At their last council meeting, emotional goodbyes from Councilors Reggie Copeland and William Carroll, as well as Mayor Sam Jones were almost overshadowed by the Mobile City Council’s vote to change the name of Government Plaza to Samuel L. Jones Government Plaza.
In a surprise motion, which was kept off the agenda so Jones would not find out, the council voted unanimously to approve the name change. The Mobile County Commission will need to approve the change as well, however, since it is their building.
Jones said he would have lobbied against the idea, if asked, but he appreciated the sentiment.
“Over the years people have tried to name various things after me, and I have said to wait until I’m gone or dead,” Jones said. “If I would have known about this, I would have discouraged it, but it’s very nice.
“I was president of the Mobile County Commission when the decision to build (Government Plaza) was approved. In 1993, I moved into here and I was the first person here.”
During his final speech before the council, Jones said the city should expect a cruise ship sometime soon in Mobile.
“There was one meeting with a cruise line that went really well,” he said. “I think the next administration’s job is to just close the deal really.”
The outgoing mayor praised his administration saying people in the city may be calling them in the future because they know how to do everything.
He also said he was proud of the city’s growth during his eight years as mayor.
“We have made a tremendous amount of progress in the last eight years. I don’t think there is any doubt about that. In fact, unparalleled progress. We have weathered one of the most severe economic downturns in this country,” he said. “I’m proud of where we are as a city.”
While bragging on the fire and police department, Jones went off on a tangent about how the way media reports the numbers provided by the departments.
“(Fire Department Chief Stephen) Dean and (Police Chief Micheal) Williams, these gentleman have done just a great job in leading the departments. Both of them have worked extremely hard to meet the mandates placed upon them. All you need to do is look at the numbers and see they did meet all the mandates,” he said. “Some papers I don’t read. People tell me about what’s in them, but there are some I don’t read. I don’t read rags. I read newspapers. And if you look at the newspapers … the real newspapers, you’ll see that they have excelled over almost everybody in the state.
“So, I am proud of where we are.”
An unnamed newspaper wasn’t the only focus of Jones’ last stand. In a very tongue-in-cheek manner, he also thanked “those who created so much adversity” for him.
“Let me thank you because it made us agile, and we succeeded in what we were trying to do,” Jones said. “So overall as a city and as a community, we have gone to a level that no one else has reached. We have laid a foundation for the future success of this city.”
The exiting mayor did have a word of warning for the councilors.
“You probably won’t see me a lot standing here. But I will tell you this, if we go backward, you’ll see me standing here. I think we’ve come too far to go back. There are tremendous amounts of opportunities here,” he said.
Jones wasn’t the only elected official leaving. Carroll, who has represented District 2 for eight years, said his tearful goodbye.
The councilman said he didn’t believe in “career politicians” and had made the decision not to seek a third term two years ago.
“For the last eight years, I’ve done what I could to move the city forward. I’ve also grown to have a family-like relationship with the council, and I’ll miss that,” he said. “I never wanted to be a career politician and now it’s time for me to move on.”
Carroll did not see one special ordinance pass before he left office. When the councilman announced he was not going to run again, he said he wanted to see a local preference ordinance approved before he left.
That issue was tabled for 30 days on Oct. 29 because he said there was not enough support.
The local preference ordinance would give local vendors preference. Also, it would require any group in which a contract is awarded by the city to have at least 15 percent participation by minorities, women and socially and economically disadvantaged individuals.
This means the city would “weigh the bids” for local vendors that have had an office in Mobile for at least three years. That would give those companies a better chance at winning bids against out-of-town companies. Separately the ordinance also would provide more insurance that minorities would be involved in city business.
If a company dedicates some of its subcontract work to minority-owned businesses, then the new weighted bidding process would benefit them.
Carroll said he was disappointed, but hopes the ordinance isn’t forgotten.
“You don’t always get your way,” he said. “I hope the council will muster and get this done.”
The longest serving councilor since Mobile transitioned to the council-mayor system also said goodbye. Copeland, whose lengthy career is profiled on page 4, first sought public office when he was retiring and wanted to keep busy.
“It’s all been a team effort for me … starting with governors, City Council, the mayor, the best Chamber of Commerce in the United States,” he said.
The councilors also said goodbye to the Copeland, who has been their council president for 12 years.
The words “gentleman,” “fair, “kind” and “dedicated” filled every sentiment about Copeland.
While Jones said he doesn’t expect to be before the council much, Copeland said he’s ready to help whomever and whatever will make Mobile a better city.