While the novices among the new candidates may have more to learn, experts and former office-holders say that should not keep anyone from putting their name on a ballot.
Municipal leaders sometimes enter office with misconceptions about city government and its functions, said Ken Smith, executive director of the Alabama League of Municipalities.
“A lot of times when people run for office they come into it with ideas about what they want to do,” Smith said. “Sometimes they’re things a city can do; sometimes they’re something a city can’t do.”
Prospective candidates have until July 17 to sign up to run for mayor or city council. To qualify for the election,s candidates must complete a city election form, a statement of economic interest and, if more than $1,000 is spent on their campaign, fair campaign practices forms. It’s the first step in an election process that could evolve into a learning experience for newcomers.
The League of Municipalities holds training sessions for elected public officials. The courses help officials acclimate to their new posts and let them know what is expected of them, Smith said.
Former Jacksonville mayor and councilman Jerry L. Smith was a political science professor before his time in office.
Despite his academic understanding of the political process, the former mayor said he encountered a considerable learning curve after he was first elected.
“Even the most knowledgeable person comes into office facing circumstances where they just have to learn,” the former mayor said. “They often come into office with the misconception that they can change things quickly.”
Jerry Smith recounted when, as a councilman, he did an about-face on one city matter that ultimately taught him a great deal about serving as an elected official.
Jacksonville officials were trying to decide how they wanted to pay for the development of the new high school. Some wanted to pay for the project by selling the then-city-owned hospital and the mayor was against it, until he looked into the matter a little more.
Jerry Smith said elected officials must learn quickly about things most residents never have to seriously consider. The new topics officials may have to face can range from managing bond debt to capital projects or municipal procedures.
“If you serve any length of time you’re going to run into some of that,” he said. “I think maybe the big point is not going in thinking you have things figured out.”
He said inexperience shouldn’t discourage people with political ambitions from attempting to secure an elected position.
“Even if you don’t win you’ve still contributed something,” Jerry Smith said. “If you do well you have the opportunity to really do some positive things if you do it the right way.”
Candidates who qualified by the close of business Tuesday, according to city clerks: Anniston City Council: John Norton, Mayor
Roosevelt Parker, Sr., Mayor
Andy Hatley, Ward 1
Herbert Palmore, Incumbent, Ward 2
David Reddick, Ward 2
Benjamin Little, Incumbent, Ward 3
Seyram Selase, Ward 3
Millie Harris, Ward 4
Anniston Board of Education:
William Hutchings, Ward 2
Bill Robison, Ward 4
Arthur Cottingham, Member at large
Hobson City: None
Jacksonville: Derek Raulerson, Mayor
Johnny L. Smith, Incumbent Mayor
Mark Jones, Incumbent, Place 2
Kyle Warmack, Place 2
Truman Norred, Incumbent, Place 3
Jonathan Tompkins, Place 5
Jacksonville Board of Education:
David Glass, Place 5
William Walter, Place 5
Steven E. Baswell, Incumbent Mayor
Justin “Butch” Mitchell, Place 2
Oxford: Christy Chase Humphries, Mayor
Leon Smith, Incumbent Mayor
Freddie L. Hinton, Place 1
Charlotte Hubbard, Place 2
Ken Rollins, Place 2
Mike Henderson, Place 3
Chris Spurlin, Incumbent, Place 4
Greg Thrower, Place 4
Steven Waits, Incumbent, place 5
Rick Freeman, Mayor
Brent Morrison, Mayor
Mary Bramblett, Incumbent, District 2
Kinney Kelley, Incumbent, District 4
Diane Studdard, Incumbent, District 5
Billy Baker, Incumbent, District 6
Tim McRae, Place 2
Ellen Cole, Incumbent, Place 3
Jeff Clendenning, Incumbent, Place 5