Area leaders graduate from Your Town Alabama
Area leaders attended the Your Town Alabama Designing Our Future Workshop at Camp McDowell in late August to learn strategies to strengthen communities in Walker County.
The 19th annual workshop was held Aug. 30-Sept. 1 in Nauvoo. People from across the state of Alabama came together and were divided into groups to develop a strategic plan for a hypothetical town, which taught them about the many resources available for revitalization of smaller communities.
Attendees also heard from guest speakers and industry leaders who provide grants and beneficial programs to help cities and towns prosper.
In attendance from Walker County was Walker County Youth Advocacy Program Director Aaron, Bevill State Community College Director of Public Relations Tana Collins, City of Jasper Parks and Recreation Director Peter Cosmiano, Cordova Police Chief Nick Smith and Walker College Foundation Executive Director Holly Trawick. Collins and Aaron were given scholarships through Alabama Communities of Excellence to attend Your Town Alabama.
Walker Area Community Foundation Executive Director Paul Kennedy and City of Cordova Mayor Drew Gilbert are both on the Your Town Alabama Board of Directors.
A press release from Your Town Alabama states, “Your Town Alabama is a direct response to the uncertain future of Alabama’s small towns — a future increasingly threatened by large scale changes in our economy, population shifts, the impact of telecommunications and mass merchandising, and changes in land policy.
“In the face of these forces, communities have found themselves struggling to maintain their vitality and even their sense of identity. Whether the threat is sudden growth or stagnation, planning and design decisions can often make the difference between survival and decay, between healthy prosperity and decline.”
Collins said she learned to further appreciate the value of teamwork at Your Town Alabama.
“Your Town is an extremely enriching experience for anyone that wants to foster innovation and growth in their community. It brought together individuals from throughout the state from all walks of life — elected officials, planners, economic recruiters, community organizers and concerned citizens,” Collins said. “One of the greatest lessons I took away from the program came from the group project. My group with filled with strong personalities from diverse backgrounds. Rather than this being a hindrance, we all listened and learned from one another, building upon our different backgrounds to achieve a common goal.”
Trawick added, “The program introduces people with a variety of skill sets and tasks them with creating a plan for a stronger, healthier town. … Everyone in the group is able to offer experiences from their own careers and communities to the discussion. You learn so much from those different perspectives. At the end of three days, you walk away with new knowledge and a different way of looking at economic development, and a group of new friends.”
State Rep. Tim Wadsworth, R-Arley, visited Your Town Alabama this year and has pledged to help others attend next year’s workshop.
“Next year we need a community person from Arley, Addison, Double Springs, Lynn, Nauvoo, Eldridge, Kansas, Carbon Hill, Townley, Oakman, Parrish, Cordova, Corner and Bagley to attend,” Wadsworth said in a Facebook post. “The cost is about $250 for [each] person, which covers two nights and food. Next year I will be happy to sponsor one community leader from each town to participate to bring back ideas.”
Aaron said Your Town was a valuable experience for her, as well.
“Your Town was an inspiring experience with community members of all ages, backgrounds and ideas. I look forward to working with my community to create positive change and experiences available for all of us,” Aaron said.
To register for next year’s workshop and to join other Your Town graduates from Walker County, visit www.yourtownalabama.com/workshop/.