Mayor Jim Staff might or might not be a fan of Johnny Mercer’s 1944-era music, but he borrowed the theme of one of Mercer’s biggest hit records during his appearance at the Atmore Area Chamber of Commerce’s April 27 edition of its Breakfast With An Elected Official series.
Staff chose to “accentuate the positive” during a 30-minutes-plus oration delivered to about two dozen men and women of the local business community.
“You can look and see the bad if you want to, but there’s so much good in this community,” the mayor said. “This is the easiest job I’ve ever had, and that’s because of the volunteers and the people of this community. They’ve just stepped up, done everything there is to be done. Everywhere you look, somebody is volunteering their time, always giving. That’s what’s so great about Atmore.”
Staff pointed out that four new homes are being built simultaneously, a rare occurrence in the city, then delivered a pile of plaudits on other aspects of the community.
“I think Atmore turned a corner several years back, and things have been going upward ever since,” he said. “We have four new houses going up at the same time, and that’s the first time that’s happened in 20 years. Our banks jumped in and made that happen. I tell you, if you just give folks a little spark, everybody jumps in and it takes off.”
He went on to praise the addition of a new surgeon to the community and the improvement in the local hospital due to the management of Infirmary Health, as well as the Chamber’s Ambassador program and Youth Leadership Atmore, both of which he called “fantastic” outlets for local youth.
Then, in response to a question from one of those in attendance, he switched to the upswing created at Escambia County Middle School by first-year principal Debbie Bolden.
“I tell you, our middle school was in foul shape,” said Staff. “Now the teachers are teaching, and the students are learning. It’s just amazing what (Bolden) has done out there. Debbie has done a fantastic job and is going to keep doing one.”
Another question led to a discussion of the future of the A.C. Moore Elementary School building.
“A.C. Moore is going away; (the county school board) says they haven’t made that decision, but they have,” he laughed. “We’ll probably take two wings off of it and leave the north wing, where we can have the SAIL Center in there. And the quilt club ladies, we’ve tried to move them before. I think we could put them in a room back there and give them a key; we need to take care of those ladies. We’ll probably make a community center out of (the building).”
After someone noted the crowd that greeted the April 26 opening of the new Sonic drive-in restaurant, the mayor expressed pride in the success experienced by many of the new businesses that have located here.
“Walmart came in here, and they’ve done about 125 percent over their projections,” he said. “McDonald’s, every one of them, have come in here with projections that have been low.”
Staff closed his remarks with mention of the recent Atmore BBQ Festival, sponsored by Escambia County High School, and the Chamber-sponsored Music on Main presentation before reiterating his theme.
“Everybody wants to try something new,” he said. “Sometimes it works; sometimes it doesn’t. There are always people ready to try something new, and the city’s going to support it. Really, everywhere you look, there are positives. It’s been a good trip; I’m glad to be part of it.”