Voters in Gadsden go to the polls today to elect their new mayor. Former State Representative Craig Ford is running for mayor against former Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Heather Brothers New.
Current Mayor Sherman Guyton is retiring after 16 years in the position.
The two are in a winner take all election runoff after they received the most votes in the election last month. They faced off in a debate on Thursday.
Ford said on his website, “One of my first orders of business is to hire a city planner and work with the city council to set up community-wide meetings to gain community input for the development of a city-wide master plan. I will also collaborate with other Etowah County mayors to ensure we are moving in the same direction. This plan is a plan for tomorrow and will not be easily created nor implemented. It is a plan of big ideas that will take money. It is an item that will have to be in the city budget for implementation to begin.”
Among the many items on the list Ford is promising:
· Updating and/or creating new policies and procedures to improve efficiency.
· Sale city property that is not in use or planned to be used.
· Address public transportation needs
· Make sure all areas of the city have a uniform look in signage.
· Determine the types of industry that best fit Gadsden based on workforce, land and/or building availability, railroad access, interstate and highway access, and quality of life.
· Address the loose animal issue.
· Revitalization of economically depressed areas of Gadsden
· Improvements to Noccalula Falls and growing businesses in that area.
· Alabama City considered as a potential arts district around the historic Ritz Theater.
· Will work to further develop East Broad Street with retail and restaurants as well as further developing the ballfields at Gadsden State Community College
· Continue to support Tuscaloosa Avenue’s Carver Museum and Carver Community Center by bringing back youth baseball and football and prioritizing new lighting for this area will remain a priority.
· Riverfront development
· Continue to support Downtown Gadsden
Ford represented the area in the Alabama Legislature, rising to House Minority Leader before a spat with Alabama Democratic Conference Chairman Joe Reed led him to become an independent. He ran unsuccessfully as an independent for State Senate in 2018.
New was the Alabama Chamber Professional of the Year award in 2019.
“As chair of the Gadsden City High School’s Career Technical Advisory Committee over the past six years and with three children that all attended and graduated from Gadsden City, I spent considerable time in our schools learning about teachers’ needs and resources to equip our children for the future,” New stated. “As a result, I created a one-day workforce immersion program that takes 400 teachers annual on “behind-the-scenes” tours of local healthcare and manufacturing facilities, as well as career technical programs at Gadsden State Community College so that they would have a personal point of perspective about the careers and earning opportunities in our community. That work at Etowah Chamber required relationships with business and industry, education, and a wide range of volunteers, as well as fundraising from said business and industry, to accomplish. I also created the Excellence in Education Awards Luncheon to recognize the innovative and creative things teachers and partners were executing annually, as well as exceptional students in leadership assisting education or other students.”
New promised on her website to:
· Fund the Gadsden City School System to ensure quality facilities, top-notch teachers, and rigorous curriculum.
· Support Gadsden City Schools in developing curriculum-based early child care programs before age 5.
· Encourage and support improved technology and training at Gadsden State Community College.
· Fix the trolley routes so that people can get to school and work and back home.
· Support free job development programs to get people successfully employed.
· Improve city services for all.
· Base Tax Abatement Incentives (TAI) on impact studies to there is a rational and objective basis tied to a targeted return on investment.
· Overhaul all contracted recruitment and development services (industrial, commercial, airport).
· Install transparency in city government.
· Align all organizations working on recruitment, retention, growth and development of business, industry, and tourism so their efforts complement each other versus working in a vacuum.
· Develop a comprehensive city master plan.
· Cooperate with surrounding counties in regional recruitment of desirable business and industry.
· Support small business start-ups and entrepreneurs.
· Provide essential services, such as road paving, mowing, litter control, and sidewalk maintenance.
· Develop our waterways and trails thoughtfully with protection and conservation always in mind.
· Adjust operating hours for recycling to better accommodate citizens’ schedules.
· Research the feasibility, funding, and cost barriers of curbside recycling.
· Develop “sense-of-place” gateways to the most popular destinations within the city.
· Invest in the continued revitalization of Downtown Gadsden, extending to the East Broad campus of Gadsden State Community College.
· Further develop city-owned sports complexes to recruit tournaments and events to the fullest, while still serving the local community.
· Improve and extend riverfront boardwalks and clean and repair city sidewalks.
· Remodel Noccalula Falls campground to maximize camping and eliminate sewage issues.
· Study the feasibility of an alpine coaster, rock climbing, ropes, and/or zipline course.
· Develop additional splash pad parks at Moragne Park and along boardwalks.
· Redevelop the amphitheater into a state-of-the-art performing arts facility.
· Recruit an outfitter for boat, jet ski, paddleboard and kayak rentals, and riverfront tours.
· Put an end to backroom deals and cronyism.
· Align with city, county, surrounding municipalities, and surrounding counties.
· Protect the Civil Service Board.
· Pay civil servants (fire/rescue and police) a competitive wage with bonus pay
· Ensure an open-door policy for fire and police departments
· Relocate City Hall, with a focus on creating greater ease of access to high-traffic offices.
· Implement a technology overhaul
· Host and participate in town halls throughout the year, every year.
· Make regular visits to district meetings.
· Develop and enact a 10-year strategic plan for departments, leadership, and partners.
· Focus on returning default city-owned property back to the tax base through private and corporate ownership utilizing the Gadsden Land Bank.
· Cut wasteful spending
Polls open at 7:00 a.m. and close at 7:00 p.m.
Voters must already be registered and must bring a valid photo ID with them to participate in an Alabama election.
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