Civic club organizing downtown

Photo by Laura Williams

Photo by Laura Williams

ALBANY, Ga. -- A movement is afoot downtown to organize a new civic club and city officials are hoping that they'll make use of the Albany Civic Center's largely unused meeting space.

Holding its second organizational meeting Thursday, organizers are working to try and get the Downtown Sertoma Club on its feet and have had nearly two dozen interested members participate so far.

"The purpose is really two fold: to give members who are closer to downtown the chance to meet without having to drive across town, and to create more of a synergy between the public and members of the city and county government, chamber members and business owners," newly elected Downtown Sertoma President Justin Strickland said.

Thursday's meeting was the group's first in a conference room at the Civic Center, which is just fine for Assistant City Manager Wes Smith who has been working to pitch the venue to civic clubs and other luncheon-type groups as price-friendly alternative to other locations throughout the city.

"This is kind of what we envision happening here," Smith said. "It's an easy leap for us because we already have the air going, the staff is here, all we have to do is set out the dishes and get the food and we're good."

Smith, who is filling in as the de facto interim Civic Center director as the city works to find a replacement for John Mazzola who took a job opportunity in Kansas earlier this spring, said that he'd like to try and develop additional uses for the Civic Center when the main arena isn't being used.

Strickland says that while the group is still in its organizational phase, they are accepting members and would welcome anyone who would be willing to join the group.

B.J. Fletcher, the owner and operator of Cafe 230 in downtown Albany, catered Thursday's lunch meeting and says she thinks its a great idea to try and bring more groups like civic clubs downtown.

"Anytime you can tell me we have something that will drive folks downtown, you know I'm for it," Fletcher said. "This room is great. It's private, it's quiet, its just what these types of meetings need."

Fletcher hosted the group's first meeting in the top floor of her restaurant on Broad Avenue.

Strickland said that initial plans are to advance Sertoma's global mission to advance awareness of people living with hearing impairments and helping fund and participate in community service projects.

Strickland joins Assistant City Manager James Taylor who is chairman of the club, as the initial leadership team for the group.

Anyone interested in joining can e-mail Strickland at jstrickland@choosealbany.com