Coming Back Home to Serve His Hometown

UNG Alumnus Doug Hollberg, ’90, moved with his family to Griffin, Georgia, in 1970.  When it was time to look at colleges, his father suggested North Georgia College because he thought it would give his son some much needed discipline. When Hollberg ended up on the Dahlonega campus, he learned discipline and more, especially through the Corps of Cadets.

“Getting up every morning and being drilled on a routine of excellence,” really shaped his time in college, Hollberg said. He also learned leadership skills and developed valuable character traits, including being true to his word. “North Georgia also gave me the foundation to make decisions in tough situations with a never quit attitude.”

After he graduated in 1990 with his BBA degree, “Dad gave me the opportunity to join the family property rental business, encouraged me to learn the ins and outs of the business but also to be active in our community in civic duties,” Hollberg said. “He wanted me to be involved.”

His commitment to civic involvement led Hollberg to run for a seat on his hometown’s City Commission in 2001, which resulted in a disappointing outcome. Hollberg topped the election results by five votes, but served for just 12 days before a ballot review discovered an error and the open seat went to his opponent instead.  Undeterred, Hollberg tried again in the next election with more satisfactory results. He served for 16 years as the At-Large Griffin City Commissioner, including three years as chairman.

In January 2020, Hollberg made history by becoming the first elected mayor for the City of Griffin. Just a few months later, Hollberg and his hometown had another unprecedented event in the form of a global pandemic.

The lessons he learned as a business major in Dahlonega have helped him be a more effective leader for Griffin. Marketing, especially around crisis messaging, has been very important.

“I also keep referring to what I learned in my Economics class,” Hollberg said. “We learned that the cause and effect of every decision you make effects somebody’s pocketbook.” Shutting down local businesses in his community, many owned by long-time friends, has been the most difficult decision he has had to make in his short tenure as Mayor, but one deemed necessary in the interest of public safety.

Making decisions for the greater good can be challenging, but Hollberg has worked hard to engage with the community. He has tried not only to build consensus, but also to make sure the people of Griffin understand the reasons behind the decisions that he and local leaders have made.  For example, the City of Griffin instituted a curfew well before state mandates were issued; some townspeople felt it infringed their civil liberties.  Hollberg took to social media to share the rationale behind the curfew.

According to Hollberg the City decided to place all of the city’s workers on alternating shifts so that if the Cityy had a case of the virus break out, they would only have to quarantine half of the staff .  Particularly in the area of public safety, having people stay at home from 9 p.m. to 5 a.m. helped ease the strain on the reduced staffing caused by the virus. Once the community understood the curfew was to enable the city to continue serving them, they were more accepting of the temporary restriction.

Hollberg’s advice to current business students is to take advantage of the many opportunities UNG offers to develop and strengthen leadership and personal character. He also encourages students to learn how to be patient and build consensus. Perhaps most importantly, he said, “pay attention in Economics class!”