North Jefferson News, Gardendale, AL

Opinion

December 21, 2012

Steve Flowers: Mayors have influence, importance in cities

COMMENTARY — During the 2012 presidential year we enjoyed observing the presidential race nationwide as well as judicial races statewide. However, probably the most important races to many of you occurred during the dog days of summer. We had mayor’s races throughout the state this year. All municipalities with the exception of Montgomery, Birmingham and Mobile elected their mayor for the next four years.

The mayor of a city is a very high profile post. Mayors have more influence and importance than most folks realize. It is the real bastion of decision making when it comes to public policy. They affect their constituents’ lives every day. The mayor of a city is where the rubber meets the road in Alabama politics.

Several iconic mayors chose to retire this year. Troy Mayor Jimmy Lunsford retired after 30 years and 40 year old Jason Reeves will take over the reigns of the fiscally sound University City. Reeves has been waiting in the wings for 16 years as a city councilman preparing to be mayor of Troy.

Eufaula loses their excellent business mayor, Jay Jaxon, who chose not to run again. Brewton Mayor Ted Jennings retired. He will be followed by Yank Lovelace. Lou Watson, the longtime mayor of Lincoln, also chose not to run for reelection.

Some very interesting stories unfolded in mayor races around the state. Former State Senator Larry Means captured the mayor’s post in Attala. This is the ultimate vindication for a man wrongfully indicted and ultimately acquitted in Alabama’s gambling corruption trial. It appears that home folks know you best.

Johnny Ford won back his old job as Mayor of Tuskegee. He served seven terms as mayor then lost after 28 years. He served in the legislature in the interim. He came storming back with an overwhelming victory.

Eddie Lowe became the first black mayor of Phenix City. Lowe was a football star at the University of Alabama just like his father Woodrow Lowe before him. Lowe won because of his character, not his race.

Gordon Stone was reelected mayor of the growing city of Pike Road. When Stone was first elected Mayor of Pike Road it was a village of 300 people. There are 6000 folks now and if Stone succeeds in his plans to build a school in the Montgomery County suburb it will become the fastest growing city in the state in the next decade.

Speaking of the River Region, two incumbent mayors in Elmore and Autauga Counties claimed landslide victories. Jerry Willis won a second term in Wetumpka and Prattville Mayor Bill Gillespie captured an impressive victory in Prattville.

In Tallassee, Bobby Payne made a comeback defeating his nemesis from four years earlier, George McCain.

Max Townson won reelection in Cullman, as did Mike Grayson in Demopolis, who won a second term.

In a much publicized race, George Evans prevailed as mayor of Selma. He turned back a challenge from former Mayor James Perkins.

Incumbent Oxford Mayor Leon Smith won reelection. Jim Stiff will move into the mayor’s post in Atmore after having served on the city council.

There are several South Alabama mayors who are returning to office and are considered superstars in the mayoral community. Dexter McLendon of Greenville is entering his third term as mayor of the Camellia City. Earl Johnson won an easy reelection in Andalusia. Bill Blackwell will return for four more years as Mayor of Ozark and Jimmy Ramage won his tenth term as mayor of Brundidge.

There are four mayors of silk stocking suburban Jefferson County cities that are also held in high regards by their people and throughout the state. Terry Oden of Mountain Brook, Scott McBrayer of Homewood, Butch Veragoza of Vestavia Hills and Gary Ivey of Hoover, all garnered additional four-year terms.

All of these mayors took office on November 5, 2012.

See you next week.

Steve Flowers is Alabama’s leading political columnist. His column appears weekly in more than 70 Alabama newspapers. Steve served 16 years in the state legislature. He may be reached at www.steveflowers.us.

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