GADSDEN, Ala. (WIAT) – Next week voters in Gadsden will be heading to the polls to elect a new mayor.
The two remaining candidates will head off in a runoff election Tuesday. Whoever is elected will be starting a new era of leadership in the city, as Mayor Sherman Guyton decided to not run for reelection after 16 years in the role.
Former Alabama State Representative Craig Ford and Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Heather Brothers New took to the stage Thursday. The debate, the first of its kind, was hosted by a podcast duo Real Talk with Pastor Z. & Bishop T. who both serve on the school board and city council.
“It’s time for Gadsden to have someone in charge that is going to make Gadsden attractive to all of the citizens,” co-host Z. Andre Huff said. “If you want to see a difference, you gotta speak up. How do you speak up? You speak loud and clear by casting your votes.”
Brothers New touts her skillset and knowledge of working with community leaders as having its pulse instead of a career politician.
“I don’t fit into that role and I think that’s why they should vote for me,” Brothers New said. “I think it’s time that we start a completely different direction.”
On the opposing side, Ford has confidence in what he was already done within the state’s political and economic system.
“I have experience putting together incentive packages to bring in industry and jobs and that’s what Gadsden needs,” Ford said. “I understand what it takes and I have the ability and the desire to do that.”
Ford served 18 years with the Alabama legislature and said manufacturing jobs are key. He said a focus on education is crucial because Gadsden is centrally located to other big cities.
“We gotta put our money where our mouth is,” Ford said. “We have to improve our education system which will help recruit jobs, but jobs are the answer.”
Brothers New said opening a business incubator in a year with partners across the county will be key to growing the economy.
“I need to protect the future of Gadsden,” Brothers New said. “We have not seen the opportunity that we deserve and I’m here to help us get after it.”