JACKSONVILLE — Cooperation was the theme for a meeting of all of Calhoun County’s mayors Thursday as they each gave updates on their cities and towns.
The mayors of Anniston, Hobson City, Oxford, Jacksonville, Ohatchee, Piedmont and Weaver were all present for a “state of the cities” event at the Jacksonville Public Safety Complex Thursday. Hosted by the Calhoun County Chamber of Commerce, the event gave the mayors the chance to tell residents what's been happening in their communities. But it also exemplified a sense of cooperation the cities have developed in recent years to help the whole county, the mayors said.
About 40 people turned out for the public meeting. The current mayors regularly meet once every two months on their own at the chamber to discuss issues and city development.
“I recognize the importance of us getting together,” Anniston Mayor Jack Draper said at the gathering. “It underscores the importance of us working together, which makes it easier to achieve our goals.”
Wayne Willis, mayor of Weaver, also recognized the cooperation among the mayors.
“This is something we haven't experienced before in Calhoun County,” Willis said of the teamwork among the county’s municipalities. “We’re all working together.”
Alton Craft, who is in his first term as mayor of Oxford but has worked for the city as finance director for decades, said after the meeting that he’s seen cooperation between all the municipalities improve in recent years. For instance, he and his fellow mayors plan to visit Washington D.C. soon to request money to install more fiber optic cable in the area to improve Internet services.
Craft said it's much better for mayors in the county to cooperate to bring more development and opportunities to all residents, not just those living in certain cities.
“Everybody knows it’s a different world than it used to be,” Craft said of all the mayors. “It’s better to work together and share some of it than to lose all of it,” Craft said.
Jacksonville Mayor Johnny Smith said he’s seen an improvement in cooperation over previous city administrations.
“I think we all understand if we work together, it helps all of us,” Smith said.
The mayors also gave updates on recent and ongoing projects in their cities, from street paving in Weaver to new traffic lights in Jacksonville. All of them pointed to economic development as their top priorities.
Draper hinted that he would have announcements about new retail and industrial developments for his city next month.
Steve Baswell, mayor of Ohatchee, said his town was currently building a new ballpark. After it's finished, the plan is to possibly build a recreation center.
“The town of Ohatchee is alive and well and moving forward,” Baswell said.
Piedmont Mayor Bill Baker said his city is working to improve abatement issues by hiring a police officer solely to enforce city code.
“We’re hoping that will help clean up old eyesores,” Baker said.