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5 years ago

Mayors of Alabama’s five largest cities huddle for two-day private retreat

From left: Tuscaloosa Mayor Walt Maddox, Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle, Birmingham Mayor William Bell, Montgomery Mayor Todd Strange and Mobile Mayor Sandy Stimpson at the Stimpson family lodge in Clarke County, January 13, 2014. (City of Mobile/George Talbot)
From left: Tuscaloosa Mayor Walt Maddox, Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle, Birmingham Mayor William Bell, Montgomery Mayor Todd Strange and Mobile Mayor Sandy Stimpson at the Stimpson family lodge in Clarke County, January 13, 2014. (City of Mobile/George Talbot)

Mayors from Birmingham, Huntsville, Mobile, Montgomery and Tuscaloosa completed a two-day retreat yesterday in Clarke County that was designed to strengthen ties between Alabama’s five major cities.

Participants included Mayor William Bell of Birmingham, Mayor Tommy Battle of Huntsville, Mayor Sandy Stimpson of Mobile, Mayor Todd Strange of Montgomery and Mayor Walt Maddox of Tuscaloosa.

Stimpson hosted the retreat at his family lodge near Jackson, Ala.

The group had no formal agenda but shared ideas and best practices on significant challenges facing their communities, from public safety and municipal finance to regulatory and economic issues.

Stimpson, who took office on Nov. 4, said he was pleased to host the meeting after the idea was suggested by Strange and Maddox.

“Being the newest mayor, I had more to gain than anyone else simply by listening to some of their experiences,” Stimpson said. “It was very enlightening for me to hear how each of the mayors handles the difficult, day-to-day challenges that each of us must face.”

Bell, who took office in 2010, described the meeting as the first of its kind in Alabama.

“This was the first time that the mayors representing the five major cities of Alabama have come together to discuss common issues and common solutions for our communities,” Bell said. “This should result in seeing our cities strengthened as we address issues that will help move our state forward.”

Maddox, who took office in 2005, said mayors are uniquely empowered to make an immediate impact on the lives of their constituents.

“Mayors are best positioned to change the future of our communities,” Maddox said. “The information exchanged over the last 24 hours has given each of us new ideas to go home and implement.”

Battle, who took office in 2008 and this morning ended speculation that he may run for governor, said the five mayors share a commitment to public service.

“When we work together, we can do great things for our entire state,” Battle said. “There’s no question these relationships will benefit us but more importantly they will pay dividends for the people we are elected to serve.”

Strange, who took office in 2009, said the mayors each face demanding public schedules but that the time together was well spent.

“In discussing the challenges that we all face, it was a great opportunity to build fellowship and share solutions,” Strange said. “By applying these best practices, we will help build a better future for our citizens and others across the state of Alabama.”

Stimpson said the mayors agreed to conduct the meeting on a regular basis going forward with the next summit tentatively scheduled for June. The location is yet to be determined but Stimpson said the group enjoyed the relaxed and distraction-free environment provided by the lodge setting in rural Clarke County.

The mayors said they paid their own travel expenses to attend the retreat.


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31 mins ago

Decatur High School teacher accused of having sex with students resigns

An Alabama high school teacher who was paid nearly $130,000 while on leave fighting charges that she had sex with students has resigned.

The Decatur city school board accepted the resignation of Carrie Cabri Witt on Monday.

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Superintendent Michael Douglas tells the Decatur Daily that Witt quit the day before the board was scheduled to hold a hearing on her employment.

The 45-year-old Witt is charged with two counts of having sex with a student.

She’s been on paid leave since March 2016 while fighting the accusations.

Witt’s resignation letter says she “vehemently” denies committing any crime or having any inappropriate relationship with a student.

The school district has spent more than $128,000 on salary and benefits on Witt since placing her on leave.

She worked at Decatur High School.
(Associated Press, copyright 2018)

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1 hour ago

How an incoming freshman overcame inner-city Chicago to get to Alabama State University – ‘This is the start of a new life’

Ivry Hall has a tale to tell – one that is too unbelievable and too tragic to be anything but real. But it is who life’s challenges have made him, and where Hall is going from here, that he wants to be his life’s story.

Chicago born-and-raised, Hall just turned 18 last month.

“I grew up on the South Side. Englewood, 64th and Laflin,”  he told WLS-TV. “My mom did a lot of moving, but that’s where I spent most of my childhood.”

