TALLADEGA -- The 2019 municipal election cycle in Talladega was historic in several ways.
Timothy Ragland’s victory in the mayoral runoff Tuesday night resulted in not only Talladega’s first black mayor, but also the youngest mayor of Talladega in more than a century at age 29.
Also, two women, Vickey Robinson Hall in Ward 2 and Betty Spratlin in Ward 4, were elected to the council at the same time, another Talladega first.
“I hope this history-making moment will inspire every generation in the city of Talladega,” Ragland said. “To the older generation, I hope it reinforces the truth that it’s a new day in Talladega and that passing the torch of leadership to another generation is both necessary and essential for the preservation and promotion of our community.
“To the youth and millennials, I hope this moment motivates them to dream big and not let anything stop them from achieving their goals. To future generations, I hope they will hear about this moment and use it to inspire them to unlock new ideas and possibilities to contribute to the community and city raising them.”
Talladega was not alone among Alabama cities making history last week. Voters in Montgomery also elected their first black mayor, Steven Reed. Before Tuesday night, Montgomery was one of only three cities in the Deep South with a population of more than 100,000 that had never elected a black mayor.
The Daily Home reached out to several community leaders and prominent people in Talladega for their reactions to this year’s elections.
Dr. Billy C. Hawkins, president of Talladega College
"Congratulations to our mayor-elect and our incoming council members. I look forward to working with the newly formed city council.”
Rev. Hugh Morris, president of the Talladega County chapter of the NAACP
“This is a very historic moment for our city and for the state of Alabama. It shows that we are in a mindset of moving forward. We have elected to the office of mayor someone who is intelligent, capable, young and who happens to be an African-American. And I think that is good for our city and for our citizens.”
Tony Ball, Talladega City Schools superintendent
“I’m looking forward to working with the new mayor and council. I had a good relationship with the previous administration and I am optimistic about continuing that. I believe we can all work together to improve the lives of everyone in Talladega, especially our K-12 students.”
Bess Garrett, Talladega College alumna
“I would like to express my gratitude and pride to the Talladega College family for making sure that a good percentage of the students enrolled there registered and voted in the municipal election. I was not there personally, however, B. N. Mabra Center is my polling place.
“I was told by one person who was there to vote that it was a ‘beautiful site to see.’ The sight that was so beautiful was around 200 to 250 students, mostly band students, were led to the Mabra Center on Tuesday afternoon to vote. They were organized by the assistant directors alphabetically to try and prevent any unnecessary confusion, assist the polling place staff and not be so loud.
“(Band director Miguel) Bonds, great job with making sure that the Democratic Conference registers these young people and that they show some interest in the city where they spend most of the year. As a Talladega College alumna, it makes me feel really proud that the college family is becoming more involved in what happens here and making a positive difference.”
Chad Jones, president and CEO of First Bank of Alabama
“In any election, you have an opportunity for the voters to speak with their true voice. People wanted to see different leadership from their mayor and council. I didn’t know Timothy Ragland before the election, but I did meet him for the first time (Friday) morning. I congratulated him on social media on election night, and he replied. But when I met him today, I found him poised and well-spoken, and I believe he will present the city in a positive light. I look forward to working with him. But like I said, I didn’t know anything about him at all until the candidate forum at The Ritz Theatre, and it struck me that he could project what Talladega can and will be.
“Jerry Cooper was a good mayor, he always represented us as best he could and he was always there whenever he was needed. I know three of the new council members as well, although I can’t say I know Ms. Hall very well. But I am looking forward to getting to know her and seeing what she can do for her ward and cumulatively for the city as well.
“We need teamwork in our city government. When they go for the team-building exercise at Shocco Springs, which they all promised to do, I would like to see them invite some business leaders, hear from us, see how we can help. You have to rub a piece of coal pretty hard before you get a diamond. We’ve had some darker days here in our past, but we’re hoping now for the greatest diamond.”
Dr. Adia Winfrey, chair, Talladega County Democratic Party
“I was definitely following everything that was going on in the runoff Tuesday and I was really excited by what I was seeing and hearing. The polls were showing strong turnout, especially for a municipal runoff.
