A Project for Students and Citizens

Linden: Week Eight

In Linden on July 18, 2012 at 4:13 pm

Blake Evans is living democracy in Linden, Alabama.  Originally from Deatsville, he is a junior majoring in communications in the College of Liberal Arts at Auburn University.  Living Democracy is a yearlong collaboration between students and citizens on issues that matter to local communities.

Having been born and raised in Deatsville, Alabama, a very small town in rural Elmore County, I thought I knew everything there was to know about small town life.  However, living in Linden this summer has introduced me to a culture that is uniquely separate from anything I have known.  Immersing myself in Linden  has provided me the opportunity to experience exactly how the city operates, the role that citizens play in molding Linden’s culture, and, also, I feel that my Living Democracy projects that allowed me to gain a good understanding of the direction the city is heading in the future.

Since I have lived in Linden for an extended period of time, I have had an opportunity to really discover how the city functions.  To do this, I have often found myself thinking outside the box.  For example, I spent June 11th reading water meters with the Department of Public Works.  Public Works supplies water and utilities to Linden.  Also, they cut the grass and keep the city beautiful throughout the year so it has eye appeal to passing visitors.  They work very hard daily, and without their dedicated efforts the city of Linden would not be able to function.  Mayor Mitzi Gates told me that the Department of Public Works is “vital to every aspect of life in the city of Linden.”

Furthermore, my position as a Living Democracy student has allowed me to meet many dedicated citizens who have kept the city running smoothly, and they are each uniquely seeking to advance it.  I could name numerous citizens that are bettering Linden with their work.  A couple of people that I have had the privilege to talk to extensively are Mike Peppenhorst and James Creel.  As part of my Living Democracy experience, I have written profile stories on each of these gentlemen.

Peppenhorst is currently working to restore an old antebellum house that sits on Linden’s Main Street.  He saved the house just before a control burn was about to be conducted.  Slowly but surely, Peppenhorst is molding the house back to its original, beautiful form.  By doing so, he is polishing a gem in Lindens beautiful landscape.

James Creel is Linden’s current Fire Chief and Marengo County’s Bookmobile driver.  Creel has spent the majority of his life serving Linden.  He has huge shoes to fill because of the fact that his father, Brady Creel, is also a long-time public servant of Linden’s.  Brady Creel served in many positions, but he was most popular as Linden’s Fire Chief, and that fact is evident because the current fire station now boasts his name for all to see.  James Creel is determined to put in over one hundred years of combined service between him and his dad.  He said they are currently at ninety-seven.  Just as his father has, he has dedicated his life to improving Linden in as many ways as he can.

One particular experience that has made my time in Linden unique is the fact that I have spent many hours working in Linden City Hall.  I have personally witnessed the fact that much of the city’s communication between citizens and government officials occurs here.  Since I started working in Linden, I have found that a great place for me to set up my laptop and other work gear is in the Linden’s Secretary’s office.

Having worked alongside the secretary, Bruce Ward, for many weeks, I have had an opportunity to see and hear the good, bad, and the ugly.  Ward encounters and talks to many people on a day-to-day basis.  Citizens call or come to Ward to pay their bills and express other general concerns that may have.  These encounters can often be very interesting.  I expressed in great detail this fact in my week five reflection.  Ward has told me that despite the fact his job can often be crazy, it is fun.  My time sitting beside Ward has shown me that citizens really do use Linden’s City Hall as an avenue of communication, more so than any other way.  In Linden, if someone wants to speak to the mayor or any other city official or employee, they simply start by calling City Hall.  That is the first step in creating official civic talks in Linden.

Living in Linden has also given me the knowledge to make a very informed inference about the prosperity of Linden in the future.  As aforementioned, Linden has the most essential asset that any city needs to have a great future: a willing and dedicated citizenry.  Mike Peppenhorst and James Creel are two excellent examples of citizens who are leading the way for Linden.  Also, the fact that citizens are engaging themselves in communication with City Hall indicates that they want to have input in the future of the town.

Finally, my Living Democracy project has allowed me to study the infrastructure of the town.  Not only does Linden have an active citizenry, but it is also primed for economic growth.  Linden sits in the center of places such as Birmingham, Montgomery, and Meridian Mississippi.  Moreover, the Tombigbee and Black Warrior Rivers provide easy access to the port of Mobile.  Furthermore, Linden’s industrial park offers a large amount of land to potential businesses, and it has railroads on the north and south sides.  All of these characteristics make Linden’s future industrial and business opportunity very promising.

My time in Linden has caused me to realize that Linden can become greater than I originally thought.  Though problems exist in Linden, such as race and economic issues, I have seen the tremendous impressions that a few determined citizens have had on Linden.  Despite popular thought, the best for the city is yet to come because barriers are being broken down every day.  For example, last year Linden’s football field made headlines because it was at the center of a racial dispute that appeared to be tearing the town in half.  However, this week, on July 11, the City Council will have a special called meeting to possibly purchase the field and end the debate.  This is a step in the right direction.  It has been a difficult year, but through much deliberation a successful end is near.

Linden is steadily progressing, and I hope I have played a role in its achievement.  My Living Democracy projects have been shaped by the community’s hopes and dreams, and they are designed to express the community’s voice.  The completion of the projects is near, and I hope the end result will help Linden work for the common good.  The exploratory photography project should excite the students in Linden to become involved in the future of their city.  Also, the promotional DVD should express the community’s assets in such a way that benefits all citizens.  I fully expect my Living Democracy experience to continue to be a success, and I hope the results continue to be a reflection of the community’s incredible efforts.


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