Hammock finds calling

(Kenneth Boone) Mayor Johnny Hammock took office in 2016.

Tallassee Mayor Johnny Hammock prides himself on his work ethic and strong belief in the community in which he was raised.

Hammock said he has a long-term proactive plan for the city and he'll put that plan in motion with some $4 million in grants the city has been awarded since he took office in November 2016.

“I really found my calling here. It’s my passion and I am excited for everything we’ve got going on,” said Hammock, who credits his wife Kimberly as his biggest fan. 

“This administration is very transparent. I want the citizens to know what’s going on and what we need to do,” Hammock said.

The U.S. Department of Commerce in May awarded Tallassee a $2.4 million Economic Development Administration grant to make critical infrastructure upgrades, including repairs on the wastewater treatment plant that is out of compliance.

When he took office, the city had been fined $50,000 for failing sewer lagoon tests and was told it must be up to code by 2021 at a cost of $4.8 million.

This grant will pay 50% of those repair costs, allowing for an already approved loan to be paid off more quickly and reallocating leftover funds to other necessary projects.

“The mayor’s role is really half mayor and half superintendent of utilities,” Hammock said. “We’ve already spent money to gather data and moved to the planning stages to find the worst areas that need to be repaired first.”

Greg Clark, executive director of the Central Alabama Regional Planning and Development Commission, led the charge with Hammock for writing of this national grant and other officials reinforced their support for Tallassee to push along the process. U.S. Rep. Martha Roby and Sen. Richard Shelby wrote letters of support along with officials at GKN, the largest employer in Elmore County. Their backing, along with other local industries, honed in on the job retention aspect, a key element in receiving this grant.

Repairs of the wastewater treatment facility will also save money in the long run with the prevention of groundwater leaking into sewer lines and decreasing the necessity of added chemicals.

“I’m working on a 10-year infrastructure plan that is forward thinking,” Hammock said. “I want to be proactive. Things like this will affect the community long after I’m done here. That’s the real reward.”

Along with the repairs, Tallassee has to replace 30 miles of cast iron gas lines from the 1940s and is working on redoing its utilities and providing a facelift to downtown with a comprehensive streetscape project.

Hammock said city officials are educating themselves through workshops and seminars and by launching an economic development committee.

“We want to recruit the right kind of businesses to Tallassee,” said Hammock, who just graduated with an economic development certificate from Auburn University.

After two years and three phases of the program, Tallassee recently earned a designation as an Alabama Community of Excellence. To be an ACE community, smaller municipalities such as Tallassee must complete a comprehensive three-phase approach to economic and community development by focusing on a town’s distinctive assets and resources. Chosen participants must indicate a level of local commitment and the community’s capacity to support the ACE program.

Through each of the three phases, ACE partners worked with Tallassee to achieve its goals. The phases included assessment of community assets and weaknesses; establishing a leadership development program; preparing a strategic plan and partnering with a local nonprofit to raise funds for necessary city projects; and addressing issues of business development, education, infrastructure, health and human services, retiree attraction, tourism, economic development and quality of life.

“This designation is huge for businesses and how they view our community,” Hammock said.

Hammock said Tallassee’s strengths include its close proximity to the interstate, allowing for convenience for local industry, and its natural resources. But the fact Tallassee is located in two counties can make decision-making and enforcement more difficult.

The city also has recently partnered with Troy University to provide city employees with a 10% scholarship on tuition for all programs, both online and on campus. The university will waive their application fees.

“This will allow us to pursue degrees that could lead to advancement by supporting continued professional development and education,” Hammock said. “We’re developing the highly skilled workforce we need.”

While Hammock said nothing could have prepared him for his first year in office, he said he felt he is in the right place at the right time to do the job.

“Tallassee is off the beaten path from a lot of our Elmore County communities but we really have a lot of things happening here,” he said.

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