New study: Shelby County leads state in quality of life

By BRAD GASKINS / Staff Writer

When it comes to quality of life, nobody in Alabama has it better than residents of Shelby County.

So concluded a study released this week by Alabama State University’s Center for Leadership and Public Policy.

“Counties in Crisis: Assessing Quality of Life in Alabama” ranked the state’s 67 counties in four areas: economy, health, public safety and education.

Shelby County scored 122 of 140 possible points.

“We’re proud to still be recognized that way,” Shelby County Manager Alex Dudchock said.

Madison County was second with 109 points, followed by Baldwin County with 103 points, Jefferson County with 101.5 points and Limestone County with 100 points.

Shelby County scored first in economy with 39 of 40 points, tied for 10th in healthcare with 37 of 40 points, tied for 11th in public safety with 10 of 20 points and first in education with 36 of 40 points.

“These recognitions are attributable to several factors that are the result of the excellent work performed by all of the county and city public employees and the elected boards that manage the finances effectively, such as our County Commission and the city councils,” Dudchock said. “We have high expectations and know that we have the best county, city and education system employees to match the make-up of our general population.”

He credited the County Commission for prioritizing and funding “all the categories and all the services that impact quality of life.”

“The categories that [the study] evaluated received significant support and funding from the county and the revenues that the County Commission has the power to appropriate from,” he added.

Dudchock said the county works hard to get additional funding from federal, state and municipal resources for joint projects.

Dudchock said he hadn’t seen the report, but added “if it’s similar to other studies that have been commissioned on an annual or census period basis, we typically rank high in every one of those categories.”

The study found that 36.8 percent of Shelby County’s population has a bachelor’s degree, a higher percentage than any other county in the state.

“It is not surprising that Shelby County has the highest percentage of residents with bachelor’s degrees,” the report stated. “Many people working in Birmingham and Jefferson County – the largest city and county in Alabama – live in Shelby County.”

Dudchock credited the Shelby County and Hoover school systems, calling them “two of the leading public education systems in the state.”

“When you combine that with also having some of the top three or four private school offerings in the state, you are a magnet.”

The county puts a “high priority” on public safety spending, he said.

“Our County Commission has historically funded public safety significantly compared with the available resources the commission has,” Dudchock said.

Despite having the state’s top-ranked economy, Dudchock said Shelby County has “a long way to go in making our county have enough employment opportunities that we do not have the pressures put on our road systems because of them having to drive elsewhere to work.”

He said Shelby County would always be a significant provider of employees to Birmingham and Jefferson County.

“But we still work hard to try to get business growth and more employment opportunities here,” he added.