His upbringing, like that of most in this infamous part of the Windy City, was filled with serious trouble.

“Gang banging,” Hall admitted. “I used to smoke when I was little.”

He also dropped out of school, saying that is what was expected of children like him in that urban neighborhood.

Hall said, “I did a lot of stuff. That’s just from the image I was seeing so I wanted to do it, too.”

And that was all before his mom, who was raising him as a single mother, got cancer when Hall was only 12.

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“When my mom passed away, I was so hurt,” he reflected. “And I just wanted to do better.”

This tragedy inspired Hall to go back to school, and after some time, attend Tilden High School.

While in a positive frame of mind again, his life did not necessarily get easier when he went back to get his education. Hall was living with a cousin who moved nearly two hours from where he went to class.

“I had to get on three buses and one train,” Hall explained.

However, through hard work and the right attitude, he always kept going.

“I don’t believe in giving up, and I think that failure is not an option,” said Hall.

Not only did his mom pass away when he was 12, but when he was a senior in high school, Hall’s dad died of lung failure.

“Of course, I lost my mom. I lost my dad,” he told WLS-TV in Chicago. “I wish they were still here to see what I’ve accomplished now, but they’re not. Everything is not going to come as you want it.”

Hall’s faith in Jesus Christ, sports and a local boxing gym got him through the hard times. He also had mentors at his church who never stopped encouraging him.

Hall said, “They are like, ‘Ivry, you’re going to be something. You’re so smart.’ And that stuff encouraged me to do good.”

“No pity party,” explained Father Michael Pfleger of St. Sabina Church, where Hall attends. “No ‘poor me.’ He was just a young brother who wanted the best for himself and others.”

Hall set a goal for himself when his mother died, and he never took his eye off achieving it.

“I always wish that I could graduate valedictorian, and look, I did,” he recounted. “I was beyond happy.”

Now, Hall is beginning his freshman year at Alabama State University in Montgomery, a triumph made possible in part by a $10,000 scholarship from his church.

The teen from the South Side of Chicago is just getting started on writing his life’s story, but he has a good plan for what comes next.

“Major in business, so I can open up my own business,” Hall forecasted.

He added, “I’m not for sure what I want to open up, but I want to help people.”

Hall now has his sights set on a new goal, and he is determined to succeed.

“I’m going to go to college and graduate, so I’m going to find a way to study,” Hall said. “I’m going to find a way to do everything without giving up.”

“If I give up, I will be just like everybody that I know,” he continued.

The young man also shared his key to overcoming the challenges life has thrown at him again and again.

“You have to give 100 percent in everything you do,” Hall emphasized. “Once you give up, you’ll only be used to giving up. At least try. If you can’t do it, continue to try.”

He has been through a lot in his short time on earth, but to him, a blank canvas awaits.

“This is the start of a new life,” Hall concluded.

Sean Ross is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

2 hours ago

Former Prattville police officer gets 10 years for fraud, theft

A former police officer in Alabama who pleaded guilty to insurance fraud and burglary has been sentenced to 10 years in prison.

The Montgomery Advertiser reports 51-year-old Leon Todd Townson was sentenced Monday.

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The former U.S. Marine is one of two former Prattville Police Department lieutenants charged with breaking into a home in 2015.

The other lieutenant, 48-year-old John Wayne McDaniel, is set to be sentenced Friday.

Townson also was charged in 2017 with defrauding an insurance agency by filing a claim containing false information.

The fraudulent claim prompted the agency to award Townson more than $190,000.

He resigned from the police department in 2005 before pleading guilty to trying to sell a modified rifle seized by the department’s drug unit.
(Associated Press, copyright 2018)

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2 hours ago

GATR Technologies Inc. of Huntsville gets $522M Army contract for inflatable antennas

An Alabama company has a five-year, $522 million extension to an Army contract for inflatable satellite antenna systems.

GATR Technologies Inc. of Huntsville first won the contract in 2013.

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It said in early 2014 that the contract made the antennas more broadly available to the armed services, which already were using them in special operations units.

GATR’s ground-mounted antennas look like giant beach balls with tie-downs to point them in the right direction.

The antenna inside is reflective fabric.

Fans keep the air pressure in the top half slightly higher than in the bottom half, pushing the fabric down into the right shape.

The extension brings the contract’s total maximum value to more than $960 million.

It was announced Friday in the Pentagon’s daily list of military contracts.
(Associated Press, copyright 2018)

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