and entrepreneur. He is the owner of Merritt Johnson, III Country Financial. His office is always ready to serve the entire state of Georgia in person, over the phone, or digitally, he says.

Providing services in Auto Insurance, Homeowners Insurance, Renters Insurance, Business Insurance, Motorcycle Insurance, Life Insurance, and more, Merritt Johnson, III Country Financial is conveniently and strategically located in the heart of Georgia — on Arkwright Road in Macon.

Mr. Johnson is a graduate of Macon’s Southwest High. He then received his bachelor’s degree in Marketing from Valdosta State University. He comes from a legacy of Servant Leaders. His father, Merritt Johnson, Jr., was affectionately called “The Mayor of Bellevue,” in reference to his leadership and compassion for the people in his community.

In addition to owning and operating his local businesses, Mr. Johnson is a Lifetime Member of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, is a member of Greater Bellevue Baptist Church, and is a member of 100 Black Men of Macon-Middle Georgia. He also has served as a Board Member for the Diamonds On Our Mind Foundation.

He says he has an affinity for leadership positions, while being committed to serving and caring for others. As an example, Mr. Johnson is an Advisor of the Macon Kappa League, an organization that works with young men, locally.

Media contact:
Chris Wood, Ph.D.
P: 770-757-1681

Tagged: mwa, macon water authority, mwa board of directors, bert bivins, larry schlesinger, merritt johnson

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