Mayor, nonprofit president at odds
by Eddie Burkhalter
eburkhalter@annistonstar.com
Oct 02, 2013 | 3344 views |  0 comments | 44 44 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Eric Stringer talks about a pavilion that will be constructed at J. R. Striplin Park in Hobson City.  (Photo by Trent Penny/The Anniston Star)
Eric Stringer talks about a pavilion that will be constructed at J. R. Striplin Park in Hobson City. (Photo by Trent Penny/The Anniston Star)
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Alberta McCrory checks the posted results of 2012 runoff election for Hobson City mayor Tuesday. McCrory captured more than 59 percent of the vote to win a second term. (Anniston Star photo by Stephen Gross)
Alberta McCrory checks the posted results of 2012 runoff election for Hobson City mayor Tuesday. McCrory captured more than 59 percent of the vote to win a second term. (Anniston Star photo by Stephen Gross)
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HOBSON CITY – Work begun last week on a pavilion in the public park here is the latest example of a strained relationship between the mayor and a nonprofit president.

Both say they want to help a town that’s been in economic decline for decades, but the two are often at odds and agree that communication between them is lacking.

Mayor Alberta McCrory said Wednesday that she had asked Eric Stringer’s nonprofit, the Hobson City Community and Economic Development Corporation, to hold off on building the pavilion out of concern from nearby residents about noise that could come from gatherings there.

Stringer said that holding off on something that’s good for the town makes no sense. He said the $38,000 project is funded by donations from local business and not taxpayer money.

Four freshly-poured concrete footings mark the pavilion’s footprint. Work is to resume there in the coming weeks.

Stringer works as the community and external affairs liaison at Gadsden State Community College in Anniston. The Development Corporation began in 2009, and most recently spent about $300,000 renovating the J.R. Striplin Park in Hobson City, Stringer said.

Speaking of the relationship between the nonprofit, McCrory and the council, Striplin said invitations by his group to connect everyone involved have gone unanswered.

“They don’t come to our meetings,” Stringer said. “We invite them, but they don’t come.”

Stringer said the mayor and council often find out about his group’s projects after they’ve begun.

“They get a little upset about that, but it’s because they won’t show up,” Stringer said.

McCrory said Wednesday that as elected officials, they shouldn’t have to go to Stringer’s meetings. The group should come to city leaders.

“We have a responsibility to this community. Not to them,” McCrory said.

“I don’t give a hoot about coming back another four years after this,” she added. “Their definition of a partnership is, this is what I want done, and this is how I want to do it.”

The chill between McCrory and Stringer doesn’t stem from running against each other in the 2012 mayoral race, both said. McCrory won reelection in a runoff that year against Stringer with 59.3 percent of the votes.

Stringer said there were problems between him and McCrory before the last election.

“It has nothing to do with the election. Quite simply, it’s progress,” Stringer said.

Stringer said his group is making progress, and the town’s current administration has made little. He believes McCrory and the council resent what his group has done, and said “if they’d just come to the table we could all work together.”

Troubles between the two go even further back than that, McCrory explained, to when she ran against Stringer’s father, J.L. Stringer, twice for mayor in previous decades.

McCrory said she battled with Stringer’s father just as Stringer is battling with her today, but “in the end his father and I became very good friends.”

Beyond the differences, both Stringer and McCrory agree that turning the town around from economic hardship will require help from residents.

“They must get involved in the process,” Stringer said.

McCrory echoed those words, saying “we’re going to start having public hearings.”

If the residents aren’t ready for change, they’re not going to fully participate, McCrory explained. City leaders will ask for community input on issues facing the town, McCrory said. The first hearing is being planned for November.

They also agree on the need for housing in a community where too many homes sit abandoned and unlivable.

“We know that that’s definitely one way to rebuild this community, is to build houses,” McCrory said.

Members of Stringer’s group recently traveled to Opelika to tour a housing project run by a nonprofit organization. They plan to do the same in Hobson City, Stringer said.

Asked if those plans have been discussed with McCrory, Stringer said no.

At least one council member expressed pleasure over the work done by Stringer’s nonprofit.

“As long as you can get us something here, I don’t care who brings it,” said Councilman Joe Cunningham. He said he passed the park Saturday and saw that it was filled with kids and their parents.

“Maybe everybody isn’t like me, but that’s my feeling,” Cunningham said.

Staff writer Eddie Burkhalter: 256-235-3563. On Twitter @Burkhalter_Star.

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