Four Tallapoosa County municipalities have new leadership.
Alexander City, Camp Hill, Dadeville and Jacksons Gap all swore in new mayors last week and they have hit the ground running working with their teams of councilmembers, officials and residents.
All have visions of improving life in their towns. The hard part is there is no warm-up; it’s straight to work, even before the newly elected mayors had finished celebrating on election night.
Woody Baird was already speaking with Lake Martin Area Economic Development Alliance executive director Chad Odom before Alexander City voters made their decision in a runoff election for Alexander City mayor last month. Baird was sharing his knowledge from two decades of owning a small business and its suppliers, some of whom might be looking to relocate.
“There is a lot of interest and a lot of contact about businesses and industries wanting to come to Alex City,” Baird told members of the Alexander City Kiwanis Club on Thursday. “We are at the second level of four with one. Things have slowed down a little with the uneasiness after the presidential election, but my goal is to keep working them.”
Baird believes his not-so-traditional political style partnered with Odom and Central Alabama Community interim president Jeff Lynn should prove to be good for the area, especially for recruiting industry and businesses. Baird said voters issued a mandate of change when they elected him.
“We broke the mold when they elected me,” Baird said. “All the pieces of the puzzle are starting to come together.”
Baird said Lynn’s experience in workforce development and Odom’s experience in economic development along with experiences working together in the past will allow the area to get to the front industry recruiters’ lists. Even though Baird’s first economic development project as mayor of Alexander City has hit a small speed bump, he’s not giving up.
“I’ll give them a couple weeks,” Baird said. “I will start to call them. I’m a little more aggressive than most; I’m not afraid to call, talk and ask questions.”
Baird hopes to get company executives to visit to see what the area has to offer.
“We have a place for them,” Baird said. “If we could just get them to visit, we could show them what we have. Then we can take them to the lake and show them a lifestyle they could be living.”
Plans for the future don’t change for Baird based on the outcome of his first industry prospect as mayor.
“I’m not going to stop; I’m not giving up,” Baird said. “You have to keep calling; you have to keep selling.”
Trying to bring higher paying jobs to Alexander City isn’t the only thing Baird has done in his first week and half on the job. Baird is challenging other city leaders to match his enthusiasm to improve infrastructure quickly.
“How many work sessions can we have?” Baird asked Alexander City City Council president Buffy Colvin after being sworn in nearly two weeks ago. “Can we have one a week, two a week? I want to make sure to keep y’all informed because we have got work to do.”
Dadeville mayor excited about his team, city’s future
Dadeville Mayor Jimmy Frank Goodman Jr. is no stranger to helping lead Dadeville. Prior to being elected mayor in a runoff last month, Goodman served on the city council giving up the seat to run for mayor four years ago. Goodman now has a meeting under his belt as mayor and his prior experience helped with some things as he led his first council meeting — but not everything.
“Nerves got to me,” Goodman said. “Even though I knew what to do, I got nervous and forgot things.”
His prior experience as a councilmember was part time but Goodman said, “It still feels like I jumped into the deep end of the pool. My head is above water so it’s good.”
Goodman said many don’t think about what all the official leader of Dadeville does.
“The mayor’s job is a part-time job, but I’m (at city hall) full time, Goodman said. “I’m a little tired but it will get better. It will be all right.”
Goodman said he knew Dadeville had great residents and city employees before taking office but now he’s been proven that’s more true than ever.
“Everyone has been great,” Goodman said. “I couldn’t step into a better team.”
Jacksons Gap and Camp Hill mayors look forward to future
Newly elected Jacksons Gap Mayor Frank Lucas is no stranger to running for a political office or serving the public. He has served as Tallapoosa County Circuit Clerk and was in law enforcement prior to that. Lucas was living a retirement lifestyle before qualifying for office of mayor.
“I got talked into running for mayor,” Lucas jokingly said. “The worst part is I won.”
All jokes aside, Lucas said he just wants to accomplish what was on his campaign signs.
“Bring back the ’Gap,’” Lucas said. “If I do that, I will have succeeded.”
Lucas remembers Jacksons Gap’s past with a store or two and a few decorations on utility poles for Christmas. He wants to help improve a few things like the Jacksons Gap Volunteer Fire Department to make sure it can safely respond to emergencies in the area. The solutions are simple at the moment. A few tires for the department’s trucks, one’s flat and others have aged out and unsafe by industry recommendations.
“There will be more things to do,” Lucas said. “We will figure them as we go.”
Lucas is no longer having to try to satisfy voters all across Tallapoosa County, just those 800 or so living in Jacksons Gap.
“It’s a small town,” Lucas said. “The politics are a little different. I’m looking forward to seeing what we as mayor and council can do.”
Lucas has retired from full-time work but newly elected Camp Hill Mayor Messiah Williams-Cole, a senior at Auburn University, hasn’t yet started his professional career. But Williams-Cole isn’t using his age, 21, as an excuse to wait and figure out how to govern a town. He hit the ground running organizing efforts to improve communication starting ‘Camp Hill Conversations’ on Facebook similar to President Franklin Roosevelt’s ‘Fireside Chats.’ And there are going to be frequent town halls.
“Since being elected, I’ve been eager to get to work,” Williams-Cole said. “I’m excited, happy and a little nervous to make sure I uphold the things I promised.”
Williams-Cole already knows he alone can’t overcome the struggles of Camp Hill.
“It has to be a community effort,” Williams-Cole said. “It’s going to take all of us who have been elected, as well as the community. It’s time to make sure we work together toward the things we want to accomplish. I have a firm belief that myself and the council we’ve built here, along with the citizens of Camp Hill, will all work together to build something strong to be proud of. We have to be one town and one team.”