It’s the “opening, generous, welcoming attitude of most of the people I’ve met,” said Laura Hutchinson, who moved to Anniston in December 2012.
By the end of Tuesday’s One City, One Vision public kickoff workshop, more than 130 cards hung from the gym wall in Norwood Hodges Community Center, displaying what participants treasure most about Anniston.
More than 200 people joined the session, where they were guided through exercises to express their priorities for the city’s future. Tuesday’s session built upon the work begun by nearly 200 people at the first session last week, said Ann Welch, chair of the 33-member volunteer steering committee for the city’s strategic plan.
“You are the ones who are going to help write the plan,” Welch said as she welcomed those gathered around folding tables, pencils in hand. “When it’s completed you’ll know you’ve had your part in it.”
As residents scribbled away with the guidance of volunteer leaders at each table, city leaders posted their most treasured pieces of the Model City on the wall.
“They want community input, what better way than to ask people what they treasure most?” said Jerry Adkins, president of the YMCA of Calhoun County, as he looked over the responses. “I think the residents want to tell their local government what they treasure most about this town.”
Turning toward the buzz of participants talking over their ideas, Adkins said Tuesday’s turnout shows people want to be heard.
“Every one of these comments will be documented and folded into the mix,” Welch said as she stood beside the wall of treasures.
The list included many common themes: the city’s rich history and diversity, its churches, the friendly attitude of its residents, its proximity to larger cities, the museums and its trees.
In big, bold letters, one card read, “We still have big dreams. We aren’t afraid to change if we can find a way.”
But the participants talked about more than what they hold dear. As representatives from the tables reported back to the larger group, they talked about critical areas for improvement.
Discipline, trust and communication in the school system, as well as the current question of re-allocating classroom space, made the list, as did concerns about the economy and jobs.
“We were talking about problems, but we were talking about the solutions at the same time,” Councilwoman Millie Harris told those in the room.
“With your help, we can really work for solutions to these problems,” Harris said. “This is not going to be any good if it’s not executed.”
Anniston residents still have one more chance to share their vision for the city. The last One City, One Vision community input session will take place Thursday at 6 p.m. at the Carver Community Center.
The process will continue in mid-November with a community summit, where consultants will report on what they learned from residents during the workshops and build volunteer action teams to work on particular issues. If all goes as expected, a draft strategic plan will be ready by January or February and a final plan completed by March or April.
Staff writer Paige Rentz: 256-235-3564. On Twitter @PRentz_Star.