On Nov. 4, Arthur Outlaw Convention Center was filled with hope, optimism and excitement for the future of Mobile as Mayor Sandy Stimpson and the Mobile City Councilors were ceremoniously sworn in.
Stimpson and the councilors were officially placed into power at 10:30 a.m. on Nov. 4, but that was mostly business. At the 7 p.m. ceremony in the convention center, the councilors and Stimpson were in one accord and looking forward to working together to create One Mobile, which is Stimpson’s vision for the city.
“The journey is not about one mayor or one council, this journey is about One Mobile – a transformational moment for our city to come together and work for a better tomorrow,” Stimpson said. “It is a time when no voice will be muffled and no vision stymied.
“One Mobile is not a mere slogan. It is a call to action and service. Action that will deliver positive results for Mobile and service that puts the city before oneself.”
The vision of One Mobile didn’t stop with Stimpson … the thought permeated the evening. District One Councilman Fred Richardson said he felt Mobilians are together, but it is the council and mayor who must unite.
“The citizens are getting along. It’s not the people,” he said. “The appearance of two Mobiles comes from the council and mayor. The council agrees on 95 percent, but that 5 percent that it doesn’t agree on is finances.
“So I’m giving you two challenges Mayor Stimpson. First, the city finances are based in so many laws and rules, it’s difficult to understand. We have two new councilors (Levon Manzie and Joel Daves). On my first day as councilor, they showed me my office and that was it. So when you are settled, teach us how the finances work.”
The other challenge Richardson had for Stimpson seemed to harken back to issues with previous administrations. He said when he requests something with the Mayor’s office, he would like a reply from an executive director within 72 hours.
“If a councilor calls about anything – a ditch or road – we should get a response from someone in charge,” he said. “I don’t want a response from someone cleaning the ditches. I want a response from an executive director.”
While Richardson made requests of the mayor, he also said he would fight for his district.
District Two and District Three Councilmen Levon Manzie and CJ Small also issued that same promise.
Manzie spoke of his time on the youth council in which he served as District Two representative. That, he said, ended up creating a desire to one day run for the office.
Fifteen years later he was elected, and Manzie said he wouldn’t waste the opportunity.
“I promise to do anything I can to help all of Mobile prosper and that’s what needs to be the pledge of all the council,” he said. “I will be honest, transparent and return phone calls and emails.”
Small served as an appointed councilor after then-councilor Jermaine Burrell resigned from the seat in November 2012. However, Small was elected to four more years, and he said it was moving.
“Being elected humbled my heart and mind. I promise to continue to focus on community and economic revitalization and crime prevention,” he said. “We can all do that if we force progress through our communities.”
District Four Councilman John Williams, who impressively recited the entire lengthy oath from memory, introduced a special campaign helper – sixth grader Blake Hayes.
The young supporter took the stage with Williams who explained what Hayes’ support meant.
“Since I was reelected, that means I have an obligation to Blake, his family, his school and his city, which means you,” Williams said. “My obligation is to honestly and diligently perform the duties of this city, and I also promise to return a phone call within 24 hours.”
District Five Councilman Joel Daves might be a newcomer to the council, but he has already worn out his shoes walking his district. Though he ran unopposed, Daves knocked on 4,300 doors while he was campaigning. The long hours and miles showed Daves something.
“As I met several thousand District Five residents, they all were kind, hospitable and welcoming,” he said. “We all want one thing – a better Mobile. While we may differ in how to get there, we must stay together with our common goal.
“Tonight we stand astride an opportunity unlike any other in Mobile’s history. Tonight we can determine we are going to make the city worthy of its long history and benefit not only the citizens, but their children and grandchildren.”
Building a city to benefit all is something District Six Councilwoman Bess Rich said can be done by making communities safe and clean.
“Our homes and businesses are most often the biggest economic interests we have. Everyone wants to feel safe in them and the surrounding area should be clean and stable,” she said. “Prioritizing city funding to promote that will bring in quality businesses.”
District Seven Councilwoman and newly elected City Council President Gina Gregory looked toward the future businesses coming to Mobile.
“With businesses from Airbus to Whole Foods set to come, we are on the edge of great progress,” she said. “I’ve said it before but with following in the steps of (recently retired council president) Reggie Copeland, I have big shoes to fill. I think we have a successful and busy four years ahead of us.”
While Richardson may have started the evening with requests from Stimpson, at the close it was the new mayor who was doing the challenging … of citizens.
“As I accept the responsibilities put before me and commit to you the citizens of Mobile, to serve you honorably – I ask of you now: Will you join me in committing that you will do something today that you didn’t do today and yesterday to move this city forward,” Stimpson said. “Will you reach across any divide and say to your fellow citizens, ‘I am joining you for a better tomorrow.’”