By Ameera Steward
The number “200” was spelled out in the shape of orange and purple balloons as a cool breeze whispered across the Vulcan Park and Museum on Monday morning.
At the top of the steps leading to the museum a purple sign announced “200 Years of Innovation” with the “Jefferson County Bicentennial” stretched across the bottom of the sign.
Welcome to the kick-off of the bicentennial celebration for Jefferson County that drew County Manager Tony Petelos and all five county commissioners President Jimmie Stephens, Lashunda Scales, Sheila Tyson, Joe Knight, and Steve Ammons.
“We’re going to have events in each commission district with the help of each commissioner in those areas to highlight the local communities and what they have meant in Jefferson County through the year,” said Petelos.
A logo announcing 200 years of innovation is a testament to how much the county has grown from an “iron and steel town to the home of UAB, a world-class medical facility,” Petelos said.
Jefferson County was founded in December 1819 and building up to that “we’re going to highlight communities and cities throughout the county…we have an incredible history and this is a great place to live and raise a family,” said Petelos.
The county was established on Dec. 13, 1819 and will reach 200, one day before Alabama turns 200.
Beginning June 27, which is 200 days from the county’s 200th anniversary, officials will begin highlighting communities, people and places on social media. Buildings will be marked with the new bicentennial logo, Petelos said.
Since its founding, Jefferson County has been home to innovation, medical technology, and served an award-winning food and dining scene, Jefferson County has become a haven for culture and innovation,” said Petelos.
Scales said she hopes people will see the intentional efforts made by the county to diversify.
“As the first woman to be elected for county commission District 1 I believe that, that also is about the changing of hearts as it relates to women, race, religion, that we all recognize that though we are different in our backgrounds, we’re one as it relates to the county moving forward in a very progressive manner,” she said. “I believe that in the years to come that Jefferson County will be known as part of Alabama’s most progressive counties that we’ve ever seen.”
While the county is celebrating the past 200 years, Stephens said he is excited by what’s to come.
“It’s in our hands to forge and to make sure that we cover the right path. Let’s make sure that we continue to work together, draw on our diversity and get that done,” he said.
Knight said there is good, bad and perhaps the ugly to see in the county’s history, “but as leaders we should learn from pass mistakes and collectively concentrate on putting the building blocks in place for those who will follow us as they become the next leaders,” he said. “I am confident that Jefferson County will thrive and continue to be on the forefront of good things to come.”
Ammons said his District 5 has something to offer for everyone, from shopping and entertainment to outdoor adventures. “We have 200 years of collected beauty and history to offer our residents. Jefferson County is moving in the right direction and I look forward to not only growing with Jefferson County but improving the quality of life for our residents and our quality of place for our residents and our visitors,” he said.
Tyson said she hopes the role of African-Americans will also be celebrated.
“We were inventing things, we were very intelligent people, we were lawyers and doctors and inventors….so I would like for people to know that,” Tyson said. “So, it’s time for someone to tell the story and people to come out of the communities that have never been asked to participate in this bicentennial.”
The county is asking residents to submit their stories about the people and places of Jefferson County history on the county website.
This article originally appeared in The Birmingham Times.