GEDI’s Joe Sumner retires, named Executive Director Emeritus
Joe A. Sumners, Executive Director of University Outreach's Government and Economic Development Institute, or GEDI, retired July 1 with over 30 years of service in outreach and instruction. He was recently awarded Emeritus status in recognition of his achievements. Sumners is well respected for his work with communities and local governments in Alabama, and for his extensive experience assisting communities with strategic planning and civic engagement initiatives. His contributions to economic and community development are numerous, and his legacy will be felt long after he retires.
“I have loved having a job, and a career, that has allowed me to make a difference in a state that I love, representing a university that I love. I can’t imagine a better job,” Sumners explained.
“Dr. Sumners’ record in education and public service has been exemplary. He has worked tirelessly to improve the state’s economic capacity and governmental excellence. His leadership has contributed greatly to the advancement of the Auburn’s outreach mission, as well as enhancing our reputation as a land-grant university,” said Royrickers Cook, Vice President for University Outreach and Associate Provost.
Sumners previously served for 15 years as Director of the Auburn University Economic and Community Development Institute, or ECDI, and seven years as Training Director for the Auburn University Center for Governmental Services, or CGS). He is the author of numerous publications on the topic of rural economic and community development, including Beyond the Interstate: The Crisis in Rural Alabama (2003) and Crossroads and Connections: Strategies for Rural Alabama (2004). He wrote the chapter, “Politics and Economic Development in the Southern Black Belt,” for the Oxford Handbook of Southern Politics (2012). He coordinated a multi-year Kettering Foundation research project in Alabama’s Black Belt and published articles that focused on the link between civic engagement and community economic prosperity.
He authored the publication, Community Questions: Engaging Citizens to Address Community Concerns.
He has served as a member of the Auburn University graduate faculty and taught the graduate seminar, “Economic Development and Competition,” as the core course in the University’s Graduate Minor in Economic Development. Sumners previously taught at the University of Georgia, the University of Alabama at Birmingham and Stephen F. Austin State University.
He served as a technical advisor to the Alabama Commission on Tax and Fiscal Policy Reform, the Alabama Task Force on Economically Distressed Counties, Alabama’s Black Belt Action Commission, Alabama Rural Action Commission and Alabama Small Business Task Force. He is a founding board member of the Alabama Communities of Excellence Program and has served on the Board of Directors for the David Mathews Center for Civic Life.
They have enriched my life in ways they will never know,” Sumners said.
Sumners is originally from Creswell, a small rural community in Shelby County, Alabama. He received his B.S. summa cum laude and M.A. degrees from Auburn University, and his Ph.D. in Political Science from the University of Georgia.
Submitted by: Jennifer Ryan
Last Updated: July 2, 2019