by Steve Flowers
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. The mayor 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 lost their excellent 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 re-election.
Some very interesting stories unfolded in mayoral races around the state. Former State Sen. Larry Means captured the mayor’s post in Attalla. 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 on the job. He served in the Legislature in the interim and 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 brother, Woodrow Lowe, before him. Lowe won because of his character, not his race.
Gordon Stone was re-elected mayor of the growing city of Pike Road. When Stone was first elected mayor, Pike Road was a village of 300 people. There are 6000 folks living there 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 Tallassee, Bobby Payne made a comeback, defeating his nemesis from four years earlier, George McCain.
Max Townson won re-election 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 re-election. 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 easy re-election in Andalusia. Bill Blackwell will return for four more years as mayor of Ozark and Jimmy Ramage won his 10th 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 Nov. 5, 2012.