Wetumpka Mayor Jerry Willis looks back on 2021
Like all communities, Wetumpka had to navigate the coronavirus pandemic this year. And on top of that, they are still recovering from a tornado that hit in 2019. However, despite these challenges, Wetumpka may have experienced one of its biggest years of growth.
Mayor Jerry Willis first came to Wetumpka at 20 years old. He says the city he remembers then, overtime began to fade away.
“It was a different place,” Willis said. “It was unique and the hustle and bustle on the streets and the comradery between people. That kind of left and went away.”
It 2019, this realization was put into perspective when a tornado devastated the city.
“We knew we had to come back. We knew we had to be better when we came back than we were.”
Following the tragedy, the city was chosen to be the location for HGTV’s “Hometown Takeover”, kickstarting what has been major revitalization for Wetumpka.
“We had the wagon built, we had wagon loaded, and we had a plan of what we wanted to do. HGTV came in here and helped us put four round wheels on that wagon.”
The television series was filmed and aired in 2021. Tourists now visit the friendly city they saw on TV from all over, boosting the economy like never before.
“To see the increase in our revenues is great for a small place like Wetumpka, but to get to share with the world who we are and what we are, you don’t get that many opportunities to do that.”
But that is not all that happened this year. The city also completed a new football stadium, developed a fulltime fire department, and restructured the police department to meet the needs of the expanding community. Mayor Willis says that Wetumpka finally looks like the city he once knew, and that this is just the beginning. The momentum will continue to go into 2022.
“You have to learn to maintain and carry on, and that’s what we’re doing now.”