Alfred Saliba, former two-term mayor of Dothan and founder of one of the most successful social services centers in Alabama, died Sunday morning after a lengthy battle with cancer. He was 82.
Saliba served as Dothan’s mayor from 1989-1997. His lasting legacy, however, may be the Alfred Saliba Family Services Center, founded in 1993. He also helped start a corresponding family health clinic in 2001.
Saliba, whose grandfather Elias Thomas Saliba immigrated to Dothan from Lebanon through Ellis Island, was born in 1930. He attended the University of Alabama. While there, he was selected for the Arnold Air Society and the Pershing Rifles Honor Guard, and served as an officer in several campus organizations. He graduated in 1953 with a degree in civil engineering. He then entered the U.S. Air Force and served in Japan and Korea. He earned numerous commendations, including the Korean Service Medal and the National Defense Service Medal. He achieved the rank of captain in the Air Force Retired Reserve. In 1955, he returned to Dothan and married Henrietta Carpenter of New Hope.
To support his young family, he established a building and land development firm, offering residential commercial construction and real estate services. He built his successful real estate business and became a founding member of the Dothan Homebuilder’s Association. He went on to become involved in several civic and charitable organizations including the Salvation Army, Hawk Houston Boys and Girls Club, Community Foundation of Southeast Alabama, Wiregrass United Way and Habitat for Humanity.
Saliba was elected Dothan’s mayor in 1989 and had to survive a move to initiate a recall by some residents upset over his support of a one-cent sales tax increase that pushed the city rate to eight cents.
He was re-elected in 1992 before being defeated in 1996 by challenger Chester Sowell. One of Saliba’s major achievements during his terms as mayor was his support of the location of a Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail course in Dothan. The Highland Oaks Golf Course, owned by the Retirement Systems of Alabama, quickly became a major tourist attraction for golf enthusiasts throughout the South and beyond.
Alabama Gov. Fob James proclaimed Nov. 21, 1997, as Alfred Saliba Day.
No accomplishment may have more impact, however, than the Alfred Saliba Family Services Center. The center is a public, non-profit social services agency that offers prevention and intervention services that strengthens families. It offers a wide range of services under the umbrella of several components, including an intake and assessment center, a Community Career Development Center, Literacy Program, in-home visitation program and an Early Head Start Program. The center partners with more than 30 social service agencies.
Saliba attended Evergreen Presbyterian Church, where he was active in serving as an elder and trustee.
According to a website chronicling the Saliba family history, Alfred Saliba’s favorite quotation came from Leo Rosten, a Polish-American humorist and sociologist.
“I cannot believe that the purpose of life is to be happy. I think the purpose of life is to be useful, to be responsible, to be honorable, to be compassionate. It is, above all, to matter, to count, to stand for something, to have made some difference that you have lived at all.”