Prospects ‘special’ for city

Published 12:00 am Monday, October 6, 2003

The City of Demopolis has completed the first step in the two-year process to be designated a Community of Excellence.

Officials with the Alabama Communities of Excellence (ACE) program met Thursday morning with elected officials and community leaders for a candid discussion in the office of the Demopolis Area Chamber of Commerce. They gave their assessment report in the areas of community leadership, community planning, economic development and quality of life.

ACE officials on hand included Joe Sumners of the Auburn University Economic Development Institute, Bob Howard of Alabama Power Company, Linda Swann of Alabama Development Office and Mary Shell of the Alabama Historical Commission.

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Sumners lauded the strong leadership, the "can-do" attitude of the Demopolis community and the cooperation of white and black citizens. "It seems that Demopolis has always done better than its neighbors in the Black Belt," he said. "…Demopolis has maintained good quality integrated schools which you don’t find in a lot of the Black Belt."

However, ACE officials would like to have more input from minority officials as the process goes forward, Sumners said.

He encouraged the establishment of a community-wide youth leadership program, possibly linking with the many groups already established in local schools.

Ties to the state legislators need to be strengthened, Sumners said. Legislative representation in Marengo County is fragmented with two state senators and three state representatives. Despite attempts to influence those legislators, Demopolis City Councilman Woody Collins said the city and county is at a disadvantage.

However, Kathy Leverett, chamber president, said the community has often used the lack of legislative representation as "a crutch….It has really kept people from making the visits that they should have made (and) writing the letters we should write.