Despite controversies over the years — including his contentious relationship in the end with the Birmingham City Council and the negatives his opponents targeted in the successful effort to unseat him — outgoing Mayor William Bell’s record includes significant accomplishments.
The Birmingham Civil Rights National Monument designation is one. In January 2017, President Barack Obama in one of his last acts in the Oval Office signed an executive order establishing the city’s civil rights district as a national monument. The area includes the A.G. Gaston Motel; Bethel Baptist Church; the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute; Kelly Ingram Park; the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church; and the Fourth Ave. Historic District, where the Carver Theatre, the Masonic Temple Building, and many noteworthy segregation-era black-owned businesses are located.
Bell’s term comes to an end on Nov. 28, when the man who unseated him, mayor-elect Randall Woodfin, takes office.
Bell described of his several of his other accomplishments during a debate with Woodfin prior to the Oct. 3 runoff election. In response to questions from journalists and his opponent, Bell noted his record of redevelopment in the city, starting with his election more than seven years ago.
“During that period of time, we had many challenges facing the city,” he said. “Our economic forecast was gloomy, the leadership within city government had decayed, and the public turned to me to find a way to reduce a $78 million deficit and bring us back into the black. The public had confidence in my leadership, and they wanted me to start building a city we all could be proud of.