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Selma Mayor: 'An Awesome Time For Our City'

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

The mayor of Selma, George Patrick Evans, joins us now. Thank you so much for being with us, Mr. Mayor.

GEORGE PATRICK EVANS: It's my pleasure.

MARTIN: So your city is the focus of a whole lot of national attention this weekend. Can you just describe what the energy is like in town?

EVANS: (Laughter) You don't want to know.

MARTIN: (Laughter).

EVANS: It's unreal, but it's a happy occasion and a real historic occasion because you don't celebrate the 50th anniversary but one time. And so this is our time to celebrate it. And the people are excited about it. It's truly an awesome time for our city. And we do appreciate the people who are visiting us that can be a part of that history.

MARTIN: How do you think what happened in Selma 50 years ago fits into the current conversation about race relations in this country?

EVANS: Well, I'm not so sure how it fits per se because we have a lot more crime going on in 2015 all over this country than we had a 1965. Segregation existed, but we didn't have the crime. And so now, even though we've gained so much through voting rights and Bloody Sunday and things like that, we stepped backwards when it comes to crime and drugs, the jail system - things like that in terms of how many people are in jail. So we still have a long way to go in eliminating those problems. So we still have a lot of room for improvement, a lot of work to be done.

MARTIN: What is life like for the average citizen in Selma? I mean, your city does have challenges. You've got chronic unemployment rates. What are the biggest problems from your vantage point?

EVANS: Well, from the standpoint of jobs, we have a lot of jobs. It's just that there are a lot of people who do not have the skill level to man these jobs. And that's the biggest problem we have. There are industries and businesses here that are searching for people to come to work. But many times they're not able to get the jobs because they're not going back to pick up that trade or that technical skill that's needed in order to take that job.

MARTIN: As mayor of Selma, you deal with all of the usual issues that come up when you're trying to manage a city, like any other mayor. But you have a different task because you represent this city that has such an important history and is so important to the country as a whole. Do you feel that significance?

EVANS: I do. Yes, I do because there has been a lot of changes since that time - tremendous changes, actually. But there's still room for improvement. We still have bridges to build and to cross. By no means have we gotten to the point that we should be as a city or even as a country. But I think everybody is trying to work together for the benefit of making that happen. And I really hope someday soon we can all say that we've made it.

MARTIN: George Patrick Evans is the mayor of Selma, Ala. Thanks so much for talking with us, Mr. Mayor.

EVANS: Thank you so much, appreciate you asking. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.