“It was exciting first of all because, in the mayor’s race, you have two really good candidates facing off against each other. But the fact that one of them was an African-American man under 30 adds just another layer of excitement.
“I knew Mr. Ragland in passing. We had worked on some related projects from afar. I know that he is deeply committed to this city and I am excited to see what he will do. I liked his platform when he was running and I know he has a heart for service and for improving the city.
“I know the office of mayor is a ceremonial one, but the energy created around his win already is showing potential for so much more. I know my phone has been ringing constantly. I can’t even imagine what his has been doing, and he hasn’t even been sworn in yet.
“You know, we hear so much about how I-20 is so far outside the city limits. Maybe this election is the first step in making that obsolete.
“And, of course, Vickey’s win is very exciting also. When I saw those numbers, I thought people must really be feeling open to change. It will be a very, very cool thing when we get to the day where a win is just a win, and it’s not a first of anything. This puts us one step closer to that day.”
Jason Daves, executive director of the Greater Talladega and Lincoln Area Chamber of Commerce
“The level (of) diversity is really great to see in the outcome. Part of that was the diversity of the candidates themselves, and part of it was having our first African-American mayor, and someone so young to boot.
“It shows a lot of promise for our future, also. It says diversity is what our citizens wanted to see. We saw more people engaged in the process this year, and it is great to see that in our community, too.”
“As far as the future, having a diverse mayor and council means bringing more perspectives to the issues the city faces. All of them bring valuable insights and input to the discussion. They will be respected in the community, and I think they will respect each other as well.”
Rev. Dante Whittaker, past president of the Talladega County Democratic Party and retired federal employee
“Certainly, like most people, I am excited about our new leadership. I want to thank all of those who served in the past, who served this city well. But this week we saw voters speaking to inclusiveness, to new ideas, new opportunities and diversity. They, like me, they’re looking for us to come together as a community, work for the common good, move our city forward and help make better lives and better opportunities for our citizens.
“There are some definite concerns, and I hope they can be addressed. I know I would like to see them bring in industry and I would like to see more opportunities for our young graduates. Right now, kids go off to college, and when they get their degree, they can’t find work in their fields here. We’re losing our children to other cities.
“We need to build our infrastructure, take advantage of attractions like Cheaha, the track, Talladega College, use those things as a gateway to a positive image.
“I know this election was non-partisan, but it needs to not be about individuals, personalities. We need to pray that they stay focused and accomplish what they ran on. They also need to know that compromise is not a dirty word, and that there’s nothing wrong with finding common ground.
“Lastly, when I look at Talladega, I see a great opportunity and I want our leaders to have the courage to step into a new arena for a new age. But we need to remember not to throw out the old things as well.
“There are times in history that call for action, that call for changing with the times. We’ve got lots of young, bright individuals, with progressive thinking, but we can’t just throw everything out.
“(Council President) Dr. (Horace) Patterson has been around for years. He has wisdom and understanding, and they need to remember to listen to him as well. Sometimes, you just need to go back to your corner and take in knowledge and wisdom, and not be so eager to dismiss it. That all comes back to compromise.”
Sabriana Swain, Swain Community Involvement Corporation
“I believe that the community is very excited about the change within the local government. Most of the people I ask and converse with tell me that they do not know the new mayor, Mr. Ragland, personally but they are excited about the change that they hope comes with the new mayor, and new council.
“They are aware that the mayor doesn't have executive power, but as I shared with the community, if we as the community would stand with Mr. Ragland on issues that concern (us), we could see a big change in Talladega.
“All the African-Americans that I converse with in the community seem to have a more hopeful outlook now for the community. It's as if their morale is elevated … and most of the caucasian people I talk with are excited about the change also and said they’re ready to do what it takes in making the community better.
“Talladega is a small community with a lot to offer … we have a historic black college that now has a diverse campus, and now, we have a black mayor. Never in a million years … I personally would not have expected a black mayor, but I plan on doing my part in helping make the community a better place for my family, friends, the youth and seniors. I advise everyone to join in making our Talladega a better place … It's not my Talladega, It's Our Talladega.”