By Barnett Wright
The Birmingham Times
Mark Pettway, the Democrat challenger, stunned incumbent Republican Mike Hale on Tuesday to become the first black sheriff in Jefferson County.
Pettway, a detective sergeant in the Sheriff’s Office who emerged from a four-candidate field this summer to win the Democratic nomination, won with 51.39 percent, or 128,569 votes, to unseat Hale, who received 48.55 percent, or 121,469 votes.
Voter turnout in Jefferson County was 54 percent.
Hale, who has been a lawman for more than four decades, was first elected sheriff in 1998.
Democrat Danny Carr also made history in the Jefferson County District Attorney’s race becoming the first black elected to that office in the county when he defeated Republican Mike Anderton.
Pettway, who is a licensed minister, said his faith and confidence were instrumental in his victory.
“I never expect to lose,” he said during his watch party at Henderson’s in Midfield. “God gave us a great team strategy and from there, we implemented it.”
The sheriff-elect said he was proud his two daughters were part of his historic campaign to become the first African American to have the office in Jefferson County.
“It means a lot because it lets them known that whatever dream you have, you can reach your dream,” Pettway said. “Don’t dream short. You can reach your dream and I tell them, ‘dream big’ because I want them to reach whatever goals they have in life.”
The sheriff-elect said his priority is to make children safe each and every day in schools across the county. “We’ve been talking about that on the campaign trail,” he said. “We started out with that. Also, we wanted to make sure that we bridge a gap between law enforcement and the community. Those were the things that were very important to us in the campaign trail.”
Pettway has more than 25 years of law-enforcement experience, including stints with the Birmingham and Fairfield police departments.
Hale was magnanimous in defeat.
“I want to congratulate Mark Pettway on winning this race tonight,” Hale said. “I think he’s going to be a fine sheriff-elect and I think he is going to make a good sheriff. I want to thank the men and women of the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office for the years that I’ve worked with them, it’s been an honor of my life to serve as their sheriff and we’ve made some great strides in public safety in this county.”
Hale, who has served as sheriff for 17 years, started his career with the Homewood Police Department in 1973 and joined the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office in 1976.
Residents who voted for Pettway said it was time for someone else to serve in the office.
“I voted for Mark Pettway because we need a change . . . in Jefferson County with the sheriff’s department,” said Cynthia Moore, of West End. “I like what he said about the body cameras, that we need body cameras, we need cameras in the school district.”
Equipping sheriff’s deputies were part of Pettway’s campaign and he took that message across the county.
Reginald Mason, of Birmingham’s Southside, said, “I just thought that we needed a change for the county and I thought (Pettway) represented my interests.”
Joseph Samuel, of Fairfield, said Pettway “came to my church campaigning and I like the way he spoke . . . what he’s going to do in the neighborhoods and for the schools and our young kids.”
Jefferson County District Attorney
Carr, chief deputy Jefferson County District Attorney, who served as DA on an interim basis now has the job on a permanent basis.
Carr defeated Republican Mike Anderton, with 56.72 percent, or 140,666 votes to Anderton’s 43.24 percent or 107,248 votes to become the county’s first black elected DA.
“Tonight is history, but tonight is not history about me, but its history about you,” he told supporters.
Carr, 47, who has been with the Jefferson County DA’s office since 2000 after he graduated from Miles Law School, said he had to outwork his opponent.
“I had to put my feet on the ground, I had to pound the pavement. I had to go to all the communities I had to go to all the churches and make sure people knew my story and my qualifications,” Carr said.’
Carr was appointed to the position in January 2017 by Presiding County Circuit Judge Joseph Boohaker to fill the seat of former DA Charles Todd Henderson, who was removed from office on perjury charges. Anderton served in the seat, after Republican Gov. Kay Ivey tabbed him to replace Carr and serve out the remaining term.
“I was told I wasn’t good enough (not being reappointed to the vacant DA seat). But it had nothing to do with ability it had everything to do with politics,” Carr said.
A number of voters said they felt Carr deserved the job.
Cynthia Moore of West End said she voted for Carr because he was the most qualified candidate “and deserves the position. He had the position and they took it from him so we [wanted] to put him back in for district attorney.”
William Singleton III, Reginald Allen and Erica Wright contributed to this post.