Hanceville business leaders, local mayors discuss growth with Gudger


Cullman City Council President and 2018 Alabama Senate candidate Garlan Gudger, left, took part in a meeting on Monday with Hanceville business leaders, Hanceville Mayor Kenneth Nail, Baileyton Mayor Johnny Dyar and Holly Pond Mayor Bill Oliver to discuss growth in smaller communities. / W.C. Mann

HANCEVILLE – Hanceville-area business leaders sat down with Cullman City Council President and 2018 Alabama Senate candidate Garlan Gudger and Hanceville Mayor Kenneth Nail on Monday to talk about growing and promoting the county’s smaller communities. Joining them were Baileyton Mayor Johnny Dyar and Holly Pond Mayor Bill Oliver. Gudger was invited by the City of Hanceville.

Nail explained, “We have this downtown meeting this time of the month, every month.  We’ve had it for several years, just to bring local folks in and kick around ideas and see how we can better serve our community and how we can make Hanceville a better place.

“And we thought it would be a good thing to bring Garlan Gudger in.  Cullman’s done a great job in promoting Cullman, and of course I know he’s running for senate; so we felt like that, with his expertise and the great job that Cullman’s done in promoting Cullman, that maybe he could get on board with us.”

The mayors and business leaders took the opportunity to bounce ideas off Gudger and each other; with topics focusing on:

developing infrastructure to attract business and industry – including roads, utilities access and high-speed internet access
developing Hanceville’s downtown as a destination for day tourists and shoppers
promoting and marketing the distinct features that the Hanceville area already has – including Wallace State, the Shrine of the Most Blessed Sacrament, the county’s only industrial park located on a railroad line and a rapidly-reviving downtown

One of the main subjects of conversation centered on a map on the mayor’s conference table showing the three current routes from Interstate 65 to Hanceville (US Highway 31, Alabama Highway 91 and Beech Grove Road), and a proposed straight-line route from Hanceville to the I-65 interchange at Dodge City.

“The main thing that we wanted to see,” said Nail, “was how (Gudger) would feel about this new access road that we want to build from Hanceville to the Dodge City exit.  Everybody knows Beech Grove Road is just so crooked, and by building a new road–and it might even partially join where the old road is in certain places–but we should be able to cut that road down.  It’s almost 9 miles from Dodge City to Hanceville (on Beech Grove Road), and we can cut it down to about 4 miles, maybe a little bit less, if we had a new road.  

“And so we think, for the commerce of south Cullman County which–folks going to Holly Pond or Baileyton, or Fairview–it would just be a lot better route, you know, cut right down 91.  But right now, it’s not a real good way of getting into Hanceville.  You know, we have thousands of cars that’s going to Wallace State, and a lot from Walker County that’s coming through.  We think that that would definitely help.

“I think that (Gudger)’s on board with that, of course, if he gets elected.  But we’re just trying to promote our area.”

Later, Gudger sat down with The Tribune to talk about his visit to Hanceville.

“They really just wanted to have an ear and a voice, if I’m honored enough to be elected.  I feel like I have worked with council members and mayors in my elected career for the last 14 years.  For the last 14 years, I’ve dealt with councilmen, and I have dealt with planning commissions, and I have dealt with mayors,” said Gudger.

“And (Hanceville) wanted someone to listen to them, and be able to be a voice for them, if I’m elected to go down to Montgomery.  And so I was invited by the planning commission to come down, and after they had talked to Mayor Nail, he invited a few more mayors to be there.  And the meeting was really just a visioning process of where they are, what their plans are, what they’re wanting to focus on in the future, and am I on board for that.  And then also how am I going to work in the county, because I’ve had my city hat on.  And I think it was very evident to everyone in the room that my job for the last 14 years is to represent the constituents in the city of Cullman which elected me.  

“But it’s very evident that if I’m elected to a larger district, which is all of Cullman County and Winston, Marion and Lawrence County; that district grows, and I will take care of everybody within that whole district, not just Cullman city.  And I think that fear was relieved after talking to me today.  And I had a call from one of the mayors, saying, ‘I really appreciate you coming down, and I feel good about what you were saying, and we’re going to be able to work together.’  And I think that’s the biggest thing that I can convey: is that I’m out there to build a consensus and build a group that we can, you know, work together going forward if I get to be able to be a senator.”

What do you think will be the first step for Hanceville?

“Not only for Hanceville, but for most of the communities, is realizing that they have a voice in Montgomery, number one, if I can be honored enough to work for them.  Number two, that they have to work together.  It was said in the meeting today from one of the planning commission members that it seemed like we’ve always circled the troops against the other municipalities in the county, and kind of was territorial.  And that’s not the way to handle going into the future.

“The reason the city of Cullman has worked so well is that we’ve been good partners with people that we have grown with: the hospital, the chamber, Wallace State Community College, parks and rec, and the city government, the county government.  And we want to continue to do that in the county.

“We need to know what their goals are, do an analysis of exactly where they are and where they want to go, and then from that, what resources we have to get there.  And if there’s a way that we’re able to exponentially get them there faster through funding or through grants, or through just meeting with the right consultants, then that’s part of my job, if elected, to help them.”

Continued Gudger, “I enjoy seeing growth and progress, whether that’s in the city of Cullman that I’ve helped lead over the last 14 years, or whether that’s going to be in Hanceville, or that’s going to be in Holly Pond, or Baileyton, Cold Springs, Fairview, Colony, Winston County, Marion County, Lawrence County; I want to continue to see that on a larger scale, and so I’m excited about what this step will do for me if I’m honored enough to be there.”

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