fbpx
Hawthorne-Welcher-City-of-Augusta-The-Faces-of-Augusta

HAWTHORNE E. WELCHER, JR.

HAWTHORNE WELCHER was appointed to director of the City of Augusta, GA Housing and Community Development Department in July 2015, after serving as interim director for 6 months. As the director, he is responsible for overseeing the planning and implementation of Federal, State and Local funds benefiting the underserved, business and nonprofit community for the Augusta-Richmond County area.

In support of the Augusta, GA Commission, and Mayor Hardie Davis, Jr’s. “One Augusta”, initiative, under Welcher’s watch, over 850 housing units have been developed for the Central Savanah River Area. His passion-driven approach has fostered collaboration with local and global partners such as Warrick Dunn Charities, Columbia Ventures, several reputable Real Estate Companies, and moreover enabling Welcher to serve in a key capacity in the revitalization of the historically recognized Laney Walker neighborhood and its transformation into “Augusta’s premier urban living destination, Beacon Station. Efforts such as this trademark the “czar of housing and community development” movement.

For over twenty years, authentic phrases such as Restore, Connect, Transform; Greater Good; Support Plus Trust Equals Halfway have guided his exceptional career in the field of community and economic development. These mottos foster a cohesive and productive work environment for the Housing and Community Development Department.

Although his heart is bow-tied to his mission to serve, Welcher holds true to his commitment to Christ and his family, Shantanet Welcher, his wife, and their two children Zyian Welcher and Hawthorne E. Welcher, III; his Dream Team.

From my professional perspective, I would define Hawthorne with these adjectives: Knowledgeable, Focused-Driven, Balanced, Current and The Baton-Holder to the City of Augusta. He has been charged to ensure balance when it comes to one of the most needed aspects to a safe and successful lifestyle: Housing.  I have spent over 30 years working with high-profile C-Level executives and Hawthorne Welcher is the future in a forthcoming innovative city like Augusta, GA. I think you will find his answers to my questions well thought out responses with a genuine passion for the City of Augusta and its people. Let’s get started… 

 

QUESTIONS: 

 

Q. What inspired you or led you to your current career?

A.  As a 1998 graduate of Morehouse College with a degree in finance; I knew, I wanted to be part of something that was impactful.  Really, I didn’t know what that was. So, I kept submitting my resume and I got some job offers–but, I really did not like them. Yet, there was one gentleman in Aiken, South Carolina and he said, Hawthorne, I don’t know you; but, I know your parents and I am going to teach you everything I know about housing and community development. Immediately, I said to myself, that has to be the most boring thing I have ever heard of in my life. Who wants to do housing, I said. But, I took the opportunity; it was a chance to make a difference.

My first project was an acquisition where we acquired a 1,000 square foot home; we rehabbed it. The project offered me the opportunity to implement financial skillsets: budgets and performance and I thought, this was pretty cool. After spending 45-days on this project; this gentleman told me that he was taking me somewhere; but, I didn’t know where. Actually, we were headed to the ribbon-cutting ceremony for this same house that we had acquired and rehabbed and just to see the tears of joy falling down the face of a single mother who was the recipient was impactful and overwhelming, to say the least. There is where I realized that I could get used to this experience. So, one-day turned into 10 years and then, 21 years.

 

Q. What is your favorite restaurant in Augusta, and what do you love there?

A.  From a restaurant perspective, it would be Longhorns.  I’m a big seafood lover. But I guess my rest haven, (I hope this is taken in the right context) is Twin Peaks or any sports bar in Augusta. I am a sports fanatic. I believe all of us have to have a balance in our life. I am definitely a lifestyle housing and community development practitioner; a servant. But at the same time, my getaway is the world of sports and in my mind, you can’t be a sports fanatic if the only thing you like is basketball, football, and baseball. You have to like alternative sports and one alternative sport would be NASCAR; look at the financial structure, the sponsorships. So for me, sports is just a sort of getaway. It’s a way for me to relax my mind. Outside of being a sports fanatic, I like to work out.

 

Q. How long have you lived or worked in Augusta?

A. All my life except for the five years I resided in Atlanta at Morehouse college and I was over in Aiken at the Aiken Housing Authority for 10 years. From 98 to 2008 I’ve been here with this department, Housing, and Community Development since 2008. So this is my 11th year here with the City of Augusta Housing and Community Development Department.

 

Q. Who is the most interesting person you’ve met here in Augusta? Who would you like to see nominated as a Face of Augusta? 

A.  The most interesting people or persons that I have met are the citizens of Augusta and you know, those seasoned persons who just have a love and a commitment to their community.  They have been instrumental in creating a path we must recognize and follow. They are pillars within the community and have a distinct vision for their community-at-large to be revived; they hold firmly to this vision with such passion.  I reflect upon my grandmother who is 93 years young; she is yet holding on to a vision of rebirth for our community and you know that is a joy for me….a blessing per se–I know it is God’s plan.  It has to be; for me to be working in the area and back in this historic neighborhood of communities.  It is my charge, my departments charge to be able to revitalize this community that they started 60-70+ years ago.

