Nearly a year later, I am happy to say that my opinion of teamwork between Walker County stakeholders has done an about-face.
With a limited two-year history in Walker County, I would even say that Friday’s unveiling of the Walker Area Community Foundation’s strategic plan was the most important event for the future economic growth and prosperity of this place we all affectionately call home.
I sat there Friday looking around the room at fellow stakeholders and realized that something special was happening. Mayors, city council members, county commissioners, schools superintendents, college officials, industry leaders, economic development folks and chamber members all shared the same excitement of unity, teamwork and commitment toward a better tomorrow.
We all took ownership in a common cause to make Walker County a better place in which to live, work and play.
The Foundation deserves a mountain of credit for taking on the challenge of facilitating a yearlong strategic planning project aided by Birmingham-based Clarus Consulting Group.
We talked. They listened. And listened some more.
The results of our interviews in recent months were not surprising. Yes, we are not healthy; Walker County is ranked 66th out of 67 counties. Yes, our children can be better prepared at a young age to be successful in the classroom. Yes, our young adults should have more career opportunities. Yes, our quality of life needs a shot in the arm.
And, yes, we need to be unified in a single vision of economic prosperity. We need to put aside petty differences for the overall good of Walker County. That was the common theme set Friday. And it was exhilarating.
I was amazed when listening to some of the great ideas that bounced off the partitioned walls at the Community Health System’s Activities Center like popping corn.
District 2 Commissioner Dan Wright commented at one table about how he’d like to open a two-sided outdoor drive-in theatre in Jasper. What a great idea for our youth, and I know some older folks would love it, too.
The Walker Area Community Foundation has already left an endearing mark on Walker County by spearheading the recovery effort following the April 2011 tornado outbreak. But its lead in bringing this community together will go down as perhaps its greatest accomplishment.
Let’s stay on board and enjoy the ride!
Jack McNeely is the publisher of the Daily Mountain Eagle and can be contacted by phone at 205-221-2840 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.