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Mayors eye regional growth

DEMOPOLIS – Communities in the Black Belt all face common challenges. For that reason, Demopolis Mayor Cecil P. Williamson believes they can overcome them by working together.

Williamson and some other mayors in the area have taken the first step toward finding common solutions by setting a meeting of areas leaders for a planning session. The conference will be hosted by the Regional Center for Community and Economic Development and will take place Jan. 28 from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m.

James Mock, Director of the Regional Center for Community and Economic Development said the meeting came about from the vision of the Demopolis Mayor.

“This meeting was really spearheaded by Demopolis Mayor Cecil P. Williamson,” Mock said. “She was the driving force behind this. She really helped get things started.”

Williamson said the mayors would use the conference to take things one-step at a time in their quest for city and regional improvement.

“We will talk about our common goals and challenges and pick one to work together on and hopefully accomplish,” Williamson said. “Hopefully, we will get a lot accomplished.”

The conference, which will take place at the Bell Conference Center on the campus of the University of West Alabama, will consist of Mayors from cities and towns around the Black Belt. Williamson said two other counties would also take part in the meetings.

“All of the Black Belt Counties will be invited as well as Choctaw and Pickens Counties,” Williamson said. “We learned yesterday that they would also be invited to participate.”

The conference also includes a special guest speaker. Congressman Artur Davis is set to be the keynote speaker at a luncheon planned from noon to 1 p.m.

Williamson said the conference could be a big stepping-stone for the Black Belt. She said there has already been a lot of interest and everyone is eager to get started.

“I feel this will be a very positive thing for all of us,” Williamson said. “Right now we have about 20 that will be participating. That is a good number to start with. We will just take that and see where the future takes us.”

Mock said the conference was a step in the right direction for Black Belt leaders.

“I think this will be a good start,” Mock said. “We want to bring as many of them together as we can and see what we can accomplish. I think this is a good start for everyone.”

The goal of the conference is to serve as a forum for area mayors to discuss issues of mutual concern. It is hoped that through open discussion, the mayors will identify issues that are commonly shared by the Black Belt communities and seek a collaborative method for addressing those concerns.

The conference is seen as a first among gatherings involving the mayors. Mock said he hopes the conference leads to more meetings in the future.

“I think that Mayor Williamson and everyone else sees this as a beginning,” Mock said. “We hope it will lead to more meetings of this kind in the future.”

There is no cost for participating in the program. Lunch will be provided. Those wishing to attend the conference should contact the Center for Community and Economic Development at (205) 652-3417 or at rcced@uwa.edu. Registration is required for meal planning.