Crouch serves Chatom as mayor for 24 years
Mayor Harold Crouch of Chatom knows that hard work is the key to progress for his community and his constituents.
Crouch, who always had an interest in politics, did not run for public office until after he retired as a government, economics, and history teacher.
“It was just a way I thought I could help my community more than anything,” Crouch said. He ran for city council in 1994. After serving two terms on the council, Crouch ran for mayor. He has now served as mayor for 24 years, with the end of this sixth term coming up soon.
Crouch said his goal as mayor is “to make sure the people who live in our town have an extremely good quality of life and a feeling of safety.”
The mayor said Chatom officials have been working to improve the sewage systems and to expand their parks and outdoor activities, from their golf course to their playgrounds.
He said they also focus on increasing opportunities for students and young adults in Washington County. The city recently received a grant to build a career center in the library and will have resources to help young adults learn job skills.
Jessica Ross, director of the Washington County Library, said, “This project will help us provide free test prep and professional certifications such as GED prep and testing, forklift certification, and many other industrial skills that will be useful to potential employees and the businesses in our area.”
The mayor said that he would rather work on the things that can get done, rather than the things that seem out of reach, such as bringing a four-lane highway or a rail system to Chatom.
Chatom, of course, has not been immune to the effects of COVID-19, but Crouch said that the city worked quickly to follow CDC guidelines and to make sure the health of the citizens was prioritized.
“The first thing we did was make sure we shut down everything the CDC asked us to. We have tried to adhere to their standards completely. It’s much better to yield to the experts,” said Crouch.
Despite the need to close some businesses and limit social interaction, the city has worked to not only support local businesses but also to keep students fed and entertained. “We sponsored our summer reading programs and our feeding programs. Those were our two biggest things to do.”
Chatom has not had any local restaurants close because of the city’s push for people to order take out whenever possible to support them.
Crouch said that, while many citizens don’t engage with the day-to-day city business often, they all step up when there is a major problem or when a community project needs support.
He said recent examples include Chatom’s veterans’ recognition program. Chatom’s Veterans Park was dedicated last year. The park features bricks with the names and ranks of veterans from the area. “We were able to raise about 65% of the money for that in a matter of 30 days,” Crouch said.
“I’m just extremely proud to be the mayor of Chatom and couldn’t think of a better job,” he said.