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New GCDD Leadership Reflects Geographic Diversity

New GCDD Leadership Reflects Geographic Diversity 
New Officers, Executive Committee Represent Cross Section of Georgia 

ATLANTA (May 20, 2013) – The Georgia Council on Developmental Disabilities (GCDD) recently elected new officers and executive committee members to drive the organization's legislative advocacy and community building activities, creating a group that is a true reflection of the State's geographic diversity.

Last month, the 26-member body of the GCDD, established new leadership by electing two executive officers and three members at-large:

  • Chair Mitzi R. Proffitt, Parent Advocate from Brooklet (Statesboro area)
  • Vice Chair Tom S. Connelly, Self Advocate from Albany.
  • Josette Akhras, Parent Advocate from Eatonton
  • Geneice McCoy, Parent Advocate from Augusta
  • Lisa Newbern, (advisory) Parent Advocate from Atlanta

"As Governor Deal's nine new appointments came aboard this year, we took the opportunity to renew our commitment to our purpose and values and select new leadership," Eric E. Jacobson, GCDD Executive Director, said. "After having worked closely with them over two quarters and two Council meetings, there is remarkable energy and focus in this group. I'm looking forward to continued excellence and exciting new ideas being generated over the coming years."

The Georgia Council on Developmental Disabilities is one of 55 federally-funded, independent state agencies in the United States that has provided powerful advocacy for over 40 years for more than 1.7 million Georgians with developmental disabilities and their families.

"It's an honor to chair this organization which is at the forefront of social and policy change for people with disabilities in Georgia and beyond," Proffitt, the new council chair, said. "Because at least 60% of our members either have a developmental disability or a family member does, this is a knowledgeable, caring and passionate group."

Proffitt is the South Georgia manager for Parent to Parent of Georgia. She previously served on the Family Support Board in West Virginia and chairs the Three Rivers Transition Council. She is a graduate of Partners in Policy Making and has assisted families of children with disabilities for more than 10 years. Proffitt and her husband, Jack, have one son and reside in Brooklet, southeast of Statesboro.

Connelly, the GCDD vice chair is a rehabilitation employment specialist for the Georgia Vocational Rehabilitation Agency. He serves on the board of the Albany Area Rehabilitation Center and is a member of Georgia Rehabilitation Association. Connelly earned a bachelor's degree from Belmont Abbey College and a master's degree from Fort Valley State University. He lives in Albany.

Akhras is a substitute teacher and advocate for children and adults with disabilities. She piloted a support group in Putnam County to help parents and those with disabilities become effective advocates. She and her husband, Omar, have two sons and reside in Eatonton.

McCoy is the broker and owner of Real McCoy Brokerage Co. She serves as chair of Georgia's Region 2 Mental Health, Developmental Disabilities and Addictive Diseases Planning Board and is also a 2003 graduate of Partners in Policymaking in Georgia. She and her husband, Andrew, have three children and reside in Augusta.

Newbern is Chief of Public Affairs for the Yerkes National Primate Research Center at Emory University and a 2012 graduate of Leadership DeKalb. She is very involved in the Down Syndrome Association of Atlanta, including serving as a parent liaison and coordinator of the DeKalb County and surrounding areas support group. She and her husband have two children and reside in Atlanta.

Formed in 1971 as the Governor's Council on Developmental Disabilities, GCDD meets quarterly and is comprised of Governor appointments from the disability community, State agency representatives and advisory members who are selected by GCDD through an application process. In 2009 the name was changed to the Georgia Council on Developmental Disabilities. For a complete list of current Council Members, refer to the website.

GCDD's signature program, the Real Communities Initiative, provides support and technical assistance to people with and without disabilities who are working together at the grassroots level toward common goals to improve life in their community. Statewide expansion of inclusive post-secondary education programs is also a priority focus of the GCDD in addition to public policy research and analysis, reform, project demonstrations, education, training and public information.

GCDD, a federally funded independent state agency, works to bring about social and policy changes that promote opportunities for persons with developmental disabilities and their families to live, learn, work, play and worship in Georgia communities. A developmental disability is a chronic mental and/or physical disability that occurs before age 22 and is expected to last a lifetime. Visit for more information.