Mobile City Councilor John Williams has announced exclusively to Lagniappe that he will not seek re-election in District 4. Longtime Councilor Bess Rich has also announced that she will step down from council after her current term ends.
After 15 years as an elected official in the city, Williams said he had âmixed emotionsâ about his departure.
âIn the last 15 years since I became a member of city council, I have promised good government,â he said. “We are spending sizable sums to improve infrastructure and public safety.”
Like other colleagues, Williams takes credit for bringing the city’s capital improvement program to life. The program uses additional sales tax money for drainage and improvement of infrastructure throughout the city.
âIt has helped make Mobile a great place to work, play and live,â he said.
Williams also took the credit for focusing on public safety, which is still a big part of what the board is responsible for.
âI supported all the requests of the heads of the mobile police department (MPD) and the mobile fire emergency department (MFRD),â he said. âThis resulted in new equipment, vehicles and stations. I am very proud of it. I am very proud of the leadership in these two departments.
Among the accomplishments of these departments since Williams served on the board is a Bureau of Insurance Services (ISO) rating of 1 for the MFRD and the allocation of body camera funds for MPD officers.
âThe mobile fire and rescue service is in the 1 percent of stations nationwide to achieve this rating,â Williams said of ISO.
Despite his absence from the board starting in November, Williams still hopes to play a role in the 2021 municipal election, as he has endorsed Ben Reynolds to take his place. Reynolds is a flood insurance expert who has lived in the RiviÃ¨re Du Chien area of ââDistrict 4 for 12 years.
After 26 years in public service, Rich will also not seek re-election in 2021, she announced after Tuesday’s Mobile City Council meeting.
Rich’s service to the city came primarily during her 19 years as a representative of District 6 on the council, but she also spent seven years as a commissioner on the mobile water and sewer network.
âI never considered it a job; it was an honor and a privilege, âshe said after the councilor’s comment portion of the meeting.
Rich said that during her years of service, she “tried to be very consistent” and worked to earn the respect of fellow board members, even if they didn’t always agree. She saw her role as a control over the mayor’s office and frankly said that some mayors don’t always like it.
âI want to see future boards serve as a check and balance and not just a buffer,â she said.
Of her 19 years on council, Rich served as the agency’s representative on the City Planning Commission for a decade. As the only committee member not appointed by the mayor, Rich approached his work in that body in the same way as the council.
âIt was a challenge because the developers and residents are all passionate about the zoning changes,â she said. âI think the mayor-appointed council needs more diverse community representation.â
In her remarks, Rich said she was spearheading the effort to start televising council meetings, which in turn resulted in the official gatherings being broadcast live. She said she was part of the first council to hold regular district meetings, starting in the early 1990s. Transparency has always been one of her top priorities, she said.
Rich held back tears as she spoke of the support of her husband, Leonard, who was present at Government Plaza with his granddaughter.
Board chair Levon Manzie thanked Rich for his service on the board, which will conclude with the swearing-in of a new District 6 representative in November.
âI met her in second year in high school and she just keeps getting better,â Manzie said. âI know the citizens of District 6 are going to miss your intelligence and ingenuity.â
Rich said she plans to serve the remainder of her term before handing over the reins to whoever was elected to replace her. Josh Woods, executive director of The Grounds, has announced his intention to run for the seat. In a statement, he thanked Rich for his service.
âAfter a long career of public service and leadership within the city and communities of Mobile, I would like to congratulate Ms. Rich on her retirement from Mobile City Council,â he wrote. âWith all that has been accomplished throughout her many years of service, I have garnered a great deal of respect and would like to publicly thank Ms. Rich for all that has been accomplished inside and outside the District. 6. ”
Army veteran Scott Jones has also announced his intention to run for the seat Rich is leaving. Among his platform boards, Jones said in a statement that he wanted to help maintain the integrity and safety of neighborhoods in District 6.
The departures of Williams and Rich, along with that of Fred Richardson, will leave at least three seats open on Mobile City Council four years after the current members were all re-elected by wide margins. The three are the three oldest members of the board.
Richardson is stepping down from the board to run for mayor. Two of his opponents from four years ago – Cory Penn and Tim Hollis – have decided to join the fray. They will be joined by former Mobile Circuit Court judge Herman Thomas.
Several other members are competing, including Council Chairman Levon Manzie, who faces four challengers in District 2, and City Councilor Joel Daves, who faces competition in District 5.
District 7 Councilor Gina Gregory and District 3 Councilor CJ Small are both unopposed so far in their nominations for re-election.