This year’s municipal elections were pivotal, but odd, as a deceased man made the runoff in one district,a former judge accused of sexually abusing inmates made the runoff in another, and four of seven Mobile City Council seats wound up with new occupants.
The topic of annexation loomed large in the election. And ultimately, the council saw more new members elected since it was reformed as a mayor-council form of government in 1985 under the Zoghby Act.
The incumbent in the District 2 race — the late Councilman Levon Manzie — was the top choice in a crowded field, but fell just short of winning the race outright in August. Former District 2 Councilman William Carroll placed second among the challengers and headed to a runoff with Manzie.
Before the October runoff, though, 39-year-old Manzie succumbed to complications from kidney disease, which he’d been suffering from since he was 14 years old. His death brought unusual fireworks to the race as a group of Manzie supporters and supporters of annexation teamed up to get the late councilman reelected, which would’ve triggered a special election. One of the groups spurring the effort financially was made up of supporters of Mayor Sandy Stimpson, including one of his brothers.
Despite the push to get Manzie reelected posthumously, Carroll won the runoff and took back the District 2 seat after an eight-year hiatus.
The election for Mobile’s mayor promised to be a much closer affair when candidates announced their runs. Stimpson was eyeing a third term in office, but two strong and well-known candidates looked to unseat him.
Councilman Fred Richardson gave up the District 1 seat he had kept for the last two-and-a-half decades to run for mayor. Municipal Judge Karlos Finley also threw his hat in the ring.
Stimpson ran on his record of improving quality of life throughout the city and a promise to reintroduce the annexation debate that failed in 2019. The other two candidates were opposed to annexation, at least in the short term, and each focused on different ways to address crime, specifically, the high rate of gun-involved incidents.
The race saw Stimpson bring in a sizable war chest of contributions, with much of the support coming from the business community and residents excited about growth to the west. Both Richardson and Finley lagged behind the incumbent in donations, but remained undeterred.
Despite the promise of a tight election and a possible runoff, Stimpson won reelection easily.
Since the victory in August, Stimpson has promised to start or finish many priorities in his first 100 days of the term. One of those promises is to reintroduce the annexation debate, although he has yet to bring a new plan to the public as the New Year approaches.
The District 1 race was one of two others that required a runoff, as neither of the two remaining candidates from the summer’s election received more than 50 percent of the vote. When the dust settled on election night, Cory Penn and former Mobile County Circuit Court Judge Herman Thomas were the two candidates standing in a crowded field. Many were surprised to see Thomas make the runoff considering he was indicted in 2009 for paddling and sexually abusing inmates. He was not convicted of those charges.
Thomas just edged out Chamyne Fortune Thompson to make the runoff, but eventually lost to Penn. In November, Penn became the first person to hold the District 1 seat other than Richardson since 1997.
The District 6 race also went to a runoff, featuring Josh Woods and Scott Jones. Jones was endorsed by the three former District 6 representatives, but Woods got the nod from his and Jones’ election opponents, Tony Dughaish and Daryl Pendleton.
Jones took the runoff easily and was sworn in to replace Bess Rich, who retired from the council.
The other new face on the council is Ben Reynolds, who was backed by former Councilman John Williams. Reynolds defeated Fred Rettig in the August election.
Those four new faces joined Councilman C.J. Small, Councilman Joel Daves and Councilwoman Gina Gregory, who were all reelected, to form the next Mobile City Council.
Just as it felt life was getting back to normal — the statewide mask mandate was lifted, schools were getting back into a routine and dining business was picking back up — the Delta variant of COVID-19 spiked in the area in August and September.
A mutation from the original virus, which promised to be even more contagious, led medical professionals to lean more on educating the public about the disease and push vaccination. While officials stopped just short of begging the public to help prevent infection, local hospitals filled up with cases and, at one point, the number of emergency calls caused an ambulance shortage for the Mobile Fire-Rescue Department.
Mobile County and the state saw the most deaths from the entire pandemic in 2021. Mobile County lost a reported 883 residents due to the disease in 2021. The state saw 9,232 total deaths from the pandemic in 2021. A total of 16,418 Alabamians have died of COVID-19.
Hospitalizations in the state ebbed and flowed all year, according to information from the Alabama Department of Public Health’s (ADPH) COVID-19 dashboard. On Jan. 1, 2021, the state had 101 patients hospitalized due to COVID-19. The biggest single day for hospitalizations for the state came on Sept. 5, when 3,165 patients were admitted to hospitals.
The past year saw the most vaccinations for COVID-19 as well. Statewide, a total of 2.7 million people have received the full vaccine series, while another 500,000 have received one vaccine dose. Those receiving the vaccine include about 52 percent of Mobile County residents. A total of 441,000 doses of vaccine have been administered in the county, according to ADPH.
As Delta cases began to wane, officials announced a new variant: Omicron. As of this writing, there hasn’t been a confirmed case of Omicron in Mobile County, but health officials believe it is likely already here.
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