This year’s mayoral race draws candidates from a wide variety of professional fields, but of the group only three have traditional political experience and only two of those are current office holders. County Commissioner Elton Dean and Probate Judge Steven Reed both hold “safe” seats in that if either or both lose the election for mayor they are able to retain their current offices. Both are lifelong residents of Montgomery and experienced politicians. While either could become the first black mayor of Montgomery, both downplay the significance of that and say they will be a mayor for all people in the city.
More than any other candidate in the race, Elton Dean has the most experience actually working with the mayor’s office. During his time on the Montgomery County Commission, including his time as Chairman, Dean has worked through two mayoral administrations that have made significant improvements in the city.
“I’ve been on the county commission for 19 years. I’m not running for this job; I’m applying for it. When the people look at my resume they will see that I’ve worked very close with the mayor’s office and the city council partnering with them on major projects and minor projects. Everything that has been going on in the city in that time, the county commission has been a part of it and I’ve signed off on it,” Dean said.
Dean says that when he hears campaign rhetoric of other candidates he thinks they sound like they are running for a different office than mayor.
“A lot of people that have been running they’ve been talking about what they are going to do. Sounds like they want to be a city council person instead of the mayor. Because the mayor doesn’t have a vote. The mayor’s job is to work with the city council and try to find out what the city council’s needs are and get them what they need. Some people have been talking about the school system and what they are going to do about that. Well the mayor has no jurisdiction over the school system. The mayor can be a cheerleader like the mayor and I have been doing. We’ve helped build LAMP. We’ve helped build Carver. We’ve helped build Bellingrath and MPACT. We’ve helped finance those schools but as far as policy that is a job for the school board. The only people that can give teachers a raise is the legislature,” Dean said.
Dean says he is the only truly qualified candidate because he can hit the ground running whereas the others can only hope to be walking fast.
“At the end of the day this is not about Elton Dean. It is about moving Montgomery forward and continuing the progress. My resources are way more than anybody else running because I have been around the table with the governor, secretary of commerce, mayor, city council and all of the county commissioners,” Dean said.
Steven Reed is a young and ambitious public servant whose family name is well known in Montgomery politics. Somewhat in contrast to Dean, Reed has practically made the education issue the centerpiece of his campaign and he says if he has anything to say about it the city will spend more resources to bring better opportunities to teachers and students.
“I want to be mayor because I want to bring better opportunities to all parts of Montgomery. I want to be able to influence outcomes in a more positive manner throughout the city for everyone that lives here. My first priority is to assist our county school board to address our education issues. Especially investing in teacher salaries and support but also making sure we provide wrap around services for parents and staff members. And also investing in our capital facilities in our schools,” Reed says.
To those that say the mayor’s job is to focus on the city and leave policy for schools to the school board Reed says, “The mayor’s job is to be CEO of the city. Anything that impacts the city is something the mayor should be concerned about and involved in. In my opinion there is nothing that impacts the city in a more powerful way than education. So I view (education) as being a big part of the mayor’s position regardless of what governmental entity controls it. It doesn’t have to be a city school system for the mayor to be involved in it because it impacts our city. I think the city can support the school system just as it does through various art programs through revenue. The mayor and city council can have a strong impact on dictating where funds go. And I believe that working through the school board, it is very practical that we can earmark funds for teacher’s salaries so that we can recruit and retain the best educators in the country so that we can better position ourselves to improve our education system,” Reed says.
On the issue of crime, Reed says public safety is of the upmost importance to the mayor. Being a victim of crime himself (robbery) Reed says he understands firsthand how serious the problem is.
“Crime is always bad when it happens to you. I understand as a business owner and citizen of the city how that feels. Reducing crime will be a top priority for my administration,” Reed said.