A Project for Students and Citizens

Living Democracy at Your Town Alabama

In Uncategorized on June 11, 2012 at 3:52 pm

Seven students participating in the Auburn University Living Democracy project took a short detour from their summer work in Alabama communities to attend the 2012 Your Town Alabama conference May 29 to June 1. They, along with Living Democracy co-director Nan Fairley, joined civic and community leaders from across the state at the conference held at Camp McDowell in Nauvoo, Ala.

The Living Democracy students gained technical advice, inspiration, and hands-on training related to community planning and design decisions. Keynote speakers, including Cheryl Morgan, director of Auburn University’s Urban Studio’s Small Town Design Initiative, and Nisa Miranda, director of the University of Alabama’s Center for Economic Development, inspired students.

The Living Democracy group also enjoyed the opportunity to make deeper connections with citizens and civic leaders from across the state at Your Town, including Living Democracy community partners Jim Jones and Martha Cato of Valley, Mayor Mitzi Gates of Linden and Mayor Mickey Murdock and Mart Gray of Elba.  The students are now back in their host communities armed with new information and invigorated passion for creating positive change.  The group hopes to return to Your Town Alabama 2013 to share their own stories of community engagement.

In their own words, hear what Living Democracy students had to say about Your Town Alabama 2012.

Angela Cleary, Living Democracy in Bayou La Batre

“We heard a number of case studies, two of which were from Living Democracy’s friends, Mayor Mitzi Gates from Linden, and Jim Jones with Martha Cato from Valley. These connections reminded me how important it is to network. Knowing and keeping in contact with other motivated, positive thinkers across the state is beneficial, regardless.  The retreat allowed us to return to our communities with a heightened sense of awareness on the importance of planning to long-term economic viability and promoting the “feel good” emotion a successful small town can provide.”

Mary Afton Day, Living Democracy in Marion

“Who knew two and one-half days of no cell phone service, no Internet and a room full of concerned citizens could be so fun? Well, I didn’t at first but I can tell you by noon on June 1, I did. As a 2012 Your Town graduate, I learned that failure is the best ingredient for progress, and I am not the only one seeking change in Alabama.  So many times we fail to realize how close we as change-seekers are to one another—we are neighbors. I gained hope that my energy will not dissolve as years pass because I have neighbors who will support me.  I accept that failure is part of the game.  It is a process, and I am proud of what I am doing, what Living Democracy is doing.”

Blake Evans, Living Democracy in Linden

“I want to learn more about how communities and cities function, and this conference taught me a lot in those areas from just listening to the conversations that my group had. The hands-on aspect of Your Town cemented some really important ideas in my mind that will prove beneficial throughout my Linden Living Democracy experience and then well beyond.”

Andrew Odom, Living Democracy in Selma/Old Cahawba

“We strongly need to reacquaint ourselves with what makes our state unique and build upon that. We are Alabama, and do not need to try to replicate anyone else in order to be successful and attract tourists. People love our state for who we are, and we need to work to bring out that character! Through the many hours of brainstorming and discussion options with people from all over the state and all different backgrounds I was able to learn many unique viewpoints and ways of looking at a community and defining assets and what the community can do to highlight those assets.”

Audrey Ross, Living Democracy in Valley

Networking and chatting with city planners, architects, and other individuals who are an important part of their community was one of the best aspects of this experience. As I was driving back to Valley, I started to notice things that I hadn’t thought about before: the lack of sidewalks, local businesses, landscaping. I realized that I learned that small things like this have a huge impact on the community, and I began to think of ways to fix them. I am glad that I can take the things that I learned at Your Town to Valley this summer. I hope that I can incorporate some of these lessons into my project, and do all I can for the citizens of Valley, Alabama.

Marian Royston, Living Democracy in Hobson City

“I find it refreshing to know that I’m joining a movement, rather than blazing a new trail. Your Town gave me a glimpse of what it’s like to work towards revitalizing a community. Nothing is beyond repair. That’s what I learned. As long as I employ patience, everything will fall into place. Assets-based planning is of utmost importance to a state like Alabama. If we take our positive attributes and enhance them, the solution to our other troubles may very well lie therein. I will most definitely keep everything I learned at Your Town close in mind as I continue my work in Hobson City.”

Alexis Sankey, Living Democracy in Elba

“I really liked the fact that I was able to meet different professionals at Your Town. It’s kind of enjoyable to think that you could go just about anywhere in the state of Alabama and know someone who matters within range of your location. I received several invitations to visit these small towns and cities at the end of the retreat. It’s very interesting how powerful networking can be. Your Town is a true example of that.“

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