Praise for local leaders

By Gary Lloyd 

In days as implausible as these, as much as I have tried to avoid the vitriol on social media and television, I still was compelled to write. It’s what writers do during, well, any times, whether they be wild Wednesdays or mundane Mondays. If happenings are not written down, people forget. 

But — and if you’ve followed my writing for any length of time — you know I’m not rehashing the events of Jan. 6, 2021 and offering my two cents. So many opinions are scattered across this country already, like dead leaves across the woods, that I’m not sure another opinion is even worth two cents. I will just say this: the “leadership” on both sides of the political aisle is appalling. It has become schoolyard dustup rhetoric, in which one side hurls a verbal jab at the other, and in response the other side flings one back. I hate to liken a perfect movie to a gross political system, but remember that scene in the movie The Sandlot, when Hamilton Porter and Phillips from the other baseball team exchange in a pitiful game of name-calling? That’s our national “leaders.”

Pinson Valley High School (photo by Gary Lloyd)

So, as to the point of this post, I first wanted to say this: those national “leaders” don’t do much for me or the folks I know. I don’t know them. They don’t know me. I read their often bland statements on matters of national interest, which often don’t amount to a hill of beans. I sometimes listen to them speak, and I wonder if they are that passionate, or just enjoy hearing the sounds of their voices. In many cases, I believe it’s the latter. OK, I promise I’m now to the point of this post. I know a number of local leaders, and them me. I wanted to take just a few paragraphs to heap some praise on them while the national “leaders” continue to fling mud at each other.

In Pinson, Alabama, I’ve sat with former Mayor Hoyt Sanders for an interview about the city’s bicentennial celebration, and I watched him beam with pride. New Mayor Joe Cochran, who posts to Facebook every feel-good Pinson-related item he can find, agreed to talk about his city on an infant podcast with a former full-time journalist turned freelancer. 

There is pride in Pinson. 

In Clay, Alabama, City Councilwoman Becky Johnson has congratulated me on a job I once was hired for, calling it a “dream job.” The city manager, Ronnie Dixon, as if there wasn’t enough on his plate already, ran for a Jefferson County Board of Education seat, because serving is in his nature. He is now the president of that board. The city’s mayor, Charles Webster, started a masonry program at Clay-Chalkville High School to teach students a valuable skill, and to also instruct on managing and working with people. 

There is caring in Clay.

Clay-Chalkville High School (photo by Gary Lloyd)

In Trussville, Alabama, where I have spent most of my time, I have seen former Mayor Gene Melton publicize his cellphone number for more than 20,000 residents, and I have heard that thing ring constantly. And I’ve seen him answer it every time. I’ve taken photos as Alabama House of Representatives Rep. Danny Garrett and Alabama Sen. Shay Shelnutt, both from Trussville, got soaked in a dunking booth behind a Chick-fil-A to raise money for a breast cancer foundation. 

I’ve received emails from the current mayor, Buddy Choat, asking me to serve on a couple volunteer committees, and I know he’s sending those to other Trussville residents, too, because he knows that passionate volunteers can help steer the ship in the right direction. 

Councilman Alan Taylor has always taken time to explain city issues thoroughly, in a stuffy council chamber or in the cold November breeze. Former Councilman Zack Steele has always done the same. Former Councilman Brian Plant served on the Trussville City Council for 20 years, two decades of night meetings, ordinance reviews, liquor license approvals and thousands of other tedious jobs. Councilman Perry Cook is one of the most thoughtful city leaders I’ve ever met. 

Councilwoman Lisa Bright I do not know very well, but she has told me she has a teachable spirit and a servant’s heart, attributes that led her to run for office. Councilman Ben Short resigned his position as a Trussville police officer just so he could serve on the city council, a role that does not exactly pay the bills. I’ve sat with Councilwoman Jaime Melton Anderson at a Trussville Historical Committee meeting, when she was introduced to us as the committee’s liaison, and she hit the ground running on ways she and the city council could help. She typed out notes quicker than a court stenographer.

Trussville City Hall (photo by Gary Lloyd)

There is truthfulness in Trussville. 

Upon the August 2020 election of the next Trussville City Council — Taylor, Cook, Melton Anderson, Short and Bright — I spoke with all five for a story in the Cahaba Sun. These words from Melton Anderson stand out even more today: “I’m excited to work with everybody,” she said. “I think we have a good mix of experience and newcomers, and I like that. That is a good way to make sure that we’re looking at all angles of an issue.” 

Excited to work with all members of the council? Liking experience and newcomers? Looking at all angles of an issue? 

That’s how it should be. I’m glad some haven’t forgotten it. 

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