‘Miss Hazel’ just full of surprises

Published 12:00 am Saturday, February 6, 2010

Serving on the Andalusia City Council has been an educational experience for the group’s only female member in recent history.

“I wasn’t aware the city was involved in so much,” Hazel Griffin said this week. “It’s rewarding to realize the city helps with so many things, like the cemeteries.”

The stylish great-grandmother is proud of all that the city does for its citizens.

“Sometimes as people are calling me about something, they’ll say, ‘Wait a minute Mrs. Griffin. Never mind. The city just pulled up.’

“We have some of the finest people who work for the city and they really do care. They take it on themselves to see about things. They don’t wait around about getting things done,” she said.

Still, she believes council members have an obligation to keep track of what’s going on in their districts and to communicate problems to the appropriate city departments.

“We really have to be in our territory,” she said. “I really feel that.”

She also thinks elected officials need to stay in touch with the people who elected them.

“I call them my customers,” she said of the residents who live in her district.

It’s not uncommon for her to get phone calls, or be stopped in public with questions, she said. Often, people come to her with issues that aren’t in her district.

“I just say, ‘I’ll see what I can do,’ ” she said.

She makes it a habit to check out complaints she receives before calling a city employee. She’s worked closely with the city’s planning and development department to address problems in her district.

Earlier this week, the council was asked to proceed with abatements on properties that weren’t in compliance with local ordinances. At least one property owner had already threatened to sue the city if his property were abated and there was some reluctance among some council members.

The sole female member of the council did not hesitate.

“We’ve got to get this done,” she told the others in the group’s workshop meeting Tuesday night. “Andy (Wiggins) and his group have done a great job moving this forward.”

The council voted unanimously to proceed. They’ve been told to expect additional properties to be brought into the abatement process at each meeting for the next few months.

Reflecting on the issue Friday, Griffin said, “Too much time and effort had gone into it already. When you see the actual pictures, there is no argument against it.”

She doesn’t want to be hurtful, she said, but believes property owners must be accountable and do what’s right.

She’s enjoyed working with Mayor Earl Johnson and other council members, she said.

“I think the world of our leader,” she said. “I think it’s a special thing we’ve got going and it’s not by accident. I pray for our mayor and council every day.”

Twenty months ago, on the night votes in the 2008 city election were being tabulated, most candidates were in city hall waiting for returns. Griffin was attending a mission group meeting at her church. When it was over, she drove past city hall, but decided not to stop.

“I was sure I hadn’t won,” she said. “The next morning, I heard on the radio I had won by one vote, but that it could be contested.”

She assumed again she wouldn’t be elected.

But as she was reading her devotion, she realized she was wrong.

“It was like I heard the Lord say, ‘Hazel, it only takes one vote,’ ” she said. “I knew then where my place was and it was time for me to start doing something like this.”

In many ways, the work has been a God-send, keeping her busy as she has adjusted to life without her late husband, Kervin.

“I didn’t know this was my calling,” she said.