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Brighton: Embarking on a plan for progress

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Brighton mayor Brandon Dean (Mark Almond, special to The Times)

By Ariel Worthy

The Birmingham Times

Brighton mayor Brandon Dean (Mark Almond, special to The Times)
Brighton mayor Brandon Dean (Mark Almond, special to The Times)

Brighton Mayor Brandon Dean is not your average millennial.

At age 24, Dean is the youngest mayor in the history of Brighton and one of the youngest in the nation. Still, in addition to his governmental duties he faces the same struggles as many other 20-somethings, issues that were in place before he was elected in November, he said.

“I’m the same person I was when I graduated [from college] two years ago. I have to get another job because I have chosen not to take a paycheck for a couple of months,” said Dean, who decided to forego a salary until January 2017 in light of the city’s financial troubles. “I also have to consider things like health care.”

100-Day Plan

Mayor Dean, a Howard University graduate, was sworn in on Nov. 7 and is ready to get to work and implement his 100-day plan. One of his first initiatives is to re-establish a five-day work week, which had been reduced to four days in 2009 due to budget problems, for city employees.

“Although we haven’t gotten it on payroll, we have gotten commitments from people who are here and readily available, willing to do work in reorganizing our city,” Dean said.

Another part of the plan is to reopen Brighton’s community center and compete for the $500,000 that had been allocated for the city to open a senior center.

“My office is on course to make sure we achieve both of those goals,” Dean said. “We’ve identified the cost to make the necessary repairs and arrangements, as well as get insurance, so we are making progress in that direction.”

The street and sanitation team plays a big part in his plan, too.

“They have identified nearly 100 plus properties in our city that need immediate attention in regards to demolition,” he said.

Dean is also hoping to get Brighton’s City Hall cleaned up—literally.

“When I first came into City Hall, my office had three people in it,” he said. “We’re trying to get space cleared out for extra office space in the building now. It’s all very humbling.”

After a rocky election that included allegations of voter fraud (the mayor denies wrongdoing), Dean said he is ready to get to work. His focus now is “to create a robust, professional workforce and team of people who are all centralized around the idea of progress and prepared to make the sacrifices that result in progress, which is hard to do.”

Mayor Brandon Dean (center) with members of the City Council (from left): Marquise Moore, Rhonda Bean, Ashley Henderson, Lonnie Murry and Shawn Dale-Johnson. (Stephonia Taylor Mclinn, special to The Times)
Mayor Brandon Dean (center) with members of the City Council (from left): Marquise Moore, Rhonda Bean, Ashley Henderson, Lonnie Murry and Shawn Dale-Johnson. (Stephonia Taylor Mclinn, special to The Times)

Education and Arts

Mayor Dean also wants to strengthen partnerships with the city’s schools. He has insisted on “a more fortified relationship with our public school as a direct pipeline to help us influence students and ensure their progress at the earliest level.”

He wants to bring arts to the city by inviting Birmingham’s Red Mountain Theater to Brighton in January for a production of the smash hit “Hamilton.”

Some of his success may depend on his relationship with the city council and whether he can avoid negative headlines.

Dean was in the news again on Dec. 1 when WBRC-TV reported that Dean drove a police vehicle after his personal car was damaged, according to an internal memorandum from interim Brighton Police Chief Ray Hubbart.

Dean said he had no choice but to ask for a police vehicle after his car was vandalized the week after he took office.

“I needed it to perform my duties,” he told the television station. “It was an extreme situation because my personal vehicle was damaged.”

A couple of city councilors say they are concerned about Dean’s use of the police vehicle, and they plan to file complaints with the state ethics commission. Dean declined to discuss the matter with The Birmingham Times.

Brighton’s five-member council is made up of three new city council members—Ashley Henderson, Marquise Moore, and Shawn Dale-Johnson—who ran on a slate with Dean. Two previous council members—Rhonda Bean and Lonnie Murry—still serve their districts.

Laying a Foundation

The mayor said he is open to receiving help from Brighton’s previous leaders, but there must be cooperation.

“The invitation is always there, but there can be no conning and manipulation,” he said. “I have no tolerance for that. I cannot allow anyone to come into our space and cast aspersions on anything I’ve done.”

As mayor, Dean said he must adjust from private citizen to mayor.

“I had assumed I would still be able to maintain my anonymity and the rawness of my personality, even in this environment. I learned pretty quickly that I could not,” Dean said. “Even things as simple as getting my car repaired or having servicemen do work at the house can be a bit complicated.”

Dean said he hopes to create a foundation for future city leaders.

“Nothing was put here to help me succeed, and I don’t think anyone should have to go through that when they make the extraordinary sacrifice to get involved,” he said.

About Brighton

Founded: 1892

Origin of Name: Named for the English tourist and resort city of Brighton, which is located on the English Channel

Population: As of the census of 2010, there were 2,945 people, 1,105 households, and 696 families residing in the city

Median Household Income: $25,929

Government: Mayor and five-member city council