QA with Mitzi Gates: GROW Linden effort underway

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Linden is in a time of transition. How do you perceive the changes in leadership that the city will face?

I could not be more excited for Dr. (Walter) Davis and Chief (Jeff) Laduron as they look toward the imminent arrival of their long-awaited and well-deserved retirement. But let me hasten to add that my joy is for them personally, for what retirement will allow them to enjoy in their personal lives. Both Dr. Davis and Chief Laduron have led their respective departments with great enthusiasm, dedication, commitment and integrity, and their leadership will be sorely missed. Nevertheless, I know that both Dr. Davis and Chief Laduron are confident that the timing of their decisions was right, and they are equally confident, as am I and the rest of the Council, I believe, that the changes that are ahead for Linden are going to be positive, even though we will miss the leadership we&8217;re losing to retirement. It&8217;s just my belief that if we see the opportunity for change in a positive light the resulting change will, indeed, be positive.

Tell me a little more about the GROW Linden effort. How did it get started, what is the progress currently and how can the community help with this effort?

Email newsletter signup

The Linden City Council and Industrial Development Board have been given an exciting opportunity to create a vision for Linden&8217;s future as a result of a grant proposal we submitted to the University of West Alabama&8217;s Small Business Development Center and Regional Center for Community Economic Development.

The grant proposal, entitled GROW Linden (an acronym for goals, research, outreach and work &045; all of which were crucial elements in the planning phase of the grant proposal and will continue to be in the remaining phases of progress) was awarded the maximum grant amount of $20,000 in professional development services.

As part of this grant, Mary Randolph, executive director of the Wyoming Rural Development Council, along with a team of economic and community development leaders at the University of West Alabama led by Ken Tucker and Ken Walker, came to Linden on May 3. The purpose of the visit was to conduct a community assessment through 50-minute listening sessions with citizens from a wide variety of community sectors. The Council and IDB identified and invited some 100 Lindenites, who are leaders in 13 different sectors of the community, to attend these listening sessions, which were open to the public. The community sectors include business-industry-retail, agriculture, economic and community development, healthcare and social services, real estate, banking, education, elected officials, churches, civic organizations, city government, senior citizens, high school and college students and parks and recreation.

The listening sessions and the first Town Hall meeting were a great success. Linden folks are really interested in joining in the effort it will take to see this plan through. The resource team, under the leadership of Mary Randolph, has completed its initial report based on the feedback they received in the listening sessions. The initial reports are due to be delivered to the Council and IDB within the next two weeks. The next phase of the planning and implementation of Linden&8217;s Strategic Plan for Community and Economic Development will be for the City Council and IDB to read and discuss the first round of recommendations from each of the resource team members. After that reading and discussion, the resource team will compile one final document, which will be made available to the public for their consideration prior to the final Town Hall meeting, led by Mary Randolph and the UWA Resource Team, which is tentatively scheduled for August 16. When the date is firmly set in stone, the City will widely publicize it so that all Linden citizens can make plans to attend.

What are some of the upcoming projects that you are most excited about?

I&8217;m extremely excited about Linden&8217;s soon-to-be appointed Youth Advisory Board and the role they will play in keeping the GROW Linden effort moving ahead once the strategic plan has been developed and implemented. This advisory board has actually already been named, but the official letter of notification has not yet been mailed to the students, so I&8217;m not at liberty to list the members of that board until they have all accepted. I would, however, like to thank Marengo Academy Headmaster John Holley and Linden High School Principal Timothy Thurman on behalf of the Council for their excellent recommendations. The Youth Advisory Board will consist of 12 students, four leaders from the 10th, 11th and 12th grades. One of their first tasks will be to offer their input and ideas for Linden&8217;s Web site, which is being developed as part of the GROW Linden effort.