Joy Parker isn’t from Huntsville, but it’s her home. A native of Boston, she and her late husband, U.S. Army Col. Brandon Parker, were stationed at Redstone Arsenal.
“I was doing a lot of things on post when I got a call from (former Mayor) Loretta Spencer,” she said. “She said I needed to help my city, and I asked her how.”
That call led to Parker becoming more engaged in City volunteerism and culminated in a longtime association with the Huntsville Beautification Board. She now serves as president of the group, which is becoming more active this year after the pandemic suspended its 2020 efforts.
For Parker, being part of the Beautification Board is more than volunteerism. She believes the 20-member board takes their mission to keep Huntsville beautiful seriously.
“We should be proud to be the people keeping this as one of the prettiest cities to live in,” she said. “You get so much satisfaction from it and you see how much people care.”
Something for everyone
Parker is just one of the hundreds of Huntsville volunteers who give back to the community by serving on one of the City’s nearly 60 boards and commissions. No matter the point of interest, there’s likely a board for it.
Like Parker, Melissa Thompson volunteers by serving on the Huntsville-Madison County Library Board of Directors. She’s now in her second term and is the board’s vice chair. She said it’s an “honor” to serve on the board.
“It’s one small way that I can give back to this community that has given so much to me,” she said.
“Board members provide the structure that make Huntsville move forward, and the people who do so serve because they love this City and want the world to be a better place.” – Mayor Tommy Battle.
Boards and commissions are unique because they inform rules and regulations that govern a City. They are similar because all are made up of citizens who have other citizens’ best interests at heart.
The number of members varies by board, but members are appointed either by the Mayor or a vote of the City Council. Huntsville’s police chief and the Madison County Commission also have appointing authority on some boards.
What they do
Most boards and commissions meet monthly and discuss issues of importance to that group. Other boards guide policy and some assist in managing budgets larger than the City of Huntsville’s. The Planning Commission and Board of Zoning Adjustment can enact legislation and vote on ordinances and resolutions to be taken into consideration later by the Mayor and Council. Those ordinances and resolutions have a far-reaching impact on the City’s present and future.
The role of the City’s boards and commissions can’t be overstated. Appointed members, though volunteers, take their roles seriously because they are in a position of influence. Their input shapes decisions regarding everything from public safety to entertainment.
Not to be taken lightly
Because these boards and commissions have such an influential effect on City policy, the Mayor and Council are always seeking volunteers who not only care about their communities, but are passionate about serving. This means doing homework to learn as much about the board as possible, including learning the board’s mission and reading associated bylaws or enacting documents.
And while these are voluntary roles, it doesn’t diminish members’ responsibilities to the board and the City. To that end, prospective members must be willing to receive governance and ethics training.
“Board members provide the structure that make Huntsville move forward, and the people who do so serve because they love this city and want the world to be a better place,” said Mayor Tommy Battle.
As any volunteer would say, it just feels good to serve. Whether it’s carrying groceries for an elderly neighbor or helping someone overcome an educational obstacle, there’s nothing that replaces that sense of accomplishment.
Board and commission members can positively affect future generations and influence more residents to become citizens. Those who helped shape decisions and policies of this and previous administrations have played a substantial role in the City’s stratospheric success. Their willingness to serve helps Huntsville continue to shine.