Growing the city will be the biggest challenge facing the next leader of Mobile, according to Mayor Sandy Stimpson. He believes he’s up to that challenge.
The incumbent announced Monday morning through a livestream on his campaign’s Facebook page he would seek a third term in office.
“For several months now, I’ve been looking forward and excited about this day,” he said while standing at the construction site for the new Greer’s supermarket location on St. Louis Street downtown. “Now that the Washington, D.C., and national political season are complete, Mobilians are ready to focus on Mobile’s future leadership.”
Stimpson becomes the third candidate to announce a run for mayor in 2021. He joins Councilman Fred Richardson and Municipal Judge Karlos Finley. The election will be held Aug. 24.
In a phone interview with Lagniappe following the four-minute video, Stimpson said both annexation and growth from within would be among the biggest issues facing the Port City.
“We’re going to have to look at affordable housing and we’ve got to look at annexation again,” he said.
Stimpson has previously pushed for the annexation of about 13,000 residents in an unincorporated area of West Mobile. The most recent attempt to allow those residents to vote to join the city failed in late 2019 when members of the Mobile City Council didn’t approve a referendum. The vote failed despite four of the seven councilors being in favor, because most items need a five-vote majority to officially get approved.
If Stimpson does decide to push for annexation again before August, with the same members of the council for and against it, it might be hard to make progress on his goal. However, he seems undeterred.
“Things are changing all the time,” he said. “If we feel there’s an opportunity to bring it up, we’ll bring it up.”
Both of Stimpson’s opponents in the race oppose annexation, at least currently.
Growth is not all about annexation for Stimpson. His office has previously announced plans to build or renovate 1,000 homes. He told Lagniappe to expect more on that front in the next six weeks or so.
In addition to the city building new affordable homes, Stimpson said he wants to continue to eradicate blight. Since he took office in 2013, the city’s blight has been reduced by about 50 percent, he said.
Stimpson said few of the accomplishments the city has made since he took office, including the council-led capital improvement program (CIP), could have been possible without good financial management from the top down.
“Upon being elected in 2013, we found ourselves surrounded by crumbling streets, broken sidewalks, uncontrolled blight and poorly maintained parks,” he said. “The financial challenges we faced were daunting. Seven years later, thanks to good financial stewardship, the city of Mobile is on solid financial ground, even in the face of a global pandemic that has crippled many other communities. While other cities have cut budgets and services, we’ve wisely invested your tax dollars in ways and at levels never seen in our city.”
That investment includes hiring more personnel within the city’s engineering department, which should allow for CIP projects to be completed more quickly. On that front, Stimpson said the city has created a new project management department, which is led by Jennifer Greene.
As for parks, Stimpson said improvements to city parks remain part of CIP going forward. Stimpson also touted a recent deal with the University of South Alabama Foundation to purchase a large tract of waterfront property near the Brookley Aeroplex.
The administration has been “talking internally” about the next steps for a future bayside park, but Stimpson said there has been no official request for proposals sent out yet.
“We’ve had other people help us with projects at Langan Park; we will go back to those who have helped us in the past,” he said.
Stimpson also mentioned expansion of the port and relocation of the airport as part of his plans for the city.
The Mobile Airport Authority (MAA) released a five-year master plan, which has the main commercial terminal moving from Bates Field in West Mobile to the Brookley Aeroplex. MAA has previously built a low-cost terminal at the proposed future airport site, but after a brief on-again, off-again courtship with Frontier Airlines, currently no commercial carrier flies out of the downtown airport on a regular basis.
“Looking forward, as we expand the port, relocate the airport, build a magnificent waterfront park at Brookley, plus a no-toll bridge for cars, no matter where you live in Mobile, the impact on you and your family will be tremendously positive due to the increased growth and job opportunities,” Stimpson said.
Stimpson said he doesn’t take his opportunity as mayor lightly and wants to continue to work to improve the city.
“Every day that the Stimpson administration comes to work for the city, we come here to serve you,” he said. “This is all about you and transforming our city, ensuring that your quality of life, your safety, your health, your education, your job opportunities, your pleasure and fun, ensuring your future is bright.
“Being your mayor has been and is a great honor. Seven months from now, you’ll be going to the polls to select who will lead your city. I’m asking for your continued support and your vote. Now is not the time to let up. With your support, the best is yet to come.”
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