In the final week of qualifying for Mobile municipal elections, which concluded July 16, more challengers stepped up and the most crowded race became even more packed.
However, a few incumbents and one newcomer will ease into City Council seats without opposition in November.
District 1 Councilman Fred Richardson, District 6 Councilwoman Bess Rich and District 7 Councilwoman Gina Gregory are all running unopposed. Joel Daves will take over the District 5 seat that retiring Reggie Copeland held for 28 years without opposition.
The rest of the districts, however, are all up for grabs.
Florance McElroy wants to see District 2 change back into the community she knew it to be when she was growing up — a place where the entire community worked together and where neighbors looked after one another’s children and told each other of their misdoings. The candidate for Mobile City Council District 2 also wants to move the area forward to be a progressive community by eliminating blight, educating its people and ridding itself of other urban issues.
McElroy works as a fundraiser for Dearborn YMCA and runs her own non-profit management company called Every1has1. She also has experience with AmeriCorps VISTA training volunteers and mentors and as a federal grant reviewer. The candidate decided to run for council because she believes she knows what District 2 could be and also saw the divide between that goal and the area’s current state.
“I’ve lived in Detroit, in Florida, Atlanta and Chicago. So when I came back to Mobile, I felt like I came back to 1989. The city had not moved and a lot of the issues that I experienced as a director in Detroit, I see them in Mobile,” she said.
Those “urban issues” she says mirror those of Detroit and the other large cities she has lived in, include blight, abandoned houses and issues facing senior citizens.
“My whole campaign is I want to get back to community. I want to get back to where we know our neighbors and that we care about our neighbors,” she said. “I want to get back to empowering the people to take care of themselves. Every issue can’t be solved at the table downtown.”
One of the ways McElroy has already started to empower people to take care of themselves is by starting the program Monday Matters. Each Monday, McElroy and others will hold meetings aimed at educating residents on topics such as Medicare matters, a federal grant class for non-profits, social media for small businesses and athletics and academics.
McElroy acknowledges there are many community groups within District 2, but they have not come together to work toward the same goal, which is what she would do as a councilor.
But above all, McElroy wishes to be an advocate for all those she wants to bring together.
“During my career, I’ve gotten people together and led them toward a goal,” she said. “This, I think, is what would make a good councilor — to unite the people and be their voice.”
McElroy will face Lakeshia Dotson, Levon Manzie, Karlos Turner and Greg Vaughan, who were all profiled in the July 11 issue of Lagniappe.
Kimberly Evans may be best known for her namesake bar — Kimberly’s on Old Shell Road — but she wants to be known as the voice of District 3 residents.
Evans, who was born in Louisiana but moved to Mobile in 1996, stressed she’s not a someone looking for a career in politics.
“I’m not a politician. I’m a citizen, a woman and a mother. What I want is there to be voice in the community I live in and things to be done. I don’t feel like that’s been the case,” she said. “We don’t have things like parks and other quality-of-life amenities.”
Evans said her focus will be on making District 3 more appealing to those who live there and for those looking to move to Mobile.
“With Airbus, people are going to be looking at moving into District 3, but they’re not going to move into the district. They’re going to be going out of the area,” she said. “We don’t have parks and we need them. There are other things that need to be done for the area to improve the quality of life.”
As a local business owner, Evans said she has seen the trouble other owners have in dealing with the city.
“I’m a small business owner and the city is not friendly to its small businesses,” she said. “It’s so hard to get licenses and do other business with the city. You can’t call the city and get an answer. It just isn’t going to happen.
“I would want to change that so businesses can actually get things done.”
Evans will face Councilman C.J. Small.
During the first week of qualifying, incumbent John Williams already knew he would be facing at least two challengers — Milton Morrow and Labaronne Wiley — following the first week of qualifying. However, the second week brought one more candidate — Tim Burnett.
Burnett is a native of Mobile and graduated in 1989 from B.C. Rain High School. From there he attended The Seafarers Harry Lundeberg School of Seamanship between 1989-1992. The former merchant seaman is presently employed as a technician at Honeywell/UOP.
Burnett said he decided to run because he wants to see a united District 4 working toward the same goals.
“My decision to serve the citizens of District 4 was based on the need for committed representation at City Hall that will develop productive relationships with fellow council members and the mayor to ensure that a revival of our district is born through hard work and creative solutions for a better Mobile,” he said. “By fostering better relations with members of the council and the mayor, the hidden agendas and barriers to unity will give way to collaboration and common ground that will allow us to build on our strengths and grow from past experiences.”
Within the district, Burnett wants to help promote transparency with the constituents from the city.
“I pledge to ensure public trust, which will require a transparent city government to provide clear information on all issues in a timely manner as well as solicit input from citizens and engage discussion prior to decision making,” he said. “We can also look at holding City Council meetings in other areas of the city regularly. The elected officials should be willing and available to go to citizens as opposed to having citizens come to city hall where it can be intimidating. Also, maybe hold meetings on issues of community interest at reasonable times when most working citizens can attend.”
Burnett wants to make sure every citizen feels safe. He would do so by building strong relationships with community centers, small businesses, civic associations and citizens in the neighborhoods between police officers.
Burnett, Morrow and Wiley are all hoping to unseat Williams, who has been a councilman since 2007.
Williams, who is retired from the U.S. Army, pledged to continue to work for the people of District 6.
“There are issues in District 4 that are what every district in the city is facing, but we do have one unique issue — we encompass the watershed that feeds into one of the major tributaries west of I-65,” he said. “One of the biggest issues facing District 4 is the water — making sure drainage infrastructure is properly done and for there not to be litter in the waterways.”
Williams said District 6 also faces the same issues every other district faces, which are basic services, park improvements and street improvements. He also said crime, whether real or perceived, is something that must be dealt with.
When working for the city as a whole, Williams said he would not squander the economic opportunities the city will have thanks to Airbus.
“We must take advantage of our economic development efforts. We need to have priority on quality of life projects by supporting the arts and improving parks while being proactive in maintaining infrastructure like streets and drainage and providing basic services like garbage and trash,” he said.
The incumbent said his time on the council is an example of what he would do in the future if elected again.
“I have always supported every effort to strengthen public safety. I have always listened to the people of District 4 and represented them,” he said. “It is a unique job as representative and legislator. I believe the cooperation I’ve shown with the other councilors is certainly partly responsible for the economic development in the city.”
The Old Dauphin Way Association will host a District 2 debate Aug. 22 at 7 p.m. at St. Mary’s School on Old Shell Road between Providence and N. Lafayette streets.
The elections for all city races will be Aug. 27 with a runoff on Oct. 8.
The last day to register as a voter before the election is Aug. 16. The last day for a voter to register for a regular absentee ballot application is Aug. 22. The last day for a voter to apply for an emergency absentee ballot if the person is required by his or her employer to be out of the country on Election Day is Aug. 26.
For more information on the municipal elections, including finding a voting center and applications for absentee and voter registration, go to www.cityofmobile.org/election.