Keep Macon Bibb Beautiful’s new leader brings fresh start to board


Liz Fabian

Caroline Childs, center, executive director of Keep Macon-Bibb Beautiful, chats with board members after her first meeting in September of 2020.

Caroline Childs might have been destined to take the helm of the Keep Macon-Bibb Beautiful board.

The 30-year-old, who moved to town last December, grew up in McDonough as the daughter of the owner of a sanitation company.

“I’m very familiar with cleanliness and the impact trash and recycling has on a community,” Childs said after an informal board meeting Wednesday at the Georgia Sports Hall of Fame.

She admitted that her father gave her hands-on experience a couple of times when she got in trouble.

“I had to get up and work on the Tuesday route before going to school,” Childs said. “I was hanging off the back of a truck picking up garbage in my neighborhood.”

KMBB board chairman Justin Hollingsworth said it wasn’t just Childs’ family background in sanitation and beautification that earned her the job, but her “young, energetic energy” she brings to the effort.

“I can put her in a meeting with anybody. She’s a people person. When you have a one-person organization, it’s important to have that outgoing personality,” Hollingsworth said.

Childs, whose husband Ben’s family has lived in Middle Georgia for more than 100 years, introduced herself to the board during Wednesday’s lunch meeting.

“The first time he brought me to Macon was during the Cherry Blossom Festival about 10 years ago,” she told the board.

An avid soccer player who earned a scholarship to Georgia Southern University, Childs met her husband while she was studying public relations and international affairs at the Statesboro campus.

The couple first settled in the Atlanta area where she worked in marketing for Piedmont Healthcare and most recently was employed by Delta Air Lines.

While with the airline, Childs developed marketing strategies for Delta’s international partners.

Prior to joining Delta, she developed social media and marketing strategies for BrightPath Mortgage in Atlanta.

Childs was hired as KMBB executive director from a field of candidates recruited by Myers McRae executive search and consulting firm.

She replaces Pam Carswell who retired early this summer after spending eight years heading the beautification organization that birthed the Cherry Blossom Festival in 1982.

Carswell’s departure came in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It’s been hard with no contact, the retirement and COVID which led to a stagnant period,” Hollingsworth said. “We didn’t want to jeopardize anybody’s health so we’ve hit the pause button but we’re going to be back out in the community and you’ll see us.”

Childs wasn’t the only new face in the room. The board welcomed new members Sydney Solomon, a local attorney and Macon-Bibb County Industrial Authority executive director Stephen Adams, who already suggested a first project.

Adams said the overgrown trees around the “Welcome to Macon” sign on Gray Highway and the condition of the other five welcome signs have been a pet peeve for him.

“Here you are – ‘welcome to Macon’ – and the trees are covering it,” said Adams, who has served on the board in the past. “I would be willing to make the donation for whatever it costs to cut those trees back.”

Hollingsworth mentioned that the board and Childs are planning new strategies for moving forward. The organization is considering a rebranding of its logo and will hold a news conference next month to introduce Childs to the community at the “Pink House,” which is now known as the Cherry Blossom Festival and KMBB headquarters on Cherry Street.

“I’m excited about the new path ahead for Keep Macon-Bibb Beautiful,” he said. “We’re definitely going to implement some new ideas from Caroline.”

Board member Janice Habersham echoed that sentiment.

“I’m just excited for a new beginning and working together to make Macon a beautiful place,” Habersham said.

Board member Renee Bumpus also thanked Childs for taking on the task of running the organization, which was publicly questioned about its effectiveness during a rift with Carswell and the Cherry Blossom Festival three years ago.

“We’ve all been affected with moving this organization forward,” Bumpus said. “Sometimes you have to go over hurdles to move forward.”

Carolyn Crayton, the founder of KMBB and the Cherry Blossom Festival, endorsed Childs’ selection.

“I think we live in the most wonderful part of Georgia and I’m so proud of you and your willingness to work hard to make Macon the prettiest and cleanest,” Crayton said. “We have a lot of work to do and it’s going to be fun doing it together.”

Childs, who has a 14-month-old son, Barron, is anxious to get to started.

“The mayor talks about that he wants Macon-Bibb to be a really green and clean community and we’re looking forward to supporting that,” she said.

While much of the mission in the past has been to educate school students through anti-littering campaigns, she will be working with the school system to see if there are ways to accomplish that during these days of distance learning, she said.

Childs, who Hollingsworth said is well-versed in grant writing and fundraising, is encouraged by the community’s pool of potential volunteers that she hopes to tap into, as well as the strengths of the veteran board members who have been involved with the organization since the 70’s.

“Young people really want to work to improve this community and we’re looking forward to working with and through them.”

Contact Civic Reporting Senior Fellow Liz Fabian at 478-301-2976.