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Females assume leadership, majority on newly seated Birmingham City Council

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Birmingham City Council President Wardine Alexander, left, and President Pro Tempore Crystal Smitherman at City Hall on Tuesday, October 26, 2021. (Stephonia Taylor McLinn, For The Birmingham Times).

By Ryan Michaels

The Birmingham Times

Birmingham City Council on Tuesday saw three new councilors sworn in and a new president and president pro-tempore elected for the 2021-2025 term.

The newcomers are Corporate Realty project director Carol Clarke, district 8; Volunteer Lawyers Birmingham member Johnathan “J.T.” Moore, district 4; and Alabama Justice Initiative founder LaTonya Tate, district 9.

Meanwhile the council unanimously elected Wardine Alexander, district 7, and Crystal Smitherman, district 6 as president and president pro tempore, respectively.

The female majority council includes Alexander, Smitherman, Clarke, Tate and Valerie Abbott in District 3 who are joined by Clinton Woods (District 1), Hunter Williams (District 2), Darrell O’Quinn (District 5) and Moore.

Each of the newly seated councilors stressed “neighborhood” as a priority going forward.

“My biggest priority is just making sure that we stay true to what we’ve said on the campaign trail, and that comes from listening to what the constituents say because they live in these neighborhoods,” Tate said after the meeting. “They know what they need.”

Developing strong communication lines with neighborhoods is crucial to address problems in the district, according to Moore.

“First things first, I want to make sure that I’m talking to my neighborhood officers, really getting in, really having great communication with them about what their concerns are,” Moore said, “and really coming up with a plan to address the issues that a lot of our residents have.”

It’s important to evaluate the strengths of neighborhoods to be able to encourage partnership between them, he added. Recruiting more people into neighborhood associations is another way Moore said he intends to improve his district.

“The more people that we can get involved, the more people we can start creating different committees [with], things that they’re interested in, and everybody can find their place to contribute and to get involved,” Moore said.

In addition to helping neighborhood leaders be “more effective,” Clarke spoke about “community empowerment” which could include “really investing in leadership development, capacity development in our neighborhoods and communities,” she said after the meeting. Also, housing revitalization might involve “attracting more private investment into neighborhoods that have been distressed for a long time with a declining population,” she said.

Clarke said preparing her community for World Games 2022 is a focus since the Birmingham CrossPlex, which will host some of the events, is in her district 8.

“We’re really excited about [the World Games], but we’re also a little nervous because of the way some of the things look in our area,” Clarke said, “so we’re going to be very focused on cleaning up and getting the litter under control, making sure the rights of way are as clean and pristine and getting some of our private property owners to step it up.”

Alexander, who held the gavel for the first time Tuesday, said the new council will not always agree but won’t have a “fear of conflict.”

“I just see a synergy and a willingness to cooperate, to serve their districts, and not only individually, but as we work collectively as a council,” Alexander told the Birmingham Times, “and just knowing that if we work together, we have a good energy, and a trust and value in each of our colleagues that we can do the best for our city.”

Mayor Randall Woodfin said he and other Birmingham citizens are looking forward to the new council. “I know the residents you serve are excited about today for you all to individually and collectively to get to work on their behalf. I look forward to serving with you,” said the mayor.

O’Quinn said he is optimistic about the new council and working together alongside the mayor, but it is also important that citizens join with city leaders to improve Birmingham.

“Please get on board, find your place in this city, find that thing that you are passionate about, and go for it. This city has the capacity to be miraculous,” he said.