Cropwell resident Gayle Sexton, who has been the lobbyist for Georgia Nursing Homes since the 1980s, was recently granted unanimous approval to start work on bringing an assisted living facility to St. Clair County.

It was at home in Cropwell that she became a advocate for teenagers who are placed in the St. Clair County DHR system. Prior to entering politics in Georgia and in Washington, Sexton was a long time player in Alabama politics, both in legislative matters as well as State and local campaigns.

Representing over 40,000 residents living in nursing homes and assisted living facilities and 25,000 employees in Georgia, Sexton managed to maneuver the politics of an industry often under attack, through two decades of progressive health care initiatives for the elderly and infirmed.

Her mission to secure more funding for the care of the elderly and loyalty to her clients was always unswerving.

Realizing that St. Clair County had a need for Assisted Living, Sexton has decided to parlay her years of experience, knowledge and energy into fulfilling a dream of building her own facility, Sunrise on the Circle. Researching and planning for almost eight months, she has settled on a location which she calls “ideal” for those who are ready for a break, in need of assistance with activities of daily living or just day to day personal care.

“We’re all excited, even my grandson, Jacky,” Sexton said. “He’s the kind of person I’ll want to have around our residents, too. Caring, Christian and always with an affinity for helping elderly people, Jacky is ready to learn the business from construction to serving breakfast. Of course he’s already had lots of experience growing up in a home with a health care lobbyist!”

She talked about finding the right place to put Sunrise on the Circle. “Austin Blair found this beautiful property on a little rise on King’s Circle which I fell in love with.”

Since the property was not for sale, Blair had to use the long time relationship that his mother, Sara Beth, had with the Littlejohn family, to entice Mr. Joe Littlejohn into a conversation about selling any of his property.

“It wasn’t long before Mr. Littlejohn became excited about the idea of what I had planned,” Sexton said.

“Ms. Sexton’s concept of what she plans for this parcel of land corresponds nicely with some projected concepts my brother and I have had for this parcel and certain adjoining property,” Mr. Littlejohn said. “We think that she will have a large clientele quickly and will entertain expansion. This initial project will be an enhancement not only to the King’s Circle neighborhood but also for the greater Pell City community at large.”

It wasn’t long before Mr. Littlejohn became excited about the idea and ultimately negotiated a land deal.

According to Sexton, the real headaches began after the land deal was agreed on. “I got a quick and mighty lesson about the woes of the Pell City sewer system and the costs associated with hooking on to a project of this size. Thankfully, Mayor [Bill] Hereford and Paul Story guided me through this painful juncture. Fast forward then though countless sleepless nights, endless meetings with bankers, architects, builders, contractors, city leaders, county leaders, economic development, lawyers and last but not least, Jeri Presgraves, the planning clerk.”

Tonight, Sexton and Mr. Littlejohn will appear before the Pell City Zoning Board for final approval for rezoning the property.

“I’m looking forward to finally moving forward,” Sexton said. “This project has turned on a lot of the public’s interest, including Mayor Hereford and Ed Gardner with the Economic Development Council (EDC), and mainly, the neighborhood. I think most of the neighborhood sees this proposal as an opportunity to benefit and really enhance the area at large and the commercial use will provide services for the residential district.”

“I have to say that this community is enormously fortunate to have Candice Hill on staff with Ed Gardner at EDC,” Sexton said. “Candice has really been a great help to me, helping me to stay on track with projections and planning and reports.”

Sexton said that it appears to her that the different entities involved in her endeavor have latched on to the overall scheme of the kind of new development she is proposing for the King’s Circle area.

The facility plan is to have a serene facade that looks like a very large home with 22 bedrooms.

It will be licensed by the Alabama Department of Public Health. There are currently 340 licensed facilities in the state, of which 255 are traditional, assisted living facilities and the remaining 85 are skilled care facilities.

The main focus of the residence facility is to make the persons living there feel at home and allow them to maintain independence and dignity while being helped to do the things they no longer can do alone. It will offer all meals, laundry services, exercise programs and social functions.

Staff, will be available 24 hours a day to offer assistance with eating, bathing, dressing, and other personal functions we well as providing access to medical services.

“You don’t have to be old to live in an assisted living facility,” Sexton explained. “Residents can be old or young, rich or poor, weak or disabled in some way and need long-term or short-term care. Most facilities offer short-term stays for customers recovering from surgery or needing rehabilitation.”

She added that the benefits of an assisted living care facility are vast and far-reaching.

As one neighbor of the property, Curtis Capps, owner of Royal Sausage and Royal Foods, put it, “I can’t think of a single thing that could further the general welfare of the community any better than this assisted living project. Although many years have passed, this land is no stranger to business. Much of it was formerly a chicken farm. In fact, the old barns are still standing on parts of the property.”

Don Perry, President of Metro Bank, said, "Pell City needs this type of facility very badly because we are growing by leaps and bounds and this population is our greatest resource.”

This Week's Circulars

Recommended for you