Mayor-elect Sandy Stimpson’s second appointment could herald a major change to the city’s legal structure.
On Sept. 26 Stimpson announced Ricardo A. Woods would be serving as his city attorney. Woods will fill the spot currently held by Mayor Sam Jones’ longtime city attorney Larry Wettermark.
The future city attorney is a partner in the Mobile office for Burr & Forman and specializes in product liability and insurance litigation.
Woods, 35, was named by Alabama Super Lawyers magazine as one of the states rising stars in 2010. He is also the former president of the 100 Black Men of Greater Mobile, Inc. and serves as the current president of the Vernon Z. Crawford Bay Area Bar Association.
Stimpson said Woods resume and work ethic made him the best choice for city attorney.
“Ricardo will bring a combination of incredible legal expertise and energy to the position of city attorney,” Stimpson said. “I will rely heavily on his counsel as we work to make the city of Mobile the safest, most business- and family-friendly city in America by 2020.”
Woods’ career for the last decade was comprised of representing individuals, small business owners and international companies that create jobs in the city. He earned his J.D. from Cumberland School of Law and is licensed to practice law in both state and federal courts in Alabama and Mississippi.
The future city attorney said he is eager to help create a better Mobile.
“I am committed to ensuring that the mayor has the best advice and counsel available to him, and making sure the city’s legal framework fosters safety for our citizens and economic growth.”
During Jones’ administration, Wettermark was in charge appointing outside legal counsel for the city. That is work not handled by the city’s salaried legal staff.
Mobile is self-insured, which means it needs to have outside, independent legal counsel when a lawsuit is filed against the city. The mayor is charged with selecting outside the attorneys and firms to represent the city, but Jones has left that decision to Wettermark.
From 2009 to 2013, the city paid a total of $3,267,011.46 to 10 law firms for outside work. Of that $2,087,115.73 or 64 percent of the legal fees went to Wettermark’s firm — Galloway, Wettermark, Everest, Rutens and Galliard, LLP.
While Stimpson was not available for comment on whether the city attorney would continue to make such appointments in his administration, Stimpson’s recently announced Chief of Staff Colby Cooper said the mayor-elect would look at the options when the need for outside counsel arises.
“The mayor and city attorney will look at all options and decide what is best and what is most effective for the city,” Cooper said.
Cooper, who was appointed Sept. 17, said it would be premature to announce any new legal assistants, but said there is a legal structure already in place. There are currently seven attorneys in the city’s legal department — three in civil and four in criminal. Woods’ salary has not yet been announced.
More announcements are expected from Stimpson in the coming weeks, Cooper said.
Stimpson has not announced a City Finance Director, a position vacated by Barbara Malkove after she retired. Previously, the mayor-elect said he would have a nationwide search for a new Mobile Police Chief after Micheal Williams announced his resignation following Jones’ defeat Aug. 27.