True confessions of a former mayor: How Rock & Roll, Harnessing the Punk Rock Ethos and my rebellious youth defined my time in office.

Deke Copenhaver
Jul 15, 2015 · 3 min read

I grew up a huge fan of music with rock, punk and funk three of my favorite genres. I also grew up a huge fan of Johnny Cash, as a country rebel outlaw whose talent still defies being put into any one given category as he truly transcended all genres in his love for, and impact on, all areas of music and entertainment.

Growing up I dreamed of being a rock star, but instead I became a mayor. Poetic irony at its finest in that it would seem that political office would be the last place you’d want to rebel against the mainstream but ultimately proved to be the place where I was finally able to harness and utilize my youthful rebellion in the most positive of ways.

Conventional wisdom would say that a shy kid born in Montreal, Canada would never grow up to be the mayor of Augusta, Georgia. But conventional wisdom would also say that a little band out of Athens by the name of R.E.M. would never go on to become the most influential band in the world at the height of their popularity. Also not within the realm of conventional wisdom would be that a band out of Seattle could become the biggest act in the world founded by a purportedly dysfunctional kid from Aberdeen, WA, that a young man from Augusta could become the most influential man in hip hop. and r and b or that a group out of England in the sixties headed up by a young man named Mick who attended the London School of Economics could still be out on the road and relevant to this very day.

Having grown up a student of life I believe I’ve learned more from experience and from watching and observing than I’ve ever learned in a classroom, as much as I believe in classrooms and the value of education can never be underestimated. But for me personally, it has always been about experiential learning and immersing yourself in the world around you. I’m the youngest of five children and grew up with a collection of vinyl albums collected by my brothers and sisters ranging from the Rolling Stones, the Beatles, Stepenwolf, Led Zeppelin and Elton John to Captain & Tenille, Earth Wind & Fire, Richard Pryor (my purchase), the Gap Band, Cameo, Journey, AC/DC and others.

So what did I learn from all of this exposure to music in general you may ask? I learned that Johnny Cash could impact the world with an adherence to his faith and an ability to embrace other cultures. I learned that music has the ability to connect people at all levels of society. I learned that music can lead to a sea change in our world that we can never imagine. I learned that touring at the grassroots level and connecting with people will always matter. I also learned that its okay to take a different approach to what you do because if you’re earnest about it and if you’re committed to it the sincerity will always come through

At the end of the day music has simply made a difference in my life and the idea that rebelling for the right reasons while staying true to yourself in whatever you choose to do can always make a difference in the world around you resonates for me long after those rebellious days of my youth. For that I’m truly thankful and Because of that I’m still committed to continue to rock on.

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Deke Copenhaver

Written by

Principal, Copenhaver Consulting LLC, former mayor of Augusta, triathlete, writer & runner focused on transforming great ideas into great actions.