Atlanta is preparing to present an international human rights award next year patterned on the Nuremberg International Human Rights award, said Jim Maddox, long standing Atlanta city councilman and current chair of the council’s committee for international relations. Nuremberg is a Sister City to Atlanta and hosted the fourth “European Conference Cities for Human Rights” in December.
“Atlanta is growing by leaps and bounds when it comes to being an international city. I think we really have an opportunity to be one of the best international cities, ” he said in an interview with GlobalAtlanta at his offices at Atlanta City Hall on July 12.
Mr. Maddox was also in Toulouse, France, in May to present a bronze phoenix sculpture to the mayor of Toulouse on behalf of the Atlanta City Council. The privately funded sculpture was a gift from the citizens of Atlanta to the city of Toulouse to commemorate a chemical plant explosion there that killed 30 people and injured thousands in 2001.
In addition to such cultural exchanges, the committee is working closely with the Atlanta Sister City Commission in promoting economic exchanges between Atlanta and its 18 Sister Cities. A group of Atlanta citizens chaired by Valerie Jackson, wife of late Atlanta Mayor Maynard Jackson, will be hosting a delegation from the Toulouse city council that are looking to establish partnerships with Atlanta organizations.
Mr. Maddox has served on the Atlanta City Council for 28 years. He has previously served as campaign public affairs director for the United Way of Metropolitan Atlanta and was a contract administrator for Lockheed Martin Inc., for 34 years.The transcript of the complete interview with Mr. Maddox in which he discusses the council’s international activities follows. He may be reached by calling (404) 330-6054.
GlobalAtlanta: Mr. Maddox, you have served the city of Atlanta for a number of years as a councilman. Can you tell us about some of your activities at the City Council?
Mr. Maddox: This is my 28th year on the council – they consider me the dean of the council – due to longevity, but I am sure because of my age as well. I have actually chaired most of the committees on the council over the years. Right now I am serving as the chair of the Committee on International Relations for the city. That’s how I got involved with the Atlanta Sister Cities Commission because they are also a part of that committee. I currently serve on the standing committees as well. I am the vice-chairman of the Finance Committee, I serve on the City Utilities Committee and I serve on the Transportation Committee, under which the airport falls.
GlobalAtlanta: You recently went to Toulouse as part of a delegation from the city of Atlanta. Can you tell us a bit more about that trip?
Mr. Maddox: The purpose of that trip was to join a group that was handing over a bronze sculpture of a phoenix to the city of Toulouse. Toulouse is a Sister City to Atlanta and as a matter of fact, was Atlanta’s first Sister City, this relationship being established under Mayor Maynard Jackson. As you know Toulouse had a tragedy some years ago as a result of a serious chemical explosion. As a result of that accident, a group of citizens from Atlanta got together and raised enough funds and commissioned an artist to design a bronze phoenix, which they took to Toulouse. I was asked to join them on this particular trip to officially make the presentation from the city of Atlanta to the mayor of Toulouse.
GlobalAtlanta: Atlanta has long had a strong focus on becoming a truly international city. What are some of the projects underway in this regard?
Mr. Maddox: One of the things that my committee tries to promote is economic exchange between Atlanta and its Sister Cities. From our cultural exchange with Toulouse we are hoping that some economic benefit derives from it for both cities, and we are going to be pushing that more. Valerie Jackson, Maynard’s wife, has graciously agreed to be honorary chairperson for the arranging of a group to come from Toulouse to Atlanta. Betty Davis, the Atlanta Sister City Commission representative for Toulouse, will be working closely with this group in exploring partnerships with Atlanta organizations such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
I’ve got to tell you that Atlanta is growing by leaps and bounds when it comes to being an international city. I think we really have an opportunity to be one of the best international cities. I think we want to make sure that the people of the world are welcomed here in the city of Atlanta no matter what their native land is because Atlanta has opened itself to the world. One of reasons that I stay on top of issues like this is because I think these are positive developments for the city.
GlobalAtlanta: What are some of the projects that the city council is undertaking in making Atlanta a more internationally friendly city?
Mr. Maddox: For example, this year was the international relations committee’s third year participating in the 4th of July parade. Before then, the parade really didn’t have an international flavor – it was more of an American thing. Since we got involved with it, several countries do participate giving an added dimension to the parade
Also the committee is working on hosting a human rights conference here in Atlanta. We went to Nuremberg where a major European human rights conference was held last year focused on the safeguarding of human rights in cities. Nuremberg also presents the internationally renowned International Human Rights Award. We are trying to do something similar here in Atlanta patterned after their example. That’s one key project we are working on, and hopefully we will get this implemented by next year. We are doing the best we can to put all the pieces together because to put on a program like this is a major effort.
GlobalAtlanta: What is your vision for Atlanta as an international city?
Mr. Maddox: I envision Atlanta truly being an international city. We are not quite there yet, but we are almost there. There is still much to learn. For example, we need to ensure that more people learn how to ensure protocol in receiving dignitaries. We have different organizations such as the Advisory Council on International Relations of the Atlanta City Council, as well as the Georgia Council for International Visitors that do a great job in dealing specifically with many of the dignitaries that visit our city.
GlobalAtlanta: You have had an international career prior to becoming involved in local government. Can you tell us about some of your experiences?
Mr. Maddox: I worked at Lockheed for 34 years, hence my interest in aviation. Actually, I was working at Lockheed when I got elected on the City Council so I was doing both jobs. I dealt with foreign governments selling the C130 Hercules aircraft and spare parts. I worked in logistics as contract administrator so I dealt specifically with the customer. I traveled to Africa, specifically Nigeria, and I worked with a number of the embassies in Washington such as the one’s from U.K., New Zealand, Pakistan and Turkey. But I took Lockheed’s early retirement program in 1990 and went from there to the United Way of Metropolitan Atlanta. So, I have had quite a bit of experience dealing with people of other nationalities, and that sort of comes together in my present capacity at the council.