So, the most interesting people to me are all of those people who still yearn to see a thing accomplished.  I just love our seasoned community (the seniors); I stand upon their shoulders. The baton has been passed and it’s upon myself, my team as well as others like myself to ensure the continuation of a dream yet fulfilled.  We are diligently working on it!

 

Q. If you could travel anywhere in the world right now, where would it be? And why?

A.  I would travel to those third world countries; the parts of Haiti others don’t acknowledge. The countries that no longer have hope.  One thing I have learned in life is there is no alter ego; I truly know exactly who I am and I understand specifically my purpose. My mission is to build skillsets that sustain and give hope; providing those teachings into the world letting all know–that we are all the same.  Just embracing and understanding is where we first begin. I believe, I have been taught and have obtained and have been given the opportunity to give to those who are less fortunate………..to give back from a sacrificial standpoint.

 

Q. What is your favorite movie OR what is the first movie you remember seeing in a theatre?

A.  Annapolis is my favorite movie and Color Purple was the first movie I remember seeing in the theatre; I remember, I was rather young.

 

Q. What advice would you give a crowd of people?

A. To always stay and study and to ask, what book are you currently reading.  “To Thy Own Self Be True.” “May your sacrifice always be greater.” “Understand, no pressure–no diamonds; pain comes before the promise.”

You’ve only asked me for one; but, I just freestyled a bit.  (Q.: Sounds like a book; are you writing a book?) Yes, Yes, Yes. I will take that as a confirmation. I believe it to be thought-provoking and definitely inspirational.  It consists of 26 motivational principles.

*Although Hawthorne shared some interesting details about his future writings I as a published author understand and elected to leave the content out of our published interview to protect his future book publishing requirements. 

 

Q. What is something on your bucket list?

A.  Skydiving. I believe we must sort of face our fears, right? So that’s something that is still on my bucket list to accomplish.

 

Q. What is your favorite music/ 3 bands you would like to see (dead or alive)?

A.  Southern Rap. Historically when you think about rap and hip hop the southern rap sound is never mentioned. Automatically when mentioning rap; you immediately think of rappers from New York or the West Coast. Yet, Outkast and Goodie Mob’s sound is deeper than just the music; it is a feeling and a lifestyle. During my time at Morehouse College, I was able to attend concerts of these entertainers and develop a respect for the craft.  Truly, I believe when I say southern rap, for me, I truly believe that we all should be able to freestyle and that which we have learned. Do you know what I mean? So, Little Wayne and Drakes of the world and all those guys should not be the only ones that can freestyle. I should be able to freestyle and that which I’ve learned as well. That comes from a yearning from the understanding of not wanting a job, not wanting a career, but wanting a lifestyle as well. You know, what I do every day is a lifestyle.

My grandma taught me that when you find that thing that you’ll do for free–that you have found that thing.  I think housing and being able to help and touch people is that thing that I would do for free.

So just being sure from a respect standpoint, when we say the south, that we’re able to garner that respect. You know, Augusta is a big city. Why can’t Augusta be just like New York? It’s no different for me. I’m sorry. It doesn’t matter to me; people in Augusta can articulate just as well.  So just having that yearning to say, “hey the south had something to say as well”.

Three bands: (1) SOS Band (2) Brick (3) Sleepy Brown (Society)

 

Q. What current / former local business makes you the most nostalgic about Augusta?

A.  Fielding Brothers Barbeque. They were a recipient of our business grant; we blessed (10) small businesses with a $10,000 grant in 2018.  The Fielding Brothers BBQ is a 40-year old business ran by Mr. Alonzo Fielding; he’s probably somewhere in his thirties. Alonzo quit his job to focus on a business his grandparents started many years ago. Not only is he and his brother inspirationally totally committed to the business and his grandparents’ and parents’ legacy; but, what they’ve done is they have a food truck that sells out pretty much every day. Yet, they had the vision to take the food truck concept and develop it on a broader scale and create a neighborhood restaurant in the Historic District of Laney Walker Blvd. We are just so proud of Alonzo and his team at Fielding Brothers BBQ; they have truly earned it. They have taken this 40-year old legacy and have modernized it.  It can only get better with consistent community support. We want them to win like all the other small businesses we continuously support!

 

Q. Choosing anyone alive and a non-relative: with whom would you love to have lunch? Why? Where in Augusta would you have lunch?

A.  President Obama. Why?  Just to understand exactly how he maneuvers through the pain, how he continues to drive through the storm, how he continues to solve the problems and maneuver on those bumpy roads all with a smile on his face. Just understanding it from a position of leadership.  How does he do it when it appears as if the world is crumbling down around him. Because I deal with a lot mentally; I transition mentally from meeting to meeting. But, how do I do all those things with a genuine smile on my face?   That’s Leadership.

