Walt Maddox is opening up about his campaign, how Tuscaloosa is recovering from the devastating tornado of 2011, and the state of his city of more than 80,000 residents.
From his office in downtown Tuscaloosa, we geared up for our backseat conversation with the mayor.
“We have been one of alabama’s fastest growing cities the last few years,” Maddox said. “We’re always in the top three in that category.”
When Alabamians thinks of Maddox’s adminstration and what he has done in the City of Tuscaloosa, the subject of the city’s recovery after the 2011 tornado always comes up.
“I think its phenomenal when you consider the challenges,” Maddox said. “We had nearly a billion dollars in unmet needs, and that’s calculated by FEMA. What that means is that’s the difference between insurance paid out, the needs left afterward, and so we received about $130 million worth of federal aid, insurance proceeds or state aid. We got about 10 percent back as a community of what we lost.”
Maddox’s opponent in the Democratic primary for governor, Sue Bell Cobb, has referred to the recovery efforts as a mishandling of the reconstruction, but Maddox disagrees.
“Well my response is you can’t imagine how complicated it is starting with nearly a billion dollars of unmet needs,” Maddox said. “[There are] 5,300 property owners who have 5,300 different viewpoints of what construction should look like, it’s easy to throw stones. And you can certainly take individual examples, but when you look at the whole mosaic of what we’ve been able to do it’s absolutely phenomenal.”
After getting Tuscaloosa’s recovery underway, Maddox says it was only thing he could do was run for governor.
“Back around ’16 and ’17 I started thinking about it seriously,” Maddox said. “We got through the mayor’s race and Stephanie and I sat down over the summer. We thought, ‘You know what? If we look at Alabama, we look at where we are, If we are going to have an Alabama that we live in we’ve got to draw a line in the sand, we’ve got to be more than talking points’.”
With the support Maddox seems to be getting on both sides of the aisle, Maddox believes he has a real shot of winning the governor’s seat in the upcoming election.
“I think we can [win], I wouldn’t be doing it if I didn’t,” Maddox said. “I think what we have to do is demonstrate what we have done here in Tuscaloosa, we are not looking for Democratic solutions or Republican solutions, we are working for solutions.”
After Doug Jones won the U.S. Senate Special Election last year, a lot of people were surpised that a Democrat could take an election in Alabama. With Jones receiving support from a large African-American voting bloc, Maddox believes that his path to victory looks similar.
“If it wasn’t for the African American vote, I wouldn’t have been elected as mayor in 2005,” Maddox said. “Why we’ve kept such strong ties to the African American community because we’ve kept our word, we’re talking about trying to make an Alabama that’s good for everyone.”
Most people know Maddox from his time as Tuscaloosa’s mayor, but there’s a side of Maddox that people may not know.
“I’m an introvert. People are surprised by that, and my wife she’s an introvert too,” Maddox said. “So a typical night, once we can get everyone to bed, we’ll watch Modern Family, the reruns of Modern Family. I’m not a very social person, I don’t go to many parties or things like that, it’s that introvert in me. When we do have family time, its just hanging out with Eli and Taylor and Stephanie. We’ve got some neighborhood friends that we will grill out with from time to time, I’m really a boring person.”
Though Maddox may not get out much, he does have an interest in everything social for residents in his jurisdiction. The mayor’s love of music made it easy to propose building the Tuscaloosa Amphitheatre in 2009
“This is Tuscaloosa’s venue, I’m just happy to be a part of it,” Maddox said. “It’s going to serve this community long after I have finished my time serving.”