State of the County Address 2017

May 17, 2017

Merceria Ludgood
Commission President

State of the County 2017

I would first like to acknowledge Mayor Sandy Stimpson for his most encouraging remarks about the State of the City of Mobile, the largest municipality in the county. Greetings to the members of the Mobile City Council.

On behalf of Commissioners Connie Hudson, Jerry Carl and myself, welcome to this luncheon. We appreciate each of you for your presence here, year after year. It is a testament to your interest in and concern for our city and our county.

Thank you to the Mayors and members of the City Councils of our other municipalities and to MOWA Chief Dr. LeBarron Byrd. We travel this road together and the state of all our local goverments directly impacts the State of the County. We have forged extraordinary partnerships in our region and together we are building regional cooperation that is second to none.

At this time, I would ask Commissioner Hudson and Commissioner Carl to stand to be recognized.

Last November, Commissioners Hudson, Carl and I embarked upon a new 4-year opportunity to serve the residents of Mobile County. It is true that all three of us bring both/// our own individual and our collective visions for moving Mobile County forward. At the same time, it is that collective vision that allows us to recognize the challenges on the horizon and to frame collective solutions and responses that benefit the entire county -- both today and for generations to come.

While we have common goals for the county, priorities within our districts may differ. For example, District Two has unique challenges because of the county's population growth to the west. Commissioner Hudson works diligently to provide expanded services for seniors, ensuring that children have access to state-of-the-art technology in their schools and adequate recreational facilities. One of the keys to traffic safety in that area is completion of Highway 98. She is relentless in keeping this life and death issue on the front burner.

While Commissioner Carl has similar concerns in District Three, he also works tirelessly to find sources of funding to address the almost 140 miles of dirt roads in the district he represents. Issues of resiliency are unique to south Mobile County, especially Bayou la Batre and Dauphin Island. Economic recovery stalled in those areas because of back-to-back disasters. Job creation and support for small businesses are central to Commissioner Carl's vision for District Three.

Our theme "Brilliant Ideas" at work is borrowed from NACo President Brian DesLoge from Leon County (Tallahassee), FL. This initiative is designed to identify the 100 most brilliant ideas in county government around the country and share them among counties as a template for their own efforts.

The Mobile County Commission is blessed to have an extraordinary staff of individuals who know their subject matter areas, who appreciate and embrace public service, and who are consummate professionals, always looking for ways to improve the quantity and quality of service the county provides. Their brilliant ideas are working for Mobile County.

Today I want to focus on the Brilliant ideas in the areas of Innovation; Brilliant idea of Inclusion; and Brilliant idea of Immediacy.

Brilliant ideas in Innovation

Innovative ideas are those that transform our community; ideas that move us from dreaming about what could be to actually putting those dreams into action. For example….

The 2016 PAYGO program is valued at almost $110 million dollars, leveraging $62 million dollars in federal funds for roads and bridge projects that will enhance our economy and improve the safety of our citizens.

This fiscal year the county entered into Joint Purchasing agreements with many of our smaller municipalities to achieve economies of scale that will save money for all jurisdictions.

Utilizing GIS Online - The county is partnering with cities to facilitate evidence-based planning, streamlined mapping for inventory and deploying resources to address citizen concerns.

Our Drones enable the county to monitor coastal wetlands and count endangered species without disturbing habitat.

To promote brilliant ideas in innovation we empower our employees to think outside the box and arm them with resources to put those ideas to work in Mobile County. In return, they are saving money, enhancing services to our citizens and building a Mobile County that makes us all proud.

Promoting Inclusion in how we provide our services is a Brilliant idea

For reasons that are historic and complex some areas in our county have been left behind when it comes to essential services. But together we are focusing our resources in ways that are reversing this trend and addressing the needs of ALL of Mobile County.

Now, throughout the county, government and private sector entities alike, are working to bring needed services to our most vulnerable populations.

Vibrant and robust workforce development strategies to reach our unemployed and underemployed residents have been launched.

Laser focus on entrepreneurship and minority business development is yielding results.

Mobile County has fully supported the efforts of our partners as they work to ensure that every segment of our community has the opportunity to reach his or her potential.

Certainly, we have more ground to cover; but together we are strengthening our collective commitment to enhancing the lives of everyone in Mobile County.


Working with a sense of urgency requires the commitment of everyone and it is not achieved without focus and daily renewal.
For me personally, it is the injunction of John 9:4 that the urgency I feel.

I must work the work of him who sent me while it is day; night is coming, when no man works.
Throughout the county there is momentum and energy surrounding the work to address our challenges. It is that energy that soothes my own impatience.
Civic engagement is at an all-time high. Residents are speaking boldly about the kind of community they want.

Like communities around the country, Mobile County is working fast and furious to move federally funded programs along because there is much uncertainty about whether or not those resources will continue to be available. So many of our issues have dogged us for generations but on our watch we must continue the forward momentum.

Leonardo DaVinci, most renowned as a painter once said:

"I have been impressed with the urgency of doing. Knowing is not enough; we must apply. Being willing is not enough; we must do."

And so the State of the County is sound. It is shaped daily by brilliant ideas and by those employees who dedicate themselves to the service of their neighbors. We are flourishing but I must sound a cautionary note:

Mobile County does not survive alone. In fact, The State of the County (and the cities) cannot be evaluated without a look at what happens in Montgomery and in Washington, DC.

The vast majority of services to the elderly, low and moderate income communities, the homeless, and persons with disabilities are funded with federal dollars. Those dollars are now in jeopardy. No matter what you may think about these programs and their respective value-The truth is--if they go away we will have a dramatically different county than the one we are now building.

Significant portions of our infrastructure dollars are federal and state dollars. The federal portion may go to private industry. Will the private sector want to invest in Ducey Road in Creola? Or will they be looking for the more profitable projects in large, urban areas?

While we sit here today talking about the State of the City and County, let us not forget that there are thousands right here in Mobile County-our neighbors-- who are in purely survival mode, just trying to keep a roof over their heads, food on the table, their families safe and healthy and transportation to a job that may not pay the bills.

For those of you who are asking-what does this have to do with-you?

Anthony Fox, former Secretary of Transportation said "we all need to find a place to add value to our community."

I believe every issue that impacts our neighbors ought to be your concern. You must become an advocate; you must begin to focus on your own Brilliant Ideas. And we must be willing to give a little of ourselves if we are to make Mobile County what we all hope she can become.

Our county is composed of people from every walk of life. And they all have, somewhere inside them, their own Brilliant Ideas. It is our charge as their elected officials to provide them with the platform and the opportunity to grow those ideas; enhance their skills and -- one day -- to offer themselves in service to others.

I am convinced that we can and will rise to our challenges, that we will seek out the Brilliant Ideas in our neighbors, in our colleagues and, yes, in the eyes of those who are different from us....

I agree with Sen. Everett Dirksen, former Republican member of the United States Senate from Illinois who once said:

"When all is said and done, the real citadel of strength of any community is in the hearts and minds and desires of those who dwell there."

Our Community -- the place each of us calls home -- is shaped by the people we serve and the people who stand beside us in service.

I am proud of the two commissioners who serve along side me. I am proud of our partners in the city halls throughout our county. And I am proud of the people who serve us in Montgomery and Washington.

I am proud, but I am not satisfied. We need more Brilliant Ideas. We need more people who will foster Brilliant Ideas in their neighbors. We need more people who will not stop or be satisfied until they discover and use the Brilliant Idea that is inside themselves.

Then, together, we will tap the resilience that sustains us and the hope that keeps well the State of the County.

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