 

Q. What is your favorite thing or something unique about Augusta?

A.  Untapped Potential. There is so much untapped potential here in Augusta, and in my mind, I made the commitment years ago to bring my talents here to Augusta.  Thinking from a position of leadership; senior leaders from city government, commission, and city perspective–we are at an all-time high with city resources being partnered with other authorities–so, there is a great deal of untapped potential here in Augusta. It doesn’t hurt that a commitment was made by the governor to bring and focus on cyber directives having a global impact. I guess a great question would be: where will we be in 5 to 10 years.

 

Q. Where do you see yourself in 5 or 10 years?

A.  I see myself overseeing a billion-dollar budget.  It’s not about the work, I am very confident in the work, in a product and output.  I have always worked from the premise of being on point, on playing with a purpose. So for me, whatever the chosen work duties or responsibilities are that’s the easy part. It’s all about continuing to be able to develop skill sets. So I see myself overseeing that billion-dollar budget in some capacity.

I really believe that I can get to where I want to be from here, from this position. One of the things for me is to continue to modernize and continue to revolutionize the position, I want to do something that has never been done before.  You know, I don’t want to take just a general path with it; revolutionizing this position. I believe I’m on the way to doing that.

One of the things that we’re doing now is creating strategic relationships/partnerships. We’ve developed a partnership with a professional athlete and have brought his non-profit organization to the city and we’re moving forward in developing (5) affordable housing units. In addition, there are other athletes that I play golf with. The focus is to continue to revolutionize in this role for the City of Augusta; that’s where I see myself, being that leader and trying to be a visual teacher & mentor to staff and for my team.

 

Q. (Even for friends or family), what is something interesting that most people don’t know about you?

A.  I used to play the violin and the piano; such a precious gift my parents gave to me as a child. Not continuing is something, I truly regret–it gives you focus. Being a musician is a gift.

 

Q. Can you describe the neighborhood you grew up in?

A.  I grew up off of Wrightsboro Road in the Valley Park Community. A community made up of apartments and some multi-family units and single-family residences.  Most of the houses were of a ranch style, up to 1500 square feet and a single story.  It reminds me of a thought we had as kids if someone had a 2-story home back in the 80s; we thought they were rich. My community reflected working-class families; both of my parents were educators for over 40 years.

 

Q. What 3 words or phrases come to mind when you think of the word HOME?

A. (1) Sweet (2) Commitment and (3) God.

 

Q. If you were cast into a major motion picture and had your choice of anyone to be your co-star, who would you choose?

A.  Kerry Washington. I think, she would push me; she definitely has the fire and focus of a tiger.  She has been very diverse in the various roles she has played. So, that would catapult me and I would feed off of it.

 

Q. If you had a full-time staff member that was fully paid for, who would you choose?  {Chef, Housekeeper, Driver, Coach, Physical Fitness Trainer, or Nanny} WHY?

A. Definitely a chef for me.  My body is my temple; nutritional foods are key, kinda like filling the gas tank with gas.

 

Q. If you could hold on to one memory from your life forever, what would that be?

A.  In 1993 I had freshman orientation at Morehouse College and due to work commitments my father was unable to attend; but, my grandfather did. Yet, I did not realize that by the time I graduated…my grandfather would no longer be on this earth. I only had one grandfather while growing up; my dad’s father died when he was around three years of age. For my grandfather to drive hours to be with me and my mother in Atlanta was everything to me; he made such a commitment to my education and ensuring my stability away from home.  I would have loved to have been able to present him with my college degree upon my graduation from Morehouse.

 

 

Q. Who has been the biggest influence on your life? What lessons did that person teach you?

A.  Benjamin Elijah Mays, past president of Morehouse College and a distinguished mentor to Dr. Martin L. King taught me a lot of things. What stands out most for me: he said, never let anyone dismiss you with a wave or a shrug of the shoulder; this is something I live by today and the statement that Morehouse men will do exceptionally well.

 

 

OUR FINAL QUESTION

 

Q. IF YOU COULD SHARE ONE PIECE OF ADVICE, WHAT WOULD IT BE?

That your mind is a pearl. You can do anything in the world. Just because it rains doesn’t mean you have to dry. Get up and get out and get something. That’s it. Can I get you something else? Yeah, sure. Speed. Also if we, change our thinking, we change our life.  Homeownership is the number one wealth-building tool in America.  You spoke on that and we can’t change poverty until we change housing…..period.

 

 

the-faces-of-augusta-ga-micki-esposito-top-augusta-realtor

Thank you Hawthorne. You made my experience easy and comfortable.  To new beginnings.  Friends for Life.

~micki

 

Leave a Reply