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City changes may take time

DEMOPOLIS – Despite the admission by all mayoral candidates, including victorious candidate Cecil Williamson, that something needed to be done about the pseudo-vacant position of Demopolis Police Chief, Williamson said nothing will be done in the near future.

“The council appointed Jeff Manuel as public safety director and interim chief and that’s the way it’s going to stay for now,” Williamson said from her office Wednesday. “I’m not looking to make any changes right away.”

The new mayor spoke of her first few weeks in office, her plans for the future of Demopolis – both immediate and long-range – and the challenges of being a new mayor with no municipal experience.

“There’s a lot to learn about municipal government, it’s not like running a business,” she said.

Williamson sat back in her desk chair and reflected on the past few weeks.

“I don’t know what I expected,” she said of her current position. “I expected to be available to the public, I think I have been that; I expected to have a lot of meetings, I’ve had that; I expected to have a lot of phone calls, I’ve had that. I didn’t expect 12-hour days and I’ve had that.”

She glanced around at the stacks of papers and litter of messages gracing her desktop and said another thing she did not expect was the deluge of paper.

“There are phone messages, committee reports, financial reports, just a lot of paper,” she said. But the mountains of paper do not daunt her, “I’m a very organized person.”

In between proclamation signings and scheduled meetings, the mayor took some time out to talk to a local resident, but most of her time, she said, has been spent meeting with city department heads.

“I have a weekly department head meeting and I have met individually with each department head in their location and had a minimum two-hour conversation with them about what’s happening in their office and what they need to better do their job,” she said. Those meetings are strictly information meetings, Williamson said, and are not indicators of any changes on the horizon.

“I think everyone has a vision of what they want for Demopolis. My role is to encourage that and help them make those visions come to fruition,” she said.

As for her own ideas for Demopolis, Williamson said she has some, but rather than reveal them she would rather seek ideas from the residents she serves.

“I have some ideas of things I’d like to see done, but I don’t want my ideas to be any more important that (those of) the citizens of Demopolis. I would like to see some of their visions come to fruition,” she said.

Primarily, she said, was to attract jobs.

“People want to see jobs here,” she said. “And not just jobs, good-paying jobs. I would like to see a group of people come together, kind of like the Industrial Board, and look at doing some things.

“I have a lot of ideas, but it’s going to take a whole community, not just one person,” she said.

Williamson said she wants to find out what the schools need, and help them, as well as finding out what the hospital needs and help it.

“There are so many things we can do better,” she said. “Like Downtown. I would like to look at some kind of Downtown Revitalization effort.”

Her most immediate goal, she said, is to learn.

“A municipality has it’s own language, it’s own alphabet soup, it’s own laws and regulations,” she said. “I have to

learn how the municipality works, learn the anocronyms so I can weed myself through the municipal maze – there’s just a lot to learn. My first goal is learning a lot.”

That begins with learning how to squeeze out a little more time.

“There are a lot of things I want to get done and I can’t get to them. (The job) is a little more time consuming than I imagined.”

Still, she said she will not rush into anything.

“I don’t like to be reactive,” she said. “If I have to make a decision, I can, but I would rather mull it over and talk to other people, and make a decision after I’ve gathered all the information.”

What does she want from the residents of Demopolis?

“Forgiveness,” she said. “I’m going to make some mistakes, I’m learning as I go and this is on-the-job training. I just ask for forgiveness in advance.”