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Commission looks to build on success

DEMOPOLIS-Local leaders and members of the Black Belt Action Commission came together at the Demopolis University Center Friday encouraged by what they saw at the Tuesday Town Hall meeting on the campus of Judson College.

The Friday meeting was a chance to allow committee heads to come together and report on some of the progress they had made and some of the obstacles they had encountered. Many of the same leaders who attended Tuesday’s gathering were again in attendance for Friday’s discussions.

Demopolis Mayor Cecil P. Williamson said she was very pleased to see leaders taking an active role in the commission. Williamson said as a long time resident of the Black belt he would like to see the area become on of the states most treasured locations.

“I am so thrilled that the Governor, Kay Ivey and Sen. Sanders have decided to accept this role,” Williamson said. “I have lived in the Black Belt nearly all of my life and I am passionate about it. But, I am equally passionate about improving the entire area. I don’t want Demopolis to be the gem of the Black Belt. I want the Black Belt to be the gem of the state of Alabama.”

Williamson said teamwork was the key to success. She said by exploring a few helpful avenues the Black Belt could become one of the premier locations in the state of Alabama.

“We can make the Black Belt, as it is with a little tweaking, a little more economic development, a little more tourism and a little more infrastructure, we can stay rural,” Williamson said. “Rural is where it’s at. Quite frankly, it is quite safe to live in the Black Belt, it is a comfortable place to be and it is not costly to live here.”

Williamson added she was focused on helping the area reach its full potential. She said this group was an excellent start.

“I am passionate about making the Black Belt the gem of the State of Alabama,” Williamson said. “I see this group as a way to do that.”

Dr. John Johnson, president of the Alabama Southern Community College system, said the meetings were also great for education in the Black Belt. Johnson said having the local leaders show an interest showed everyone there was someone speaking out for them.

“It is an honor to have you all here because it shows that you are committed to us,” Johnson said. “It means a tremendous amount that we are bringing attention to the Black Belt. I have lived in the Black Belt for 15 years and I am happy to work with you in any way I can.”

The Black Belt Action Commission has seen steady progress since it’s beginning. Tuesday’s meeting, which drew over 600 spectators, was solid proof. State Treasurer Kay Ivey said the outpouring of support was a milestone for the commission and the Black Belt.

“This is part of another bench mark in my view,” Ivey said. “We have put a great deal of time and energy into coming together and getting focused on projects to highlight.”

Ivey said the next step was to use that momentum and drive forward.

“It encourages me that we have all done an awful lot,” Ivey said. “We have come a long way. It seems like we have climbed the hill and now we are on top of the hill. Now we have to see where we are going and what we are going to do.”