Bittersweet goodbye Atmore

Published 9:27 am Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Just over six and half years ago, my wife, Jennifer, and I drove through Atmore for the first time. We had never heard of Atmore, much less visited it.

We had been in Luverne, another small Alabama town, best known as the, “town you go through on your way to the beach,” and had enjoyed our stint there. But, as always, God had opened another door in my career and we followed.

Honestly, we did not know what to expect when we drove into Atmore. This small town was still in cleanup mode months following Hurricane Ivan, and little did its citizens know, another hurricane, Dennis, would pound it again less than a year later. Ivan hammered Atmore and left a mess of destruction and debris still evident when we drove through town in January 2005.

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Despite the town’s appearance, we decided to move to Atmore as I accepted the position of publisher of the town’s twice-weekly newspaper, a mainstay in the community since 1927. It was definitely an adjustment for us having grown up in larger cities just outside of Birmingham, but as the sign entering the town reads, “Old Friends, New Beginnings,” we quickly found ourselves being greeted with open arms by the citizens of Atmore and became neighbors almost instantaneously.

We watched the town finalize its cleanup efforts; welcome home “our” troops, the 711th Signal Battalion with a huge parade fitting for heroes and then witnessed it all be destroyed once again by another storm. But through it all, the people of Atmore worked together, cleaned up the town and have helped it to thrive once again thanks to government, civic and professional leadership. It is now as pretty as it once was with the exception of a few “beautiful” overhanging oaks or so I’ve been told.

We have watched as downtown has been revitalized, many new and even some older businesses have built new establishments, witnessed city growth in projects such as Rivercane and had a front row seat to the Poarch Band of Creek Indians’ growth from a metal building to a four-diamond resort with Wind Creek Casino & Hotel and its many amenities.

Now, having spent many holidays in Atmore, bringing our first child, Ethan, home to Atmore and building many friendships both socially and professionally, we say “goodbye” to a town that has been home to our family since that first trip into town. As many of you readers may have heard, I have accepted the position of publisher for “The Columbian-Progress” in Columbia, Miss.

Once again, God opened a door for my career and we will follow his will. However, it is bittersweet because of the many relationships we have formed while in Atmore.

There are so many people, too many to name for fear of leaving someone out, that have made both my wife’s and my time in Atmore both enjoyable and memorable. So to all of the governmental, civic and volunteer leadership throughout Atmore and Escambia County, I say thank you for your time and willingness to help in any way you could.

As a member of the Rotary Club, I have had the opportunity to meet some of the best businessmen and women I have ever had the privilege of meeting and many friendships have been a direct result of my time in the Club. The same goes for the Atmore Area YMCA, where I most recently served as vice president, and the Atmore Area Chamber of Commerce for which I served on the board of directors for three years. All of these groups are on the right track and I look forward to seeing great things from them all.

We will also miss our church family at Grace Fellowship. From day one, each and every member at the church has made us feel right at home. Worshipping with each one of you weekly has been a blessing. You don’t brew a bad cup of coffee either.

In addition, I am going to miss the many faces I see daily; friends and business partners, and the times we have all spent together during dinners, special events, weekends and even family vacations. My family will always cherish those memories.

Lastly, but not least, I personally want to thank the current staff at The Advance for their time, dedication and hard work over the past several years in helping the newspaper thrive. Working with people like Allison Brown, Chandler Myers, Sandi Boone, Lisa Tindell, Lydia Grimes, Alfred Johnson, Lowell McGill and AJ Beachy has truly been a rewarding experience and privilege. I will always hold each of them dear to my heart as not only co-workers, but also friends, family.

So as Jennifer, Ethan and I drive out of the Atmore city limits later this month, we will see a town in a our rearview mirror that has endured and overcome so much during the years we have lived here. We wish each and everyone in Atmore the best as we begin a new chapter in our lives.

Thank you, Atmore.