Quality of life emerges as ‘Listening Session’ theme

Published 6:00 pm Wednesday, June 26, 2024

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Robert Stewart, state senator for District 23, invited Lowndes County stakeholders to a “Listening Session” on June 18. The senator was joined by local leaders, Rep. Kelvin Lawrence (D-Hayneville) and Alabama agency representatives in a discussion to inform residents and entertain questions about topics impacting the area.

“It was an intimate session,” Stewart said. “Lowndes County citizens [attended] as well as lots of civic and community leaders.

Stewart named a host of leaders present, including District Judge Adrian Johnson, Probate Judge Lashandra Myrick and many others.

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“Rep. Kelvin Lawrence was there to give remarks,” Stewart said. “Rev. J.C. Flowers gave the invocation.”

Stakeholders heard reports from Alabama Department of Environmental Management (ADEM) Government Relations Chief Russell Kelly, who discussed water and sewer projects and investments in Lowndes County made possible through American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funding.

“He talked about the unprecedented investment,” Stewart said. “We also had Carolyn Bern, government affairs and community relations director for the ADPH (Alabama Department of Public Health). She answered questions and discussed their support of families and improving access to water and sewage [disposal].”

Stewart gave a legislative update, describing the $2 million appropriation he secured for a rural aviation consortium to improve access to aviation careers for Lowndes County students. He also updated the group on Education Trust Fund dollars available to fill funding gaps in local schools.

Attendees voiced concerns about resources for drug court money, and Johnson pointed out the importance of providing treatment instead of incarceration to individuals facing adjudication for drug-related crimes.

“The overall theme from the ‘Listening Session’ is that [stakeholders] want our communities to have the same quality of life as other communities,” Stewart said. “I know it’s hard, but it’s about just overcoming the challenges of being in rural areas.”

Arthur Nelson, a White Hall resident, organized the Hayneville event which was one stop on Stewart’s tour around the district to talk with constituents. He stressed the importance of meeting to discuss concerns shared throughout the community.

“It gives people a sense of what’s going on in the Senate and how it affects Lowndes County,” Nelson said. “It lets them know what [Stewart] is doing to help us get where we need to be and keeps information flowing through the community.”