Published 1:28 am Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Officials: Change, big projects on horizon in new year here

Covington County residents – like all Americans- will see changes in 2017.

Nowhere will that be more evident than in politics.

“It is going to be a transition year – both in federal and state government,” Rep. Mike Jones, R-Andalusia, said. “We have a president coming in that is going to create a lot of trickle down change. Right now, we’re waiting to see if it’s going to be good change.

“The best example for Alabamians is Jeff Sessions. Assuming he is going to be confirmed as attorney general, we are already seeing the trickle-down effect of that,” he said.

President-elect Donald Trump has tapped Sen. Sessions to serve as attorney general. Already, people are lining up to compete for his U.S. Senate seat, and the appointment and or eventual election of his replacement is expected to open other political offices.

“There are also leadership role changes at the state level,” Jones said. “We’re having to confront some issues that we’ve kicked down the road for too long. Prisons is one of them.”

When the legislature convenes in February, the House will be led by a new speaker, Mac McCutcheon. The House elected a new leader after former House Speaker Mike Hubbard’s felony conviction for corruption automatically removed him from office in June.

“Any time you have these changes, you have new variables, and new responses to variables,” Jones said. “As we head into this transition year, some are scared of change, and some motivated by it. Overall, it’s a good thing.”

Local economic development efforts will focus on food processing in 2017, Covington County Economic Development Commission President Rick Clifton said.

“What we want to do is see what we are good at, what we can attract and what the best way to go about getting them is,” he said.

“We want to find out what we do in Covington County and what we can do and what types of food processing we can attract,” he said. “That includes foods, animals – everything.”

Clifton said they want to focus on what the county can do well.

“We want to also focus on our workforce,” he said. “That’s a big concern for everyone who wants to locate here – the size of the workforce and the education they have. We plan to work with the junior college and the aviation college to have an educated workforce.”


Clifton said he is looking forward to working with the new administrations. While Andalusia returned all of its elected officials to office, there is new leadership of the county commission, on the Opp council, and on the Florala council.

“We have reached out to our small councils to see what we can do for them,” he said. “Our area has weathered the bad times a lot better than a lot of rural areas. We are thankful for that.”

County Commission Chairman Greg White said that with the recent announcement that Sitel would close its Sanford facility, he is reminded of the importance of jobs for the county.

“We hope to see oilfield jobs come back strong because our county has so many families that are dependent on them,” he said. “But we also have to recruit new jobs and opportunities in the coming year.”

Andalusia Mayor Earl Johnson likes to talk about Red Letter Days in Andalusia. He expects many of them in new year.

“I think 2017 will be a Red Letter Year for Andalusia,” he said. “We will have some major announcements early in the year related to new commercial development, major historical preservation projects, industrial development and new sports and recreation opportunities.

“Also, we will see the completion of the South Three Notch Street project, the Clark Theater project, the East Side sidewalk project and several other smaller infrastructure projects,” Johnson said. “Plus, a number of important utility improvements.

“Finally, we expect to finally begin some major improvements to our school systems properties.”


In Opp, Mayor Becky Bracke said she is really excited about great things that are happening and will happen in the City of Opportunity in 2017.

“In my short time as mayor, there has been a renewed interest in people wanting to invest in Opp,” she said. “We will move forward with several projects. The depot starts (today).”

There are also sewerage and sidewalk projects that will be completed in 2017, as well as repairing the Opp Public Library and other infrastructure.

“We are also looking forward to the biggest and best Opp Rattlesnake Rodeo, ever, “ she said.

The rodeo is set for March 11 and 12.

In River Falls, Mayor Patricia Gunter is excited to begin some new projects.

“We’re looking forward to getting the replacement in on the oldest part of the water system started and completed,” she said. “Hopefully, that will take care of any major problems that would otherwise be showing up along those lines.”

She is also looking forward to ALDOT fixing the intersection at Hwy. 55 and Hwy. 84.

That project is expected to help with traffic flow and should be completed by the beginning of spring break.