Have you met Dothan, Alabama’s newly elected District 5 Commissioner? In this episode of “Home Grown,” we’re going to sit down and chat with Gantt Pierce, the new District 5 Commissioner and seasoned attorney here in Dothan. We’ll learn how his career started and what he has planned to support and grow the west side of town.
Gantt is newly elected as District 5 Commissioner, which encompasses the west side of Dothan starting at Westgate and Honeysuckle going all the way up to the county near Dothan Dragway. He’s enjoyed the opportunity to represent the people out in the west of town and hopes for very good things in the near future.
Meet Gantt Pierce
Growing up in New Orleans, Louisiana, Gantt was in seventh grade when he moved to Dothan. His family had been in the area since 1969 when they moved from Covington County, and his dad and all his brothers and sisters graduated from Dothan High Schoo. The siblings went off to college at the University of Alabama—and then Gantt’s dad met his mom.
As a salesman, Gantt’s dad moved the family quite a bit, ending up in New Orleans before moving back to Dothan. The family built a house out in District 5 in Whitfield Estates, with Gantt attending Carver Middle School and Northview High School. After graduation, he went on to play baseball at Lipscomb University in Nashville, Tennessee and came out with a political science major.
He decided to go to law school at Jones in Montgomery—where he met his wife, Niki. The pair got married, moved back to Dothan, and have been here since 2011. After Gantt had been working for another law firm for about 10 years, Niki founded Dothan Law Group back in 2018. The couple renovated the Maxwell building downtown, which is where the Dothan Law Group now resides
District 5 Growth
Dothan—and the Wiregrass as a whole—has been developing and growing, and District 5 is no exception. The west side of town is naturally growing, so they’re having to make some infrastructure adjustments that are compatible with that growth. People want to be safe in their homes and in their businesses, so this infrastructure is essential.
Because of this growth, you’ll see a lot of orange barrels everywhere, funneling out towards John D. Odom. After that, it will probably move on to Brannon Stan. It’s all an effort to make sure that Dothan’s west side is structurally sound and that the infrastructure can handle what’s going on. Because everyone wants this growth, Gantt says we need to try to stay ahead of the curve to avoid big-time problems.
Of course, those orange barrels can slow and hinder traffic at times. However, we all know that’s progress. It’s painful at times, but it's a necessary evil. Some people are sitting through two or three different red lights, which slows people down and frustrates others. However, if we can make traffic flow properly with the help of traffic engineers and Dothan’s roads, the town will be in good shape.
Developing From Within
Dothan and the other small towns throughout the Wiregrass are continuing to expand and grow outward. While that growth is a positive thing, I asked Gantt how important it is to refocus on the development from within. For one, he says we've got to be committed to investing in our downtown area.
Downtown Dothan has historically always been the center of commerce. Back in the early 1900s when the city was developed, downtown was the area where people came, socialized, and shopped. Focusing on the downtowns of cities throughout Alabama and bringing those back to the epicenter of our economy is a key strategy.
Gantt says the leadership that has been shown in the past 10-15 years by our mayors and our commission has been getting us to where Dothan is now. We’re on the precipice of blowing up downtown, he says, and it’s because of those people that have come before and allowed us to succeed. While a lot of newcomers like Gantt are going to get a lot of praise for their success, they can't forget about who came before them and gave them the opportunity to succeed.
Gantt and his wife are excited to be part of this expansion in downtown Dothan. The pair was able to purchase the Wise Building at 135 Foster St, and they’ve locked into an agreement with Oyster City Brewing Company out of Apalachicola to come to Dothan.
An equity firm owns Oyster City Brewing Company and, under their umbrella, there's a beer out of North Carolina called Catawba and one out of South Carolina called Palmetto. Gantt is looking forward to having all of those in downtown Dothan by April 23—just in time for the big art festival.
I asked Gantt if there was a zoning ordinance that he would want to change—but he’s confident that our current zoning works well. The city has a strategic plan that lays out where it sees Dothan going. On that zoning map, Gantt says, they've done an incredible job putting the commission in a position to make sure they’re doing it right. After all, no one wants a factory sitting in the middle of downtown.
