Four lanes of Hwy 80 will bring growth

Published 12:00 am Thursday, July 15, 2004

DEMOPOLIS – Melvin Yelverton has been around the block a few times, and has seen a lot with which to compare Demopolis.

In his 11 years as an over-the-road driver, the District 3 hopeful said he’s picked up a few ingredients for municipal growth from the places he’s visited, and plans to turn that knowledge to the city’s benefit.

“I drove for 11 years and saw that industries don’t come to cities that don’t have four lane highways. Big companies won’t come without it,” he said. “If we don’t get Highway 80 four laned, Demopolis won’t grow.”

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So, for Yelverton, mounting a push to complete the four-laning project is a major priority.

“I’ve though about running for years – though about it and thought about it,” he said. “Now I’m doing it.”

“Doing” includes applying pressure to other governments on the Highway 80 issue, and he believes the city council is the right place to start that movement.

“We’ve got to push the state to push the federal government to move ahead. Industry is not going to come unless a four lane is here – an interstate isn’t necessary, but a four lane is for safety’s sake,” Yelverton said.

Although Yelverton admits he’s a newcomer to politics, his race for the council isn’t his first brush with municipal government. The 21-year Suttles veteran served as a Demopolis police officer during the 1970’s and his mother was mayor of Myrtlewood – teaching him some strong lessons about governance.

“She was one of them that got things done,” he said. “… I reckon that’s where I got an ‘if you don’t like the way things are, do something about it’ attitude. I learned that from her.”

In addition to the four-lane project – which he said would be his top priority, Yelverton knows the city faces challenges that other municipalities face, such as stretching local dollars to meet priority needs.

“We’ve got to get a new police chief and, in my opinion, a new assistant chief,” he said, “and everybody is fussing about the city streets, but you have to have money. You have to have businesses in order to get that money (to fund improvements).”

Simply getting out into the city is one way Yelverton has readied himself for the race.

“You can ride around town and see stuff that needs to be addressed. The city’s looking good, but horticulture is just an outside coating that helps Demopolis, but we have to look at bringing downtown Demopolis back to life, too. When I was a policeman, it was wide open – nothing like it is today,” he said.

His motivation, at least in part, has come through his personal struggle with cancer.

A survivor of stomach cancer, the ordeal has provided the catalyst for him to jump into his first political race.

“People may not realize it, but it is something to be a cancer survivor. To go through it – that’s an accomplishment,” he said.

It a struggle he hasn’t undergone alone, however. Terri, his wife of 12 years, is an industrial nurse with Foster Farms. Five children and four grandchildren have also helped.

“It’s an honor and a privilege to be on the city council. It’s something to be proud of,” he said. “In my opinion (serving on the council) isn’t about what Melvin wants, it’s about what my district needs and what the city needs.”