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Gates hopes to plant ‘seeds’

A project that culminated with the last year’s strategic development plan for the city of Linden could get a boost when Mitzi Gates takes office Monday. The “Grow Linden” project identified several key goals the city should strive to meet for economic growth.

Administered by the University of West Alabama through a state grant, the project gave Linden officials a five-year projection for accomplishing such tasks as creating a website, start a promotion campaign for downtown businesses and form a chamber of commerce.

“Dr. Ken Walker, with small business and community development at UWA was able to bring in Mary Randolph, who specializes in rural planning,” said Gates, who served on the council as a member until being elected mayor in August. “She is the one who came and put the whole ‘Grow Linden’ town hall meeting together. It was amazing. I had never been apart of anything like that. It was a series of meetings where everyone in the town had the opportunity to voice their views of what they would like to see Linden become.

“All day long we had a panel of folks who listened to what the citizens of this town had to say about Linden’s strengths and weaknesses. It was very interesting to see what they thought,” Gates recalled.

The result was the strategic plan.

“It was a plan this community came up with. To me that was the greatest accomplishment — that we had enough people who cared about what was going on,” said Gates.

One major goal of the project has already been met. A website for the city was created earlier this year by Don Woddard at Alabama State.

Lindenalabama.net features information about upcoming events, links to city officials, information about Linden and the business community, health services, churches, industry and even the local weather. It also allows people the ability to pay traffic fines and their utility bills online.

“This has been a tremendous asset to our city,” said Gates. “Bruce (utility clerk) does a great job keeping it updated.”

Now the task facing Gates is how to implement the rest plan over her term in office.

“We need to come back and reexamine the plan and the timing for some of the goals.” said Gates.

One of the goals in the plan calls for walking trails for seniors. “Senior citizens really want to see a walking trail and I want to work towards that,” said Gates. “We really want to focus improving our parks, and so much has already been done with Austin Park and Scott Park. Adding a walking trail would be a great addition for the seniors.”

Some of the other goals in the plan calls for expanding city youth activities and entertainment options in Linden, rid the community of dilapidated buildings and houses, identify state and private funding sources to aid with community development and create a 24 hour day care.

A complete list of goals can be found on Linden’s website at www.lindenalabama.net.

One major objective is to create an economic development authority. “We are working with Debra Fox (director of the Marengo County Economic Development Authority) to bring Linden, the city’s industrial development board and the economic development authority together to see some industrial and business growth come to our area,” said Gates. “I believe that is going to happen. This sense of partnership is amazing…it’s been such a dream of so many people.”

Gates said she believes Linden has one tremendous asset many people tend to overlook — it’s location. “A lot of people would say we are smack dab in the middle of no where, but in reality we are smack dab in the middle of wherever you want to go,” she said. “We are situated on the crossroads of two major highways and are within a two hours drive of Mobile, Montgomery, and Birmingham — in a perfect location for a lot of business opportunities.”

Gates said, while she hopes to accomplish many of the objectives in the plan while in office, the time frame when some objectives are met over others my vary.

“Some of these objectives are already being implemented in one form or another, or heading that way,” said Gates. “It’s important that we continue the work that began with the town meetings to make Linden a better place to live and work and help the city grow.”

Gates will be sworn in, along with the new city council Monday, Nov. 2 at city hall.

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