Mayors give 'State of the City' addresses

By: Crystal Cole/Islander Editor
Posted 5/9/18

The mayors of Pleasure Island gave us a look inside their cities’ projects and progress at the Coastal Alabama Business Chamber’s First Friday Forum.

Orange Beach Mayor Tony Kennon and Gulf …

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Mayors give 'State of the City' addresses

Posted

The mayors of Pleasure Island gave us a look inside their cities’ projects and progress at the Coastal Alabama Business Chamber’s First Friday Forum.

Orange Beach Mayor Tony Kennon and Gulf Shores Mayor Robert Craft each gave a “State of the City” address to attendees of the event, covering topics from education and revenue to those oh-so-popular U-turns.

Kennon said he and Craft spoke with Gov. Kay Ivey at length about the beaches and what a resource they are for Alabama.

“Our message to her was that these aren’t Orange Beach’s beaches or Gulf Shores’ beaches,” Kennon said. “These are the state of Alabama’s beaches. We’re just the stewards of them, and we need your help.”

A chuckle passed through the room at the mention of the U-turns on the beach road. Famously confusing, Kennon has said in the past it has netted him many angry phone calls from residents and visitors alike.

“The reason that started this process was the number of accidents on the beach road in Orange Beach,” Kennon said. “There were 227 accidents in three years. It was the highest number of accidents for that length of road in the state of Alabama. Unfortunately a good number of them were head-on collisions and t-bones.”

Gulf Shores has also seen many drastic changes in the past fews years, thanks in part to money received from the BP oil spill.

“When we settled with BP, we took that money and we started a strategy of improving sustainability and economic resilience in Gulf Shores,” Craft said. “With that, we put together an action plan with key strategies and priorities. Number one was environmental stewardship because if we learned one thing during the oil spill it was that people come here because of our environment. When we couldn’t use that environment, nobody came.”

Both communities are making strides to better education on the island. The City of Orange Beach, with the Baldwin County Board of Education, will break ground on a new middle school/ high school facility Friday, May 11. Gulf Shores is on track to open its own city school system in the fall of 2019, announcing Dr. Matt Akin as its superintendent just weeks prior.

Kennon applauded Gulf Shores for taking the initiative to break away.

“You made decisions based on what’s best for your kids and your community,” Kennon said. “Without that, we probably wouldn’t have the middle school and high school. If we have a county school next to a city school, the competition should really make us both better.”

Craft also talked about plans for the newly-acquired Sacred Heart building to establish a freestanding emergency center in Gulf Shores with a helipad to help get people treated and to treatment on and off the island easier.

“That means ambulances could stop there, and people in an emergency wouldn’t have to go to Foley,” Craft said. “We can’t fix the transportation issue to get a reasonable time frame to get to an emergency room to the outskirts of our community. The only way we can get there is to have an emergency room on the island.”