She’s currently the chairman of the Daphne Utilities Board of Directors, but many constituents may know Selena Vaughn for her volunteer work with the Daphne Beautification Committee or as chair of the Village Point Park Foundation. In all of these roles, Vaughn has worked through the bureaucracy in City Hall to achieve the groups’ goals. She’s worked on other political campaigns before, but has never ran for office herself.
“This year something changed in me and I just decided we needed some systemic changes,” Vaughn said during an interview with Lagniappe at Soul Caffeine last month. “Rather than continue to work around committees and projects, I wanted to step up and try to fix some of those things.”
She praised efforts by city staff and department heads, but said communication can be improved between employees, citizens and processes and “we just need some fresh air in City Hall.”
“We need to review what our communication processes are and our management practices because I think we can work smarter,” Vaughn said. “And we definitely need to have more boots on the ground and make sure we’re not too top heavy. We can work smarter.”
That’s been accomplished at Daphne Utilities, she said, where she was appointed to the board three years ago in the midst of a lawsuit with the Alabama Department of Environmental Management over excessive sewage spills. The utility, which is a separate entity from the city but includes the mayor and a council member on the board of directors, entered into a consent decree with the state last year to resolve the issues.
“We had an incident at that facility that involved employees not doing what they’re supposed to be doing, and they’re gone now,” she said. “We have some great people now and that place is better than it’s ever been. On all the phone calls and emails and the questions that people would ask me about what’s going on at Daphne Utilities, I would just tell them ‘listen I’m a citizen, I’m on here volunteering and believe me, I would let you know if there was something we needed to be worried about, or if we weren’t doing a great job.’”
The Village Point Park Foundation was formed in the early 1990s with the intent to purchase the 80 acres now known as Village Point Park from residential developers, but in the years since, the Foundation has broadened its mission to focus on parks citywide.
“Our bayfront has really long been overlooked,” Vaughn said. “Can you imagine what it would do for the quality of life and for the economy of Daphne if [Highway 98] wasn’t called Hamburger Hill?”
In recent years, the Foundation has proposed a series of scenic overlooks, boardwalks and accesses from I-10 all the way to the Village Point Park, but the funding and political will have been difficult to achieve.
“Imagine how it would boost the businesses there and attract visitors,” Vaughn continued. “It would really improve quality of life. Now I’ve been working with Forever Wild for the past five years to nominate the property on the Causeway to preserve. We are in the process now and we helped [Forever Wild] to write the grant and facilitate the sale between the owners.”
Vaughn is originally from Pensacola but also lived in Montgomery before moving to Daphne in 1992 and accepting a marketing and advertising position at Lewis Communications. She has since retired and focuses on volunteer work full time.
Daphne is the largest city in Baldwin County by population and may approach or exceed 30,000 residents when the 2020 Census is complete. Vaughn’s campaign motto is “fostering growth while preserving community.”
“I’ve made those same comments about growth like, ‘where are all the people coming from?’ and ‘who forgot to close the gate?’ But you can’t hold back the tide. What you have to do is constantly improve your land use ordinances and your infrastructure planning and budgeting. I think it’s very important to hold our bar high – we can set the standard for what our growth looks like if we do it now before it’s too late. This is a crucial time.”
Among other issues, Vaughn said a new I-10 toll bridge across Mobile Bay is necessary but locals shouldn’t pay for it; the city should consider annexing the Belforest area to assist more with schools and municipal services; the city’s animal shelter is “woeful” and needs to be replaced with a larger and more effective facility; and city council and committee meetings should be live streamed and archived online to increase citizen awareness and engagement.
“I feel like I work full time for the city now and I love it, but [being mayor] would just be coming at it from a different angle,” she said. I’m ready to get to work, I’m in it to win.”
Vaughn and her husband Jim originally built a house in Lake Forest but are currently evaluating builders for a new house in Olde Towne Daphne, and Jim is a managing member and owner of Innerspaice Architectural Interiors.
In the election Aug. 25, Vaughn faces off for mayor against CertaPro Painters owner Steve Carey, City Council President and owner of Market By The Bay Robin LeJeune, and U.S. Army veteran Michael Hobbs. Vaughn is the only female candidate.
“May the best woman win I say,” Vaughn said. “The city is already full of great female employees, department heads and talent. I would just be joining the ranks.”
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