A Project for Students and Citizens

Hobson City: Week Eight

In Hobson City on July 30, 2012 at 1:59 pm

Marian Royston is living democracy in Hobson City, Alabama.  Originally from Roanoke, Alabama, she is a senior majoring in history at Auburn University. Living Democracy is a yearlong collaboration between students and citizens on issues that matter to local communities.

Looking back on my initial impressions of Hobson City now after having spent eight weeks here, I now realize I had barely scratched the surface of this complex and unique municipality before I arrived. While I still believe in the validity of some of my first observations, I also believe that I was only seeing one side of a multifaceted puzzle. Hobson City is a town striving to shake off the shadows of the past and step into a brighter future, but the journey to where the town is now, on the road to progress, has not been simple nor has the process been linear. Additionally, the work has not been the effort of a single party, group or entity. Hobson City’s progress has come from the work of dedicated individuals from all different walks of life and perspectives.

Everything I knew about Hobson City in the beginning came from the point of view of my community partners, the Hobson City Community and Economic Development Corporation (HCCEDC). Everything I learned from them was wonderful introductory information for the community, and all of it proved to be true once I arrived. At the same time, however, I made new discoveries about Hobson City.  Sometimes we have to experience things to truly understand the situation.  Additionally, there were some limitations because everyone I talked to has their own unique perspective on this historic place. As an outsider, I have no such limitations, and I have been free to roam the town and speak with a wide array of individuals. What I’ve found is that a single person, place, thing or idea can have a radically different meaning for different individuals.

My partners with HCCEDC are driven and ambitious with their plans to improve economic opportunities in Hobson City. The HCCEDC has a strategic plan that they have been tirelessly pursuing since their inception in 2007. There are other individuals in town who care just as much as my partners about the welfare and future of Hobson City, but they have taken different approaches in their work. I also learned that there are different values among the citizenry. Some want an industrial base in the town and more businesses. Others are very concerned about preserving the town’s historic and cultural heritage. I fully believe that it is possible to marry these two values with proper planning and have the best of both worlds.

Through my work in the community, I have a newfound respect for my community partners as well as everyone who is working to enact change in town. There are barriers that must be broken down in order to find success, and they do not move easily. There are internal and external factors working against Hobson City. One major obstacle is a pervasive wall of hopelessness that must be battled daily by the town’s developers. Additionally, there is a divide between the town’s leading change agents.  Although the end goal for everyone is a better Hobson City, there is disagreement over the best means to that end as well as who over who should lead the effort.   Work to bridge the divisions is a crucial step that could bring concerned citizens together to be much more effective, in my opinion.

After being here for nearly an entire summer, I have a greater understanding of what the community needs. The most important need is for unity among the town’s leadership. There is also a need for recreational outlets for everyone, but especially youth. Also, citizens need to become more engaged with civic life. Many people are just content to let life pass them by without taking control of anything.

I strongly believe Hobson City is going to survive. The town’s history reveals strength among the citizenry that has helped them weather one storm after another for more than a century. I think my prescence here has helped to reinvigorate civic life to a small extent. Everyone has been excited to discuss what he or she thinks the town needs and what they are proud of.  I hope the discussions I have had will help citizens realize that they have to fight for what they deserve.  There is a lot of work to be done in Hobson City to restore the town to its former glory, but the work is well worth it. I believe everything can only improve in Hobson City, but it will take the continued persistence of concerned, hardworking people to make the hopes and dreams of the community become a reality.

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