By William C. Singleton
For The Birmingham Times
Two members of the Birmingham City Council versus two incumbents on the Jefferson County Commission are among the races in the spotlight for the July 17 Democrat commission runoff elections.
Birmingham City Councilors, LaShunda Scales and Sheila Tyson, are in runoffs against incumbent commissioners George Bowman and Sandra Little Brown.
In Commission District 1, Scales was the top vote getter with 8,448, or 42.30 percent, compared to Bowman who received 4,969, or 24.88 percent of the votes. Midfield Mayor Gary Richardson 3,677, or 18.41 percent and former state lawmaker Eric Major 2,877, or 14.41 percent rounded out the field.
Scales said she was pleased with the results, but won’t rest on her laurels.
“Our campaign was very grateful for the turnout and support of the residents of Jefferson County District 1,” she said. “Between knocking on doors and phone banking, we touched 15,000 residents and the results were very heart warming.” Scales would not talk about her runoff strategy, but said she plans to run as hard over the next seven weeks as she did to secure a spot in the runoffs. “Moving forward it is important we maintain our messaging while encouraging voters to return back to the polls,” Scales said.
Scales is a three-term city council woman who was first elected in 2009 to represent the east Birmingham area and re-elected in 2013 and 2017. She currently serves as chair of the council’s Governmental Affairs Committee and sits on the council’s Transportation and Communication and Economic Development committees. As chair of Economic Development Committee in her first term, Scales developed the Annual Neighborhood Small Business Economic Development Summits. She is founder and owner of Scales PR Marketing Firm Inc.
Bowman said he’s been in runoff in his previous two races for the commission seat and is confident he will prevail. But he admits he didn’t get his message out as he had hoped and is looking for a chance to do that in the next few weeks. “Our plan is to redouble our efforts and really get our message out,” he said. “I really don’t believe all the voters heard our message . . . we’re going to make sure we get that message out loud and clear. Once the voters see very clearly the progress we’ve made and the things we’ve been able to accomplish, I’m hoping and praying that it will change their minds and change their votes.”
The incumbent commissioner said he plans to reach out to the other candidates in his race to get their support and the support of voters who backed them.
Bowman is seeking re-election to his third term. He was first appointed in 2007, won re-election to the county commission in 2010 and 2014. His area of responsibility on the commission is chair of the Health and General Services Committee. During his tenure on the commission, Bowman said he has prided himself on fighting for Cooper Green Mercy Health Services and protecting the county’s indigent care services and keeping sewer rates reasonable.
Bowman, a Center Point resident, has had a distinguished military career that spans 34 years and included promotions to U.S. Army Brigadier General and Major General. Following his retirement in 2005, Bowman served as Strategic Planner for the National Museum of the United States Army and as branch manager for Liberty National Life Insurance Company in Birmingham.
In District 2, Brown received 9,240 votes, or 46.53 percent to Tyson’s 9,181 or 46.22 percent. The third candidate, Richard Dickerson, collected 1,441 votes or 7.26 percent.
Brown, also a former Birmingham city councilwoman, said she would like a series of “conversations” about important issues in District 2 in the leadoff to the July 17 primary. “People deserve to hear the truth . . . the public doesn’t know the whole story, and we need to get the story out better,” she said.
Brown is serving her second term as president pro tempore on the commission, the first black woman to hold the position. Brown also chairs Community and Human Resource Services. Prior to her tenure on the commission, Brown served as a Birmingham City Council member from 1997 to 2001. While on the council, she chaired the Birmingham Parks and Recreation and Culture Arts committees and the Birmingham Regional Arts Commission. She also led efforts to get a new fire station built in Roosevelt City.
Tyson’s campaign manager, Michael Miller, said the campaign isn’t interested in a formal conversation or debate. “We don’t have a problem with having a conversation with the public because we do that every day when we knock on doors and when we go to churches,” he said. “We do that every day when we meet the public where they are. A debate serves nothing except to have two African American females arguing on a stage over points of clarity.”
Tyson said her “door-to-door ground game” leading up to the runoff made a difference. “I asked people about their concerns and they wanted me to talk to them,” Tyson said. “I’m hard worker. I like people and I’m committed. I don’t judge people based on their income level.”
Tyson serves as chair of the city council’s Public Improvements and Beautification Committee and is a member of the Public Safety and Parks, Recreation and Cultural Arts committees. As councilwoman she has also work to pass legislation that created the Birmingham Land Bank Authority to address abandoned home and vacant lots through the city. Tyson is former president of the West End Neighborhood and the Birmingham Citizens Advisory Board. She also is a member of the National Community Reinvestment Coalition, Neighborhood USA, Birmingham Board of Education Executive Community and UAB Minority Health & Health Disparities Research.