By Joel Hall
Riverdale Mayor Evelyn Wynn-Dixon reached out to the clergy on Friday in a meeting aimed at strengthening the city's ties with area churches.
Among several topics discussed were making better use of community outreach programs, disseminating city information through the churches, and coming together as a community in support of the city's Town Center project.
"We're bridging a gap," said Wynn-Dixon. "I want to let them know that we want to keep them abreast of everything that is happening in the city. In order for us to grow, we have to work together."
Wynn-Dixon said because of the trust ministers have with their respective congregations, the clergy will be vital in disseminating accurate information about the city's renewal efforts. She believes many "bold-faced lies" have been spread by parties in opposition to the city's recent decision to relocate its Town Center to the land which is now Travon Wilson Park.
"I'm so sorry that somebody has to get hurt in this endeavor, but I'm looking out for the masses," said Wynn-Dixon. "This is going to generate jobs." She ensured clergy members the city has been in contact with the family of Wilson to make sure he is properly memorialized in the new Town Center.
Rev. Frank Salters, pastor of Light of Joy Worship Center on Highway 138 in Riverdale, said he appreciated the mayor's attempt to speak with area clergy and others about what the city is doing.
"I think for the first time, the plans that are presented are open and inclusive," said Salters. "The people can see exactly what the city is doing, [as] opposed to it being done behind closed doors, and at the last minute seeking approval," he added.
"There have not been many positive initiatives in our community for us to get behind, but this is positive," said Salters in regard to Town Center. "We are excited about the new Riverdale. We would like to see it grow economically ... where it's not just a commuter town."
"The churches have a large role to play because a large part of the community attend our ministries," said Rev. Geffry Tate, pastor of Community Reach Ministries on Lassiter Street. "We being in partnership with the mayor, it will help us get the information to the community about the positive things going on in the community."
Clayton County Board of Commissioners Chairman Eldrin Bell supported the mayor's effort, and pledged the county's support.
"We've all gone through growing pains, whether you are on a city board, a school board, or my board," said Bell. "What Mayor Dixon has done has helped build a bigger team.
"If you're going to kick us, as long as you kick us forward, that's OK," Bell added. "We are going to sit with her and help her develop her dream for the City of Riverdale."