Councilmember Velma Johnson on the importance of community in Midfield, AL

Midfield, AL’s Splash Pad. Photo by City of Midfield via Facebook.

In the increasingly technologically connected, fast-paced, global economy-driven world of today, it can be hard for even the small towns of America to retain their ‘small town’ feel. And yet, that’s exactly what Midfield, AL is striving to maintain and preserve.

Located just outside of Birmingham, AL, Midfield, with a population just over 5,000, is known as “the Convenient City”. It’s a place where residents make it a point to “eat, shop, and do all of their business right in the city,” says Councilmember Velma Johnson, a member of Smart Growth America’s Local Leaders Council.

Those who live in Midfield say they have a sense of belonging—of knowing and being known by so many others in the community. “As humans we want to connect to one another,” says Johnson. “In Midfield, we’re fortunate to live in the type of community where police officers know children by name.”

Councilmember Velma Johnson

Twenty years ago, when Councilmember Johnson moved to Midfield with her young daughter and elderly mother, she was looking for exactly that type of close-knit community. “But,” she says, “the city was still lacking in amenities for those two populations.” So Johnson ran for office, hoping to bring more opportunities to the youth and senior populations and to improve their quality of life.

Before a $14 million tax increase was approved by voters earlier this year, the City of Midfield hadn’t held a referendum on property tax increases since 1970, which had left the city hard-pressed to make large municipal investments. The Council instead has focused on small but meaningful steps to improve the individual quality of life of residents through physical infrastructure improvements like fixing streets and improving sidewalks, growing the police force, and providing new emergency equipment—but also through a strengthened social infrastructure, which Councilmember Johnson continues to champion.

Now in her third term on City Council, Johnson can count the addition of programs geared towards youth, education opportunities for senior citizens, and events to bring all generations of the community together among her accomplishments. The city has an annual Back to School Rally and Fun Day, and Johnson continues to work to create opportunities for all members of the community. “People are happy if they have a city that they love to live in that has the amenities that they need,” says Johnson. “My goal is to make citizens comfortable and secure in our city.”

With the help of some federal funding, last year Midfield was able to complete improvements to one of the city’s main thoroughfares that included the rehabilitation of sidewalks to make them compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act. The city also obtained $450,000 for a new system of walking trails in two of the city’s parks.

Midfield has benefitted, too, from its place in Jefferson County and the greater Birmingham region. A new health facility for the western portion of the county is currently under construction in the city to replace three smaller clinics in neighboring towns. The Western Health Center is slated to open in early 2015, bringing with it new jobs and economic development opportunities.

A smattering of other businesses have also opened in Midfield in recent years. Last year a vacant property in the city was renovated into a car dealership. Work is also underway to turn another long-vacant industrial property into a new Dunn Construction Plant.

“The quality of life in Midfield has continued to improve, but we’re always striving to do better,” says Councilmember Johnson. “That’s something that all of my colleagues on the City Council are committed to.”

As Midfield, AL works to maintain and enhance its character, its focus on family and community may well mean that police officers can continue to greet children by name for generations to come.

Local Leaders Council