After the August municipal election, most of Mobile’s city leaders were set, but there remains only one position still up for grabs — District 2 City Council.
The two candidates still in the fight are current Mobile County Public School Board member Levon Manzie and attorney Greg Vaughan. District 2 residents will go to the polls again on Oct. 8 to finally choose their city representative.
The Mobile native served as the youth council representative during his days at Murphy High School before he graduated in 2001. During his time as Murphy’s youth representative, he attended the city council meetings on a regular basis.
“I knew since I was five years old this was the path I wanted to go,” Manzie said. “When I was 10, I was already helping out in campaigns. When I was at Murphy, I was excused to attend the council meetings since I represented the youth council.”Manzie, who has a political science degree from Troy University, said he wants to trade his seat as a School Board Commissioner to be a City Councilor because of the opportunities that abound for Mobile, and the ways he could continue to help the education system by being on the council.
“I’m a native Mobilian and I love our community. I realized these next few years will be transformative. I think we need the kind of leadership that will work to maximize the potential and all of the opportunities we’ll be afforded,” he said. “With my school board capacity, I see that many of the problems that trickle into our schools start in our communities, and I want to be a driving force to eradicating those problems.”
Many of the issues facing District 2 are the same ones the city faces, he says.
“Many in District 2 have communicated to me that infrastructure is a concern. They want to see improvements to the roads and sidewalks,” he said. “The entire city wants the quality of life and infrastructure improved to a degree that the whole community benefits from it.
“In my opinion (District 2) has been lacking in true representation as far as the sentiments and issues and complaints of the people who live in the district. The folks in District 2 need an advocate.”
In addition to addressing the concerns of District 2 residents, Manzie said he would love to see a more family and business-friendly downtown.
“I would like for Mobile to become more of a family-friendly destination,” he said. “I think District 2 is the leading pulse behind that with our downtown. I would like to see a true entertainment district curated that would be palatable not only to our business owners, but to the residents.
“I would like to see our downtown be more business friendly.”
Manzie said if elected to the City Council, he would resign from the school board. However, the position, he said, has given him experience that would more than help him to be an effective councilor.
“The school board’s budget is nearly two and a half times the city’s and many of the complexities that face the city council, we face as a school board from employee relations to aging infrastructure, customer service … it’s just a different type of customer,” he said. “(The school board has) had declining revenue for four to five years I’ve served on the school board. We’ve had to cut our budget by $100 million and even while doing that our graduation rate has increased by 16 percent.
Manzie said in representing the fourth district in the MCPSS he has already represented 80 percent of the city’s second district. He also has dealt with Airbus officials in setting up the B.C. Rain’s Aerospace and Aviation Training Center.
While Manzie is concerned about downtown, quality of life, bikes and infrastructure, there is one thing he wants to see happen more than anything in District 2.
“We need to make certain that every area in the district — from Plateau to Oakleigh — is represented,” he said. “Every area needs that.”
One thing Greg Vaughan said differentiates him from the other candidates vying for the Mobile City Council District 2 seat is he has specific ideas to make the district better.
Vaughan, an attorney at Holtson Vaughan LLC, came to Mobile in 2004 after he earned his law degree from the University of Alabama. He has lived in District 2 since he began calling Mobile home and now he wants to represent the area.“I’ve lived in District 2 since I came to Mobile, which is where my dad is from,” he said. “My wife and I enjoy the area and I’ve always wanted to serve in an elected office.
“My dad was in the Navy so he served, but I’ve always wanted to serve in a different way.”
His passion for lobbying for District 2 and the city made it an easy decision to throw his hat in the ring to become the next councilor for the district, and he has one major focus for the area.
Vaughan said the biggest issue facing District 2 and the city of Mobile is the issue of public safety.
“The focus I have for the district and city is public safety. It’s especially important for District 2 because there will be a lot of new residents looking at downtown and midtown to relocate for Airbus and the suppliers,” Vaughan said. “District 2 needs to be a safer place to live. That’s why we are losing people to West Mobile and Baldwin County.”
During Vaughan’s campaigning, which has taken him door-to-door, he visited the home of one resident who placed a crutch like device under her home’s door handle. Vaughan asked the District 2 resident what it was for and she said so no one could kick her door in.
“When you hear stories like that from residents, then you know there’s a problem,” Vaughan said. “I’ve spoken to law enforcement that are sick of the revolving door at Metro Jail.
“If I am elected, I would work on increasing the capacity at the Mobile County Metro Jail. I would also implement rehabilitation programs because some of the people coming out of the jail don’t have the skill set for legal employment.”
District 2 residents have other problems they’d like for their councilor to clear up, Vaughan said, and that’s why he would make sure to listen to their concerns and work for them.
“The legal field I work in is civil litigation with construction and insurance matters. My job is to solve problems and advocate for my clients,” he said. “If I am lucky enough to be elected, I would do the same for my constituents, which are kind of like clients. I would work for them. I would work for them to feel safe and I would work to resolve problems.
“If the people of District 2 don’t feel like I am doing a good job, then I would want them to vote for someone else next time. I’m not a person who believes in becoming a career politician. I think term limits are a good thing.”
As Vaughan makes his way campaigning through District 2, he said he’s looking forward to hearing from the residents and hopes to show them he wants to do what’s best for the district and city.
“I just want to get out there and get my views across,” he said. “I want the residents to listen to all the District 2 candidates. I think what they will find is I am the candidate that has a specific plan. That distinguishes me from all the other candidates.”
Vaughan is also hosting a District 2 Community Clean up on Oct. 1 at 5:30 p.m. Volunteers should meet at Callaghan’s Irish Social Club, 916 Charleston St., to pick up a trash bag. People can clean up anywhere in District 2. After a trash bag is filled, the volunteers fill a trash bag they can head back to Callaghan’s for a free beer and campaign T-shirt while supplies last.