Let’s try saying ‘yes’ this time

Published 12:31 am Saturday, February 22, 2014

Editor’s note: Florala Mayor Robert Williamson was unable to attend Thursday night’s Zoning Board meeting, but he sent this statement, which was read by his wife, Kim.

It is reprinted here in its entirety, with his permission.


Thank you for attending tonight’s public hearing. Your presence is indicative of a desire to learn more information concerning Serendipity and the impact it could have on your neighborhood and our community. I apologize for my absence, but it is symbolic of one of the many reasons, I believe we should approve of Gabriela Engels’ request to rezone property in District 3.

robert williamsonI am not here this evening because I have to work hundreds of miles away to bring home enough money to pay for household expenses and day to day living. The Florala tax base has suffered for years due to a lack of jobs and businesses. I don’t mind acknowledging that WKWL, my Florala-based radio station, makes $140 a month off Florala businesses. Obviously, that is not enough to function for even a few days. Therefore, I am forced to seek work elsewhere to live. Many Florala natives who still reside here are forced to do the same and, unfortunately, many have had to seek employment AND residence elsewhere as a result of our few vocational opportunities. Serendipity offers a chance for a number of local residents to gain employment; visitors to residents of the facility will spend money; maybe some of the participants in the program will like our community and want to come back and otherwise vacant buildings will be occupied, all positives for our local economy.

I have heard concerns about the individuals, themselves, who would be seeking treatment. The key part of that phrase is THEY WILL BE SEEKING treatment. These are not court-appointed villains ready to wreak havoc on a community, but people who admit they have a problem and have volunteered to do something about it, even, in many instances, spending their own money to do so. There is not a neighborhood in our city that is void of a drug or alcohol addict who WON’T admit to a problem. Here are individuals who WANT to change their lives. I do not believe they will be a threat to our local society.

Local folklore has it that Florala told a military base, that now thrives near Enterprise, NO. In the 80s, we said NO to a prison system which now generates millions of dollars for the local economy in the Florida panhandle. Less than a decade ago, too many NOs prompted a hotel to locate in Opp, a facility that would have perpetuated growth in so many ways in Florala. Let’s learn from those NOs and say YES to Serendipity, the future of Florala may just be dependent upon it. Thank You.