A 'Youth Movement' Toward an Exciting Future
By Brad McEwen
My friend Cal Pollock recently told me a story about the value of an outside perspective, a story about how “an extra set of eyes,” played a crucial role in the success of a youth baseball team he recently helped coach to some incredible heights.
According to my friend, the observations of a new coach who had joined the team my friend had coached for years, helped the staff see things in a different light, which led to some subtle but important changes that he believes ultimately led to a long, sought-after championship.
As I listened to my friend’s explanation, I couldn’t help but think about a trend I’ve noticed over the years and how it all fit with a Beyond the Bank interview I had conducted just hours before.
I’ve always been struck by how often I meet folks, who despite not growing up here, have a deep affection for Albany. I often think it’s those folks who have relocated here that seem to be some of the community’s greatest champions and supporters.
That’s not to say that there aren’t scores of natives who love their hometown and work diligently to grow and protect it, I just find it fascinating, and encouraging, when I spend time with relative newcomers who have incredible passion and enthusiasm for this community and who can sometimes see things in a way others with long histories here don’t.
For those who know him, it’s hard to spend time with local CPA, volunteer, coach and family man Adam Hutchins, and not pick up on the affection he has for not just his immediately family, but for the Albany family he has come to love ever since the Southwest Georgia native and Ashley, his wife and sweetheart since the 7th grade, settled here a little more than a decade ago.
“I grew up in Blakely, Georgia, which is about 60 miles, give or take, from Albany,” Adam said. “I was born and raised there, went to college in Athens and graduated from there in 2005. At the time, I always knew I wanted to come back to South Georgia.
“I had opportunities to work in Atlanta and actually my wife was in pharmacy school at the time, so she was in Atlanta, and I guess we had opportunities to maybe stay up there if we wanted. But we both, with our families being from here, we wanted to get back down here. So we moved to Albany in 2005. We got married shortly thereafter and made Albany our home.”
Having listened for years to far too many recent college graduates, young professionals and other residents talk about wanting to get away from Albany and go to a “big city,” it was refreshing to hear Adam discuss some of the thoughts and reasons he had for coming here.
“I grew up in a very, very small town so having the opportunity to come to Albany was like moving to a big city for us,” he said with a smile. “We were in a city and we had kind of gotten used to certain things. So Albany was able to provide a way of life we had kind of got accustomed to for several years. Moving back here we saw it based on the towns we grew up in, so it provided some opportunities weren’t used to. So that’s one of the things that drove us here.”
Of course, having just finished school, Adam said coming to Albany also made sense professionally, as there were good employment opportunities for him here as well.
“For me personally I actually interned at Mauldin & Jenkins and they offered me a job in their Albany office,” Adam explained. “My dad had his own firm with other partners so moving back to Blakely and working with him, at that point in time, I hadn’t thought about that or approached it. He kind of knew I wanted to do something else to start with, so we never even talked about it. I knew I wanted to work with a large firm, get my feet wet and that sort of thing.
“Also, my wife’s dad—and my wife’s a pharmacist—he owned a small pharmacy in Arlington where she grew up, so there was some pull for her to maybe move back and work with him there. And you know, being in Albany, it kind of hit both boxes for us.
“Now as far as kind of getting ingrained here, shortly after we were married my father-in-law passed away. We were in Albany, we had moved here in 2005, but it really took two or three years for us to kind of get ingrained. We when my father-in-law passed away we spent a lot of time in Arlington where they were from, so it actually took a little time for us to transition into Albany at that point.”
Although the loss of Ashley’s father on the heels of moving to a new community created some challenges to settling down in Albany and starting a family, Adam said once they were able to focus on that, the transition went well, thanks in part to a number of factors, chief among them the Hutchins’ finding a church home.
It was there, Adam said, that they found an incredible group of people who welcomed them with open arms.
“One key for us was our church family,” Adam said. “We found First United Methodist and the River Sunday school class, which was a small group of people our age who brought us in.
“One thing I’ve learned, anytime you do anything new, or experience anything new, you get out of it what you put into it. So Ashley and I made a commitment. Church is important to us and we’ve seen through our life how important church is, so getting involved at FUMC was huge for us transitioning into the community.
“For us, those people in the River class were kind of the first real connection we made here. Not because anybody else hadn’t opened up to us, it just took us a couple of years to get to where we could get ingrained.”
Of course, while finding a group of like-minded and open people to connect with was important, the fact that the Hutchins’ were able to forge deep relationships with the people of this community had a lot to do with the kind of people they are and their own willingness to be open to meeting new people and discovering what the Albany community had to offer.
As anyone who has crossed paths with Adam, Ashley and their family knows, they are immediately very welcoming and seem genuinely interested in connecting with people.
“Me and Ashley both, we’re just the type of people, we’re not afraid to go and do new things and try new things,” Adam said. “And I’ve always believed it’s important to be involved in things and have your voice heard and especially in things you’re interested in.
