Hueytown District 2 councilor challenged after 16 years in office

Local News

HUEYTOWN, Ala. (WIAT)– For t he first time in 16 years, Hueytown District 2 City Councilor Michael Pickens has some competition for his seat.

The two candidates in the running are long-term Hueytown resident, Mike Pugh, and a fresh face in the small town’s politics, Aaron Watkins.

Pickens has run four terms without any opposition, automatically being elected to represent the district.

“I don’t believe anyone should get in just by putting their name on a piece of paper, and unfortunately that’s what’s been done the past several elections with Michael Pickens,” said Watkins.

Pickens said it’s been an honor to serve his community for nearly two decades and he would like to continue.

“Their willingness to want to get in, to get involved is great. I welcome the competition. I’m just glad to know somebody else cares enough about the city to want run,” Pickens said.

As the incumbent, Pickens highlighted progress that has taken place in the city by renovating the local parks and bringing in new businesses.

Brooklane Park’s pavilion was recently rebuilt and new playground equipment installed. Pickens said more updates are coming.

In addition, Pickens said the city is working with the Legacy YMCA to re-open the community pool.

He said the issues his challengers bring up, like police funding and financial transparency, are issues the city is already addressing.

“We’ve made some progress in those years, especially in the last four, and I’ve just decided to run again to try and continue that,” Pickens said.

However, Pugh and Watkins say they decided to run against Pickens this year, because they want to see more financial transparency, more communication between city representatives and the community in general, and term limits.

Pugh said his largest concern is public safety funding and making sure the police department is equipped with anything they need.

At Tuesday night’s council meeting, tensions heightened while discussing the police department’s request for body cameras.

“If you have body cameras, that protects the police, that protects the citizens that police deal with, and it protects the city because there is no question about what is on a camera,” Pugh said.

Local newspaper outlet “The Western Star” livestreamed the meeting.

Starting around 43 minutes in, the discussion about body cameras arises when a Hueytown resident poses a question regarding her concerns.

District 1 Councilor Frann Zinnerman responds saying in the last four years, seven new patrol vehicles have been purchased for the department, and that she had not seen any requests for body cameras.

Hueytown Police Chief Mike Yarborough stands up and says he asked for body cameras in July 2019.

Pickens says the council is currently working with the police department to test different models of body cameras to make a purchase.

Pugh also says he has concerns about the city’s budget cuts.

The candidate took to his Facebook campaign page to share findings on an over 40 percent budget cut to the Chamber of Commerce.

Pickens said that currently, over 40% of the city’s budget goes to the police department and around 30 percent goes to the fire department. He also says they are currently working toward purchasing the body cameras.

However, Pugh said he wants to see even more support for the police department, and he wants to give the community answers about where their money is going.

“All we keep hearing at these meetings is how there’s financial difficulties and no transparency about why there’s financial difficulties,” Pugh said. “I’m willing to put in the work and get straightened back out.”

Bringing forward several new ideas for the District 2 seat, Watkins shares a vision beyond releasing financial statements and public safety.

He’s currently championing for a food truck park, building a splash pad, and a better flow of communication to keep the community engaged.

Watkins said he was the first candidate for District 2 to create a Facebook page for his campaign, and he wants to see the creation of a City Council page to easily share information with the community.

His vision includes live streaming all council meetings, parks and recreation meetings, and all other city organizations. Watkins also adds he wants to host town hall meetings where residents can come in and openly discuss what they would like to see in their city.

“I am talking about ideas and growth. I am not just talking about things I’ve voted yes on or numbers in a budget. You know, there’s a lot more to it than that. We have got to grow as a city and that is going to take new ideas and perspectives,” Watkins says.

All three candidates told CBS 42 they have called Hueytown home for generations, and that they want the best for their city.


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