The three newest members of the Mobile City Council are all focused on taking office next month after winning runoffs that weren’t especially close.
In District 1, educator and pastor Cory Penn defeated former Mobile County Circuit Judge Herman Thomas with 59 percent of the vote.
Penn’s momentum from the Aug. 24 general election was too much to overcome, even if his opponent was endorsed by Mobile County Sheriff Sam Cochran and retiring District 1 incumbent Councilman Fred Richardson.
Penn won three of the district’s five in-person voting precincts. Penn won more votes at Centerpoint Assembly of God (107 to 94), New Shiloh Missionary Baptist Church (732 to 140) and the Kiwanis Boys and Girls Club (79 to 73).
Thomas took the most votes at Dotch Community Center (134 to 92) and Figures Community Center (576 to 291). Thomas also took a larger share of absentee ballots (175 to 76).
With the race over, Penn wants to focus on his campaign promise to make streets in District 1 safer.
“I will be focusing on safer streets,” he said. “I want to meet with faith-based organizations, business owners and constituents to discuss the challenges and what we can do to make sure crime is going down.”
Penn also wants to work on economic improvement for the district. The director of the Kiwanis Boys and Girls Club is not just talking about improving the economy from a citywide standpoint, but also helping residents with their personal finances and goals.
“One of the things we’re going to do to help is offer seminars,” Penn said. “We will have seminars on how to budget, how to save and how to open a business. It’s about building relationships and educating our communities.”
Penn said he has spoken to Richardson and the two plan to meet before Nov. 1 to talk about ongoing projects. The new councilman said he expects to continue the projects his predecessor started, including the filling in of open, parallel ditches in Trinity Gardens.
“A lot of things Councilman Richardson did in the community was important,” Penn said. “I want to continue those things.”
One of the bigger issues facing the new council will be redistricting. With a decision looming as early as February 2022, Penn said he’ll have to get in office and see how the numbers impact the district.
“I’m going to advocate for constituents,” he said. “I want to hear from them.”
William Carroll faced late Councilman Levon Manzie and a tidal wave of money coming in to force a special election, but prevailed to win District 2 with 57 percent of the vote.
En route to picking up his 1,464 votes, Carroll won four of the district’s six precincts. He took more votes at the Thomas Sullivan Community Center, the Robert Hope Community Center, the James Seals Community Center and St. John’s Episcopal Church. Manzie’s campaign took victories from voters at Bishop State Community College and Via!
Manzie’s campaign had received contributions from a political action committee (PAC) with ties to supporters of Mobile Mayor Sandy Stimpson. The PAC, which purported to support conservative legislative candidates, sent out a bevy of mailers and other information asking voters to support Manzie’s legacy and force a special election.
“It’s time to put the politics of this last election behind the district and focus on the future,” Carroll said. “I definitely want to see a healing process. It’s important to find common ground to help move the city forward.”
As he prepares to take the council seat next month, Carroll said he wants to focus on areas of the district that have been neglected previously. More specifically, Carroll mentioned revitalizing infrastructure and housing stock in the Campground, Maysville and Africatown areas of the district.
“Oakleigh, downtown and Down the Bay all have some cosmetic issues, but there are major wants in Campground, Maysville and Africatown,” he said. “I want to help bring them to life and to provide additional resources. I want to provide the community access to resources.”
On the issue of redistricting, Carroll said individual councilors will have “a lot of involvement” in shaping the future of their districts. He doesn’t yet know where the administration is at on the reapportionment process; however, he believes the process should be “transparent.”
“It should be public,” he said. “It should not be done in a back room somewhere.”
How the process shakes out is anyone’s guess, but with a Black population of more than 50 percent, the council could move to four minority-majority districts instead of the three that exist currently.
Each of Districts 1, 2 and 3 have Black majorities of more than 65 percent, Carroll said, while Districts 5 and 7 are close to 50 percent Black and 50 percent White.
“You never know what might happen in the future,” he said. “We’ll have to look and see where we are.”
On infrastructure, Carroll said he wants to redirect some capital improvement program (CIP) money to Michigan Avenue and St. Stephens Road. He added he’d like to spend more capital money on eradicating blight as well.
Scott Jones also won the District 6 runoff over Josh Woods. Jones picked up 1,364 votes to Woods’s 1,069. Jones won all but one of the precincts. He received more absentee votes than Woods as well, 75 to 44.
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