“So you know from then on out, we’ve tried to be involved in as much as we can. But our church really was key for us beginning that process of getting ingrained in the community.”
When Adam talks about getting involved in things and trying to serve in the community, he’s not joking around. He told me he has served on numerous civic and nonprofit boards and tries to be as active as possible in those roles.
“I’ve been involved obviously in various church committees through the years and I’ve been involved in various non-profits,” he said. “I was on the First Tee board when it was an organization in Albany. I was president of the Albany Chapter of the Georgia Society of CPAs.
“I’ve had a lot of involvement in the Chamber of Commerce the last three years between serving on the board, serving as chair of the finance committee, served on the executive committee and I’m also on the Albany Foundation board. But a lot of my time now is spent with the Chamber, which I feel a strong pull to.”
Another important aspect of Adam’s community involvement is his connection to youth sports, which is something his entire family is involved in.
He currently serves on the board of Albany League Baseball and also volunteers as a coach. In fact, he helped coach the 10u all star that brought home the Dizzy Dean World Series championship earlier this summer.
Adam lights up when he talks about youth sports and said that it is a very important part of his family and community life.
“I love sports,” he said. “My family loves sports. It’s kind of our central connecting theme. My wife was a great athlete. There’s a common sense of enjoyment that revolves around sports, especially team sports.
“You know I’ve got three boys now and two of them are old enough to get involved in things. So we spend a lot of time, whatever the season is, being involved in that sport. So that’s a lot of our time. I’ve been a golfer for a long time, but I play much less than I did several years ago.
“But a lot of our extracurricular activities revolve around the team sports our kids participate in.”
As a father Adam said sports provide an excellent opportunity for him to spend time interacting with his children, but he also believes the lessons imparted by sports can have a profound effect on young people.
“I understand and appreciate the benefit of a team sports environment, especially for your children,” Adam shared. “I mean you’ve got life lessons. When I was in junior high school we were playing in the state championship football game, we were down 24 to nothing at halftime. And I remember we came back and won 27-26. So you know you’re trying to teach your kids about persevering and not giving up, you know. I’ve got real life experiences with sports that I can translate to other parts of my life. I say all that to say, you know, kids sporting activities are a huge part of our life.”
While youth sports gives his family something they can share with each other, Adam also pointed out that it has been another important avenue for becoming more deeply connected to the community. And, like the connection the Hutchins made with the River Sunday School class, their involvement in youth sports has brought them closer to a population of people in a similar stage of life.
When talking about integrating into the Albany community, Adam spoke at length about what he sees as a “youth movement,” which is something he said attracted him to the community originally and that is also something he sees as being vitally important to the future of the place he’s chosen to raise his family.
To illustrate his point he told me about eventually leaving Mauldin & Jenkins to begin working with his father and then ultimately choosing to work with a group of partners to open an office in Albany.
“I knew through my time here what an outstanding opportunity it would be for our firm,” he said. “I knew people, I knew the business community. I just knew it would be great for us to have a presence in Albany. I saw a youth movement of some people moving back here that were born and raised here who are committed to being here.
“I just knew it would be a good time for us to establish a presence here.”
“With the baby boomers retiring, you have a lot of, especially from a business standpoint, a lot of family-owned business that are transitioning to the children,” he continued. “You see it on organizational boards—a lot of younger individuals are transitioning into leadership roles. You see people throughout the community who were born and raised here and who are transitioning back out of college into high level positions.
“People are coming back and living and working in the community they were raised in.”
Adam added that the influx of young professionals extends beyond the business arena as well and that their presence has a positive impact on the culture of the community.
“I mean you see younger elected officials,” he added. “And then we see it on the school board, you see it in the commissioner realm. It’s just a natural transition over time.
“But it’s people being willing to take on that responsibility, cause it’s a tremendous responsibility, especially at the point in life that you’ve got children and you’re working. Making that commitment is so important.
“So it’s good to see individuals in Albany being willing to take on that responsibility because the future is really dependent upon the present. You’ve got to have people willing and able to take on those key leadership roles.”
And does Adam feel good about where things are headed?
“I do, I do,” he said emphatically. “You see it with the recent Georgia Pacific announcement. I am proud to live here. I’m proud to know that my kids will be raised here. I hope my kids will bring their families back here.
“Albany is a great place to live, to work and to raise a family.”
As you know, I share Adam’s outlook on the direction of our community and, like him, I believe we have a bright future because of the type of people who call Albany home. I’ve heard many people say that Albany’s greatest asset is its people and I wholeheartedly agree.
It’s because of people like Adam Hutchins, that I have no doubt that the Albany our children stand to inherit, will be one we can all be proud of.
Connect with Brad – 229.405.7212 - firstname.lastname@example.org - @BradGMcEwen