Saturday proclaimed

Published 12:00 am Friday, March 16, 2001

Mayor Al Gibbs Day in Troy


Features Editor

Sign up for our daily email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

When Al Gibbs agreed to run for the Troy City Commission in 1968, he met with a group of supporters who contributed $25 each to his war chest.

And, he told them plainly, "If you think you can buy me with this contribution, you can have your $25 back right now."

Gibbs was not for sale. He was interested in being a servant of the city because he thought he could make a difference.

"I never made any promises I couldn’t keep," Gibbs said. "I told people that I would help them as much as I could as long as it was legal."

Gibbs was in city government as an independent. He worked for International Paper Company and had no business connections to Troy. No pressure could be put on him in that regard, so he didn’t have to bow down to anyone. And, he didn’t.

He quickly gained the respect of the other commissioners and his constituents and the city of Troy is still reaping the rewards of his contributions today.

For that reason, the Troy City Council wanted to show its appreciation to Gibbs by declaring his 80th birthday, March 17, Mayor Al Gibbs Day.

Mayor Jimmy Lunsford signed the proclamation Thursday morning at City Hall and presented it to Gibbs, whom,

he joked is the "second best mayor the city has ever had."

During his 15 years on the city commission, Gibbs served five terms as mayor and was instrumental in bringing about changes in the city that set the stage for the tremendous growth Troy has experienced.

"Grants provided for the infrastructure that prepared for the city for growth," Lunsford said. "Under Al’s leadership, the city secured a $6 million grant for the construction of the waste water treatment facility. That is the largest grant the city has ever received. Without it, the infrastructure expansion would not have been possible."

Lunsford said Gibbs was on the commission when the old Carnegie Library was purchased for what is now Troy City Hall.

"That was at a time when many towns were tearing down historic buildings rather than restoring them," said Charles Meeks, who served on the commission with Gibbs for eight years. "The decision was made to restore the old library and it turned out to be a very good one. We have one of the finest city hall anywhere around."

During Gibbs terms of service, the commission saw the need to expand the recreation program and parks were built on Knox and Academy streets and on Franklin Drive.

"Al was also instrumental in the expansion of our fire department to include a station on George Wallace Drive and for expanding electrical power for industry and in subdivisions," Meeks said. "And, also expansion of the city airport."

Gibbs, however, gave credit for the airport expansion to the wife of his boss at International Paper Company.

His boss flew to Troy with his wife in tow. She asked directions to the restrooms and Gibbs directed her to the water closet in the rear of the hangar. The "facility" was small and nasty. His boss advised Gibbs to get the place cleaned up.

"That was the beginning of the restoration at the airport," Gibbs said, laughing.

Meeks said the improvements and expansion of the airport laid the groundwork for Sikorsky Support Services Inc. to locate in Troy and was a big plus when Lockheed Martin was looking for a location for its missile plant.

Gibbs said the proudest accomplishments of his tenure were starting a retirement fund for city employees and building up the public safety department by increasing man power and providing more training opportunities and better facilities.

"I devoted 15 years of my life to city government," he

said. "I always tried to do the best I could. My mother always said to do the best you could and you wouldn’t have anything to worry about. I did the best I could."

Gibbs expressed his appreciation to the mayor and city council for recognizing him for his service to the city.

"I am very honored," he said. "I don’t know if I’m deserving, but I am honored."

Gibbs legacy goes far beyond streets, parks and substations. His commitment , his professionalism and his leadership inspired young people to want to follow in his footsteps.

One of those,

Johnny Witherington, president of the Troy City Council, said he has great respect and admiration for Gibbs.

"Al Gibbs inspired me to want to go into city government," Witherington said. "He left some big shoes to fill, but he made me want to try. He is truly one of the great leaders of our community – of our time and all times."