Tuscaloosa voters head to the polls for mayor’s race

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TUSCALOOSA, Ala. (WIAT) — The polls are open in Tuscaloosa, where today voters will make their choices for mayor, city council and school board.

The big draw is the race for mayor, which pits incumbent Walt Maddox against challengers Serena Fortenberry and Martin Houston. Maddox, who’s seeking his fifth term, has touted his sound financial management of the city. He said he’s led the city through challenging times, from the economic recession to the deadly tornado in 2011 to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We’ve been able to get through those moments and still be forward-leaning and be one of the fastest-growing cities in Alabama,” Maddox said. “I want to continue to be part of it. And I think that over the last few terms, we have demonstrated leadership that has truly taken our community to the next level.”

Maddox now wants to make Tuscaloosa “the next premier southern city.” Fortenberry, however, believes at least one of his policies needs to be changed. The University of Alabama English professor has spoken out against the sales tax increase he proposed in 2019. She believes the city’s economy is based too heavily on retail, education and manufacturing. She wants to lure corporate headquarters, research and development companies, telecommunications and tech to Tuscaloosa.

“We need to be pursuing a diversified economy,” Fortenberry said. “I would propose working closely with our county government, with the Tuscaloosa Economic Development Authority and doing intentional recruitment of diverse industries to our city.”

Houston, a former University of Alabama football player, also wants to attract tech-based businesses. But first he says the city needs to “get a handle on our spending.” He’s also promised to make sure every citizen has a voice.

“Many of you may feel right now disrespected, disconnected and disenfranchised,” he said during a press conference. “And I want to change that for you. I want everyone to know that I hear you.”

Polls across the city opened at 7 a.m. They remain open until 7 p.m.

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