Buy Pickens: Elected Officials Consortium in Pickens County

The Elected Officials Consortium formed to pull together government leaders in Pickens County to share information, facilitate partnerships, and explore opportunities for county-wide collaboration. The consortium, which included mayors, city council members, and a state representative, was convened by County Extension Coordinator Patti Presley-Fuller, who believed officials “needed to form relationships, be on the same page, and show one accord.”

Craig Patterson, mayor of Gordo and a champion of the group, agrees that in a rural county of 19,000 “To get anything done and get any voice in the economic field, you have to come together and work together for a common purpose. There has always been a rivalry between the little towns, but this is above that. If we don’t work together, we can’t get any economic growth here.”

When officials in Pickens County started talking, the discussion quickly turned to the loss of sales tax revenue to bigger cities nearby. Knowing they couldn’t ask county residents to buy everything locally, officials decided to launch a campaign to encourage residents to buy groceries and gas at home, within county lines. “We wanted people to understand that if we shop in other towns, we’re supporting their police department, their little league fields, and all of their services,” states Presley-Fuller.

The group secured funding through the county Industrial Development Board, recruited an economic developer to design ads, and raised a billboard promoting Buy Pickens outside of WalMart in neighboring Tuscaloosa County, where many county residents shop. And it worked: county sales taxes increased during the spring campaign. Further, the elected officials had discovered they worked well together and began to explore additional ways to boost economic development, including forming a county-wide chamber of commerce and hiring a county economic developer.

But the power of the consortium reaches beyond economic development. Just by working together, officials have formed relationships that knit their constituencies together in vital ways. For example, after a recent hurricane, the mayor of Reform, stuck with small tools to handle the debris, called on the mayor of Aliceville to lend his backhoe. “Because of the mayors’ relationships,” states Presley-Fuller, “little pieces of work like that happen all the time that you don’t ever hear about.”

Last Updated: May 20, 2014