The city of Mountain Brook holds its City Council elections on Tuesday, Aug. 23. Since Mountain Brook has split elections, the mayor and the council members in Places 2 and 4 will face the voters in 2024. Voters in Places 1, 3, and 5 are on the ballot next week.
In Place 1, incumbent Alice Womack is not seeking re-election.
Christopher Powanda and Graham Smith are running for the open seat.
In Place 3, Kent Osband is challenging incumbent William "Billy" Pritchard.
In Place 5, Tate Davis is challenging incumbent Lloyd Shelton.
The terms of Gerald A. Garner, Virginia Smith and Mayor Stewart H. Welch, III will not run out until 2024.
A major issue in the Mountain Brooks election has become the Mountain Brook School system. Mountain Brook is generally regarded as one of the five best systems in the state year in and year out, if not the best public education that the state has to offer. That said, some parents have become dissatisfied with what they view as the indoctrination of students with liberal dogmas such as LGBTQ beliefs, liberalism, political correctness and even Marxism. Other parents argue that the test scores are still stellar and have defended the school system. While the mayor and council do not run the schools, they do appoint the school board members.
Social media is playing a huge role in this election with all of the candidates adopting a Facebook presence.
“There is a widespread conceit about MBS quality that I don’t think is justified," wrote Place 3 candidate Osband. "Rating well academically in Alabama is like playing the best football in Vermont. MBS is far too complacent ... Most MB parents realize that MBS quality is lagging. They find the school board dismissive of their concerns, and resent the council violated its own stated rules to ram through an appointee. While I think direct elections to the school board will help clean up the mess, that can’t happen overnight.”
Place 3 incumbent Pritchard wrote, “We have such a special city. For 22 years, I have been committed to making Mountain Brook the incredible place it is to raise a family – for my children and grandchildren, for all of your families, and for future generations to come. I am proud of my service to you and would be honored to have your vote on August 23rd.”
“School accountability," Place 1 candidate Powanda wrote. "Who’s leading who? The City Council appoints the school board, but then denies any accountability for it. That’s concerning. The City Council needs to be more transparent about the vetting process for BOE members ... Lots of people view our City Council as insulated elitists. That’s been reinforced by their supporters 'bashing' candidates that weren’t born here and don’t have a family name that everyone recognizes. I’ve even been told on a call that 'I have no business running for the city council because I’m not from here.'"
Meanwhile, Place 1 candidate Graham Smith said, “I think we have heard a lot about education and electing [the] school board, and it is very true that the city council does appoint the school board, but when looking at the large picture it is about one percent of the 100% of what a city councilor does on a day-to-day basis. I am not dismissing that in any way, shape or form. It is incredibly important. Our schools are of utmost importance. I have been a tireless volunteer. I served as PTA President. I am very involved in our schools, but on a day-to-day basis, the city council is negotiating waste contracts. They are making sure that your garbage is picked up on time. They are making sure that you have adequate sidewalks to walk on. They are negotiating pensions for our city employees. They are dealing with lots of contract negotiations. They are dealing with flooding issues. For the next two years, we are really going to have to think about wastewater and stormwater management. Those are just a small component of the unsexy job of serving on the city council. It is not national political concepts. It is just everyday work for the residents of a lovely city.”
Place 5 candidate Tate Davis said, “It is of utmost importance that the City Council appoint the most qualified and skilled individuals possible to sit on our Board of Education. The most recent appointment was on April of 2022. Despite having a large pool of candidates to select from, the Council appointed an individual without any experience in education, our schools, does not have a child in our schools, and will not have a child old enough to be enrolled in our school system for several years."
“This past spring, we rededicated our completely renovated Sports Complex at Mountain Brook High School so that our children and youth will have something to be proud of and develop their skills," stated Place 5 incumbent Shelton. "The City spent in excess of $6,000,000 with another $2,000,000 contributed by Mountain Brook City Schools. Currently, the City Council is working with the Board of Education in building a second gym at Crestline Elementary for desperately needed gym space as well as refurbishing the field at MBJH with turf, new tennis courts, and expanding [usable] field space to support a full-size regulation lacrosse field. Both projects are joint efforts requiring cooperation and coordination between the City and the Board of Education.”
Shelton has endorsed Pritchard and Graham.
“On August 23rd, I would encourage you to vote for not only myself, but my friends Billy Pritchard (Place No. 3) and Graham Smith (Place No. 1),” Shelton said. “They are both well-equipped for the job and would make excellent additions to the city council.”
The Mountain Brook Chamber of Commerce is hosting a Meet, Greet & Grab Something to Eat event on the lawn at City Hall on Tuesday, Aug. 16, from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m.
The Mountain Brook City Council had sought to postpone this election to 2023 due to COVID-19 and to ensure the municipal elections do not fall into a gubernatorial or presidential election year – as many other municipalities have done, but the Legislature refused to consider local legislation extending the term just months before the election.
See also: Alabama city unable to follow suit and extend terms (1819news.com)
Auburn, Bessemer, Gadsden, Huntsville, and Scottsboro also have municipal elections on Aug. 23.
To connect with the author of this story, or to comment, email brandon.moseley@1819News.com.
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