Gantt was on the planning commission in 2017. This has really done wonders for him in public services, as he now understands the baseline for a lot of these things. Planning and zoning are very important departments, as they dictate what goes where. Many people are worried that the city is going to give them a hard time about opening a business or code enforcement. However, people in the city are really making an effort to show that that's not the case. Dothan wants to incorporate businesses into the downtown area.
The zoning and planning departments essentially play real-life Sim City, ensuring that everything is set up in the best way possible. Of course, some of those ordinances are can be archaic at times. Dothan’s Planning & Development Director Todd McDonald is really good at identifying those archaic ordinances and understanding how to change them. That process is pretty fun to watch for Gantt, as he gets to see how we can develop and grow with that development.
I asked Gantt what he would do if he got a million-dollar grant from the state—or better yet, Jeff Bezos. What’s a project Gantt would like to see happen? For one, Gantt said he would want to use some of that money to buy a baseball team and build a baseball. Baseball games are so much fun, from the family atmosphere to the things you can do around the area.
While that may happen in the future, things are coming up soon in 2022 that Gantt hopes to bring to Dothan. He sees the city committing to an investment in our downtown region, which is an important task on the mind of the entire commission, the mayor, and the city manager.
There are a lot of questions to ask, including if they want to go to the next level to see how big the city can get. Other places have an interstate, a port, or something similar—but Dothan doesn’t. While Dothan is economically strong, Gantt says, you never know what the future holds.
A Great Place To Live
By making a commitment to revitalize downtown Dothan, Gantt hopes to get it to a place that younger people want to be. They won’t have to go to Albany, Georgia to see a concert or to Montgomery to visit a museum. They can stay in Dothan to experience all of those things.
Ultimately, at some point, Gantt wants to make Dothan a place for his kids’ future. When they get done with college or the age where they're thinking about having a family, Gantt wants them to have the opportunity to be able to come back to Dothan, Alabama, and achieve whatever they want to achieve here in this city.
Dothan is the best place on earth. It’s in a very great geographical location for travel and has great weather and a great climate. You can jump on 231 and head to Montgomery or Birmingham, and it’s only a few hours to Atlanta. There’s Jacksonville and the entire I-10 corridor to the south. Overall, it’s an amazing place to call home.
Understanding The People
In representing District 5, Gantt’s committed to hearing the voices of his constituents. His job as a commissioner is to be that voice downtown and understand what people in District 5 see as problems. He can then understand those problems, understand the options, and ultimately, identify the solutions.
That's the name of the game for Gantt. He wants to see problems and he wants to fix problems. It's easy to identify problems; a lot of people can do that. Sometimes, however, the solution is very difficult and takes some energy to accomplish. Gantt wants to give the people of District 5 the confidence that what they think is important is also important to him. In turn, he’s going to take that downtown.
We've got to have a safe community in Dothan; public safety is a huge deal to Gantt, and we need to ensure our police force is running at 100%. While the city has had some issues and we're down a few officers at the moment, Gantt’s confident that ensuring we have a safe community remains a priority.
Ultimately, he says, we've got to create jobs, we've got to create industry, and we've got to grow. That's how we’ll grow this city. Gantt says if he forgets about that goal of growth, he feels he’s doing a disservice to everybody. If you're not growing, then you're idle. And if you're idle, then you're dying.
There are a lot of communities that don’t progress—or only stay on the verge of the progression—that is required in order to succeed. Gantt believes we have to keep an eye out and make sure that the city is moving along as it should. What Gantt ultimately hopes is that he can bring some youth, energy, and ultimately progress to our Dothan community.
I appreciate everything Gantt is doing for our community. He’s spent time in the Dothan Area Young Professionals organization, where his wife started a kickball team. There was one season where he had 350 players and 24 teams, playing and building relationships. Some of the friendships and connections Gantt made during kickball are ones he still has today—with people he might not otherwise have crossed paths with.
Additionally, many of Dothan’s leaders and officials used to be in an organization called the Jaycees, which is similar to the DAYP. Those organizations are very civically minded and lay a great foundation for city officials and board members—including Gantt Pierce. We look forward to seeing everything he’s going to do for the community!