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GeorgiaForward recently selected the City of Thomasville’s Director of Strategic Marketing Ashlyn Johnson and Human Resources Manager of Benefits & Wellness Tara Pearson as two of the 50 evolving professionals to serve the organization’s 2022 Young Gamechangers (YG) program. YG is a unique leadership action program hosted by GeorgiaForward, a non-profit organization administrated by the Georgia Municipal Association. Young Gamechangers brings professionals from across the state to work on the persistent challenges of one Georgia community.

In 2022, Dalton-Whitfield County will host the Young Gamechangers. Dalton leaders have finalized their four “Challenge Questions” that the 2022 cohort will be charged to answer through the six months they will spend developing specific, actionable recommendations for the community. These questions evolve around redevelopment, education, community engagement, and more.

“We are delighted to return the GeorgiaForward program to the communities of Georgia after a break due to the COVID-19 pandemic,” said AJ Robinson, chair of GeorgiaForward’s board of directors. This program has proven beneficial to every locale in which it has taken place, bringing new and fresh ideas to cities and counties across the state. It is a premier leadership development opportunity which produces results on many levels.”

In the role of Director of Strategic Marketing, Johnson creates and executes marketing plans and initiatives for all City of Thomasville departments as well as develops advertising and public relations initiatives for the city. She works to develop vision and strategies to educate residents of Thomasville on city government initiatives, programs, services and events while also promoting the unique and inviting Southern hospitality of the Thomasville community to visitors from all over the country.

“I am excited to be a part of this year’s Gamechangers program. This program is known across the state as one of the most rewarding leadership experiences for young professionals. I can’t wait to come together with talented individuals from all parts of Georgia with different talents and backgrounds to collaborate and make a lasting impact on Dalton-Whitfield County,” said Johnson.

As the City of Thomasville’s Human Resources Manager of Benefits & Welllness, Pearson oversees benefits & wellness and aids management with department development. She is heavily involved with the organization’s diversity, equity, and inclusion team. Her primary goal is to become an agent of change within the organization and shape teams that collaborate to build healthy relationships amongst the staff and community, leading to social and cultural transformation that reaches far beyond Thomasville.

“I am so honored to be a part of such a diverse group of gifted, inspired, and hard-working Georgians! We have worked behind the scenes to make a lasting impression in our local areas, and now we get to spread our creativity to make a positive impact on Dalton-Whitfield County,” Pearson said.

“We are thrilled that Dalton will be the first city north of Atlanta to host the Young Gamechangers program, and we look forward to showing them all that makes our community special,” said Allyson M. Coker, project manager for Believe Greater Dalton. “From the beauty of the Northwest Georgia mountains and the history of our great industry to the charm and diversity of our people, we can’t wait to showcase all that makes Dalton special. Dalton-Whitfield County has great momentum on so many fronts with exciting projects that are currently underway, and we look forward to this talented group of young professionals coming into our community to give us their perspective on how we are doing and how we can continue to make Dalton a more attractive place to live, work, and play.”

The 2022 cohort of Gamechangers will meet for the first time in the city of Dalton on April 27, and their work will culminate with a community presentation of their findings and recommendations in late September.

“The timing is perfect for the Young Gamechangers program to come to the city of Dalton to bring fresh ideas and perspectives as our community continues to grow and evolve,” said City Administrator Andrew Parker. “There are so many exciting projects taking place within the city over the next few years, and the Young Gamechangers will help us continue to think critically about how to best position the community for long-term success.”

Previous Young Gamechangers Host Communities are Americus-Sumter County, Dublin-Laurens County, Douglasville-Douglas County, Augusta-Richmond County, LaGrange-Troup County, Milledgeville-Baldwin County, Albany-Dougherty County, and Monroe-Walton County.

About GeorgiaForward: Based in Atlanta, GeorgiaForward strives to improve the state of Georgia by working as a catalyst to promote cross-sector, statewide conversations and partnerships by engaging young professionals and business, political, academic, and civic leaders.

GeorgiaForward engages and convenes young professionals and leaders in civics, industry, government, academia, and the media to find a common vision for Georgia. The non-profit organization, which is administered by the Georgia Municipal Association, accomplishes this by creating an environment in which vision and pragmatism supersedes political deadlock, fostering communication and goodwill among Georgia’s stakeholders, seeking innovative solutions to Georgia’s biggest challenges. To learn more about GeorgiaForward visit,

About the Georgia Municipal Association: Based in Atlanta, GMA is a voluntary, non-profit organization that provides legislative advocacy, educational, employee benefit and consulting services to all of Georgia’s 537 cities. GMA anticipates and influences the forces shaping Georgia’s cities and to provide leadership, tools and services that assist municipal governments in becoming more innovative, effective and responsive. Created in 1933, the Georgia Municipal Association (GMA) is the only state organization that represents municipal governments in Georgia. For more information, visit

Pictured above l to r: Ashlyn Johnson and Tara Pearson


News   Staff   Ashlyn Johnson   Tara Pearson