By Nick Patterson
The Birmingham Times
Birmingham Mayor-elect Randall Woodfin today announced the co-chairs of his Education and Workforce Development and Economic Development and Entrepreneurship committees.
The announcement, which Woodfin made in a busy workspace at the Alabama Workforce Training Center was the continuation of a series of leadership roles in citizen-led committees targeting issues in the city the new mayor-elect wants to address.
Woodfin announced that Dr. Perry Ward, the president of Lawson State Community College and Fred McCallum, the former president of AT&T Alabama, would co-chair the Education and Workforce Development Committee.
That committee will “develop plans to align and expand our education and workforce programs to ensure that we are preparing our young people with the skills and education they need for the high-wage, high-demand jobs of the future,” Woodfin’s press release said.
To co-chair the Economic Development and Entrepreneurship Committee, Woodfin named Renasant Bank Executive Vice President Tracey Morant Adams, and UAB Director of External Affairs Josh Carpenter.
“This committee will work with economic development and business leaders in Birmingham and Montgomery to understand all efforts to recruit and expand industry and jobs,” according to the press release. The goal is for the city to become “more engaged in all opportunities to create new jobs,” he said, adding that the new committee would also “partner with Innovation Depot and other leading groups to support opportunity for budding innovators by making Birmingham an ‘entrepreneurial hub’ for the Southeast.”
Woodfin expects these committees — and those previously announced to deal with Neighborhood Revitalization and Public Safety, Social Justice, and Transparency and Efficient Government – to help push his strategic objectives forward. The committees all connect to issues Woodfin and others raised during a divisive campaign which saw him unseat long-time Mayor William Bell.
Woodfin, who is working with a transition team which includes former Birmingham Southern President General Charles Krulak, and retired Alabama Power Vice President Bobbie Knight, will take office Nov. 28.
Woodfin, who has been moving his announcements to various locations around the city – Vulcan Museum and Park, The Negro Southern League Museum, in previous weeks, — chose the AWTC because of its connection with education, workforce training, and economic development.
He indicated an interest in seeing workforce development training locations like AWTC all over town, specifically naming the western section of Birmingham.
The mayor-elect pointed out that the Birmingham School Board and Superintendent Dr. Lisa Herring are not responsible alone for the education of the city’s children. “We as an entire city have to commit to our … school system,” and he added that the mayor’s office should be a partner to the Birmingham City Schools in advancing educational initiatives and “put education in the forefront of our entire community.”
Woodfin, a former school board president, said that it was necessary to look comprehensively at education in the city including at how well children are being taught throughout their school years.
He said that if proper investment is not made in children in kindergarten through 5th grade, “it’s hard to catch up. It’s hard to close the gap. So, we as a city need to make sure we invest in our educational pipeline by making sure we start with early childhood,” he said.
Woodfin said the city needs to be make “sure we give our children options. And there’s only three options. Our children should either enter the military, enter college or a university, or go straight into the workforce. These other two options, of not doing anything when you finish high school or getting into any form of illegal activity, are no longer options for our children,” he said.
“That is why this facility that we’re standing in, as it relates to workforce training is so important… we in this city have to commit to workforce training, workforce development. It can no longer be just talk.”
Woodfin recalled that at the end of July he was present at AWTC for the graduation program of about 39 young people who had been trained there and received certificates for welding, carpentry, masonry. “This facility works,” he said. “And workforce training can work throughout our entire city.”
All of the citizen-led committees are expected to go to work before Nov. 28, with three goals,as noted in Woodfin’s press release: to evaluate current city services within their area of focus, to identify “world-class” best practices and opportunities for the city, and to develop accountability and budget metrics to help achieve success.
Woodfin, who said he would be accessible to citizens, has announced a way to contact the transition team, by email: firstname.lastname@example.org