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Bonner pledges support to area

By By Paul Keane
Publisher
United States District 1 Representative Jo Bonner covered a wide array of topics and fielded various questions from residents during Thursday's Town Hall Meeting at City Hall.
Bonner, who has been in office for five weeks now after taking over for retired Rep. Sonny Callahan, told the residents in attendance that his department was ready and willing to help Atmore in any way possible.
"We want to be here in Atmore so much that you ask me to buy a business license here," Bonner said. "It is a great honor and privilege to be able to serve you, and we will never forget the help and support that we received from Atmore during the campaign and during the early part of our term in Washington.
"I am here to pledge to you that we'll be your partner to help you turn these hard times around and make this community everything it can become."
Bonner spoke about the economic hardships being faced by the community, pointing to the upcoming closing of Kmart and painting the situation into the broad national scope.
"These are some very exciting and very challenging times," Bonner said. "I don't have to tell you how hard the economic times are. Over the last 24-30 months, this area has been hit hard, and the latest blow was with the closing of Kmart here.
"But I have to give a heartfelt pat on the back to your city leaders and especially to Mayor Howard Shell. He has worked extremely hard to try and turn things around, and he's really been the time of person trying to turn lemons into lemonade for Atmore.
"Mayor Shell and your community leaders worked harder than any other community in America that was losing a Kmart. But the economics of the situation were that Kmart is going through some rough times. I truly believe that officials there didn't want to close this Kmart, but factors were working against them. It wasn't closed due to a lack of effort on the part of your leaders and the community as a whole.
"But we're going to find a way to turn these bad things into good things for this community."
Bonner pointed out that the country as a whole, and Congress in particular, is facing similar challenges on a national and international stage.
"Right now, we have 42 million uninsured Americans in this country," he said. "We need to find a solution to the prescription drug challenges that Americans have, and we're fighting a war against terrorism that continues today. We are also facing the very real possibility of expanding the war to include Iraq.
"All that I can ask for right now is that a faith-based community such as Atmore keep praying for our leaders and our military personnel each night."
Bonner also reminded attendees that his office – including the area office located in Baldwin County – is always ready to lend a hand.
"I'm your voice," he said. "I'm your link to Washington. I can't make everyone in this room happy all of the time, but anytime I can help you, please let me know."