Incoming Anniston council members get off to a congenial start
by Laura Camper
Nov 02, 2012 | 3921 views |  0 comments | 12 12 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Members of the next Anniston City Council met Thursday at the Anniston Aquatic Center. (Anniston Star photo by Bill Wilson)
Members of the next Anniston City Council met Thursday at the Anniston Aquatic Center. (Anniston Star photo by Bill Wilson)
They weren’t quite singing “Getting to Know You,” but members of the incoming Anniston City Council strove for harmony Thursday afternoon on the first day of a goal-setting retreat.

Held at the Anniston Aquatic and Fitness Center at McClellan, the retreat found the members learning a little more about each other and about working together.

The event was primarily organized by Mayor-elect Vaughn Stewart and his priorities were evident in matters covered: Jim Byard, director of Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs and former mayor of Prattville, talked about his experiences as mayor and Attorney William Stewart spoke to them about teamwork.

Today’s second-day agenda includes smart budgeting and management by objective.

The topics mirror the mayor-elect’s campaign platform of creating a strategic plan for the city and using that to manage the city’s resources. All of the members campaigned on being part of a more respectful council and there was plenty of talk about how to do that by both speakers.

Guest speaker William Stewart spoke to the council members about some of the dos and don’ts of political diplomacy. Do be respectful. Deal with personal disagreements with the other council member in person and out of the public eye. Be patient.

Don’t ambush your fellow council members in a meeting. Don’t use block voting to get what you want. Don’t use personal attacks.

“My antennas say that citizens in Anniston expected more civil and productive government,” Stewart said. “That’s one of the reasons why there are four brand new faces in this body and one who’s still way in the honeymoon.”

The news of Anniston’s battling council last term didn’t stay in Anniston, and as Byard pointed out, if it were to happen again, outsiders would hear of it again. Byard, who lives 100 miles from Anniston, knew about the altercation between Mayor Gene Robinson and former Councilman John Spain that ended in Spain’s arrest for assault because he read about it online. Business owners who are investigating sites to settle may also be reading it, Byard said.

“If they read that it’s just absolute contentiousness, you may never even know they were thinking about putting an investment in your community because they probably are going to look elsewhere,” Byard said.

But what the incoming council members wanted to know from Byard, who helped successfully develop Prattville’s downtown and shopping areas, was how he carried out that project.

First, Byard explained, Prattville created a comprehensive master plan by having lots of public meetings, having committees all steered by area residents, business and civic leaders. Then the city started researching how to bring that plan to fruition including talking to retailers and businesses about what it would take to attract them to the city, Byard said. If a company chooses to settle somewhere else after exploring your city, ask them why, he said.

“Most of the time they will be very honest with you about the reasoning,” Byard said.

You might be able to use that information to fix the issues or to highlight other things that might give a similar benefit the next time around, he said.

The council retreat will continue today at 11 a.m. at the Aquatic and Fitness Center. The third day’s activities will take place at city hall.

Staff writer Laura Camper: 256-235-3545. On Twitter @LCamper_Star.

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