City presses on in the race for America’s Best Community


Parthenon File Photo

Mayor Steve Williams speaks to Marshall student during Coffee with the Mayor.

Community members met Wednesday at the Ritter Park rose garden for updates on Huntington’s standing in the America’s Best Community Contest, a national contest offering prize money to cities that show progress in community revitalization.

As a finalist, or as Mayor Steve Williams called it in light of March Madness, part of the “Elite Eight,” the City of Huntington received $100,000 since September for plans to revitalize the community, and on April 17, the winners will be announced.

“We are on the precipice of changing people’s lives, here and now,” Williams said.  “and for the next half-century.”

To showcase the ways in which the city is progressing and leveraging funds, the mayor invited community members and leaders to speak about ways in which certain programs and events have been spurred on by the competition.

Former City Councilwoman Sandra Clements, the leader of the Fairfield Alliance, said the Fairfield Alliance aims to connect places like Marshall University, Cabell Huntington Hospital, the Housing Authority and community members to ensure growth and progress.

“We had a meeting with the community members last Thursday and I have to say it was the most exciting meeting I’ve ever been to in my life,” Clements said.

Chip Sweeney, a senior at Huntington High School, organized “Chip’s Celebrity Bingo with Troy Brown” in an effort to raise money for an all-sports complex in the Fairfield West area.

“I saw the mayor’s presentation of the America’s Best Community pitch and I was like, ‘You know what? This could be a great thing to take part in,’” Sweeney said. “This could really help the community and I want to get involved in this.”

Sweeney announced around $30,000 was raised for the facility.

Also announced were renovations to Heiner’s Bakery, now Bimbo Bakery, as well as renovations to reduce the company’s environmental footprint. Joanna Sexton, owner at Hattie and Nans antique store and member of the River to Rail Community and Economic Development committee, announced there have been improvements made along Madison Avenue.

“When we came together we had this wish list that was so long,” Sexton said. “I thought, ‘wishful thinking I fear,’ but with a little help, I should say a lot of help from our friends, many things came to be.”

Halcyon Moses, a representative from Moses Auto Group, also announced a $20,000 donation from the company for projects in the west end.

“We believe,” Moses said. “We believe in Huntington. We believe that others will follow suit. And we believe that we will win the $3,000,000 grand prize to ensure that together we will continue to build a prosperous Huntington that will be proudly passed from generation to generation.”

The press conference ended with a pep talk from radio personality Clint McElroy, complete with a whistle, a coach’s hat and a clipboard, where he emphasized the need for community support.

The winners will be announced April 17, with the grand prize of $3,000,000, and smaller monetary rewards for the other finalists.

“We are doing this,” Williams said. “We can compete with anybody in the world. We have it right here, and we’re going to add to the history on April 19.”

Franklin Norton can be contacted at [email protected]