Hankerson was presented the award Saturday night during the Cobb Chamber's annual gala at the Cobb Galleria. The identity of the award's recipient is kept secret until it is presented. Hankerson was surprised, but acknowledged he should've known something was up when his entire family, including his wife Janet, volunteered to attend the event.
"I have admired all the previous recipients of this award and I would, for my 35-plus years in Cobb, say to myself, 'What would it take to for me to become one of those distinguished individuals?' And here I am tonight,'" said Hankerson after accepting the award. "Thanks to the MDJ. It's easy to do something that you love."
In 1993, Hankerson was first appointed county manager by then county chairman Bill Byrne. During his tenure, Cobb has earned a AAA bond rating since 1997, something few counties have received. And in 2001, Cobb became the first county in the nation to have its water system earn a AAA bond rating. In 2004, Georgia Trend magazine honored Hankerson with its Excellence in Public Service Award.
However, 2009 was a year that brought a remarkable amount of success for the veteran county manager, who resides in west Cobb and is an avid gardener.
For his role in leading the county in educating Cobb students in safety through the new, state-of-the-art Cobb safety village, he was awarded SafePath's Crystal Gavel in December.
Last May, Hankerson spent two weeks in Beijing, China, teaching Chinese university students how government works in Cobb County. The trip is was an exchange program through the Carl Vinson Institute at the University of Georgia.
Hankerson was one of three metro Atlanta leaders invited by Vice President Joseph Biden to a daylong White House Recovery and Reinvestment Act Implementation Conference in March, where attendees heard from various federal agency officials about implementing the $787 billion federal stimulus package.
A native of Waynesboro, Hankerson moved to Cobb in 1974. He first began working in Cobb government as manager of the Development Control Department. He previously served as a district conservationist for the U.S. Department of Agriculture Soil Conservation Service.
Hankerson is a graduate of Fort Valley State College and earned a law degree from the Woodrow Wilson College of Law. He has been active in the American Public Works Association, Soil Conservation Society of America and 100 Black Men of Cobb County.
Hankerson thanked the board of commissioners, the county's staff and his family in brief remarks at the event.
"I just want to say thanks again to the community for allowing me to be a part of such a great community," Hankerson said. "I love this community. I love what I do. And I just love, love working with our youth."
This is the 47th year the Journal has presented the Cobb Citizen of the Year. The newspaper has traditionally done so at the Chamber's annual dinner. Former Cobb County School board chairman Lindsey Tippins received the award for 2008.
"Previous recipients have all had one thing in common, a commitment to the betterment of Cobb County," said Otis A. Brumby III, Journal general manager, who presented Hankerson with the award.
"Tonight's recipient is no different and has been a steady fixture in this county for at least the last 17 years. There is no question Cobb County is regarded as one of the best run, best governed counties in the state," Brumby said.
"The success of Cobb does not happen overnight and cannot be attributed to one individual. But, tonight's recipient has played a critical role in making Cobb County a great place to do business and make us proud to call Cobb County home."