“It’s the job of county government to improve the strategic planning for the next 20 years,” Walker County Commissioner Bebe Heiskell said. “It’s my job to do it, but I’m 63 and I’ll be 83 at the end of the plan, so I felt like someone besides me needs to also be included.”
“We included all the communities,” said Heiskell, who hosted the retreat last Thursday through Saturday at the Cohutta Springs Convention Center.. “Every city except LaFayette was well represented.”
Walker’s population is expected to double in the next 20 years, Heiskell said. About 60,000 people now reside in the county.
“We just generally talked about Walker County, improving our image, trying to capture more tourism dollars, promote ourselves better — just a real gamut of issues,” Chickamauga city and utilities manager John Culpepper said. “I feel real good about what came out of the meeting.”
“I think it’s one of the most positive meetings that I’ve been to in a long, long time,” Rossville Mayor Johnny Baker said. “We had roughly 25 invited people there. The Chamber of Commerce played an active part in it.”
“It was a diversified group that didn’t mind talking,” Heiskell said. “They all had plenty of input, and everybody seemed to think it was well worth the effort.”
“Not everybody is completely in agreement with all of the ideas that we discussed, but I think there was a very cooperative attitude amongst everybody and a real desire to see something good in Walker County,” Lookout Mountain building official Larry Reed said. “We tried to identify the strengths and weaknesses of Walker County. I came away from the meeting kind of fired up.”
“It appears there hasn’t been a lot of concerted effort made on planning growth in Walker County, but now we are trying to figure out ways to direct that growth and concentrate it so it does the best for the county in general,” Reed said.
“Growth is good, but uncontrolled growth is terrible,” Culpepper said.
Baker said he also learned a few things about assistance available from the county.
“I think the county has services for cities if we’ll just listen to them and work with them,” Baker said. “I guess I’m as guilty as anybody who thought ‘Since I’m in the city, I’m kind of out in the cold by myself, and if I can’t afford it, then I can’t do it.’ But there are labor services that the county is perfectly willing to offer cities.”
“It’s not me as a city and you as a county, it’s us working together,” he said, adding Rossville officials plan to explore county services that the city can use, such as road paving.
The superintendents from Walker County and Chickamauga City school systems also attended the retreat, Heiskell said