TUSCALOOSA, Ala. (WIAT) — Voters in Tuscaloosa will go to the polls on March 7 to pick their mayor, between a familiar face and a community upstart.
Incumbent Mayor Walt Maddox is seeking his fourth term in office, while his challenger, Stepfon “Step” Lewis, a community activist and entrepreneur, says he is ready to lead Tuscaloosa in a new direction.
“We are going to make Tuscaloosa be more about Tuscaloosa,” Lewis said. “We are going to be more inclusive of the people that are from here, born here and die here, and we are just going to bring more of a community atmosphere.”
Lewis is hoping to make changes that promote economic development.
“Economic development is something that improves every city so the city can reinvest in itself,” Lewis said. “I want to make sure business owners are represented, local business owners.”
Mayor Walt Maddox says he wants voters to know he will continue to be a good city leader if re-elected. Maddox says he is proud of the Tuscaloosa 311 system that he helped establish which receives 100,000 calls a year. Maddox also believes that the city Pre-K initiative has been a success.
Maddox has been recognized on the national level for his crisis management following the April 27, 2011 tornado, where an EF-4 storm destroyed thousands of homes and businesses while killing dozens of people.
“Our response and recovery from the April 27 tornado makes me proud,” Maddox said. “Most cities would have crumbled when we were on the edge of darkness, but the amazing people here and my team at city hall, we’ve come back in a way that’s been celebrated and modeled across the nation.”
Maddox believes that he is the best choice because of his experience in dealing with all of the city’s moving parts.
“This election boils down to who you want as your mayor, because being mayor matters,” Maddox said. “You’re the chief executive officer in the one the largest businesses in Alabama. You are responsible for 1,300 employees and hundreds of retirees. You are depended on by over a 100,000 constituents each and every day”.
Lewis says the campaign has been challenging, but he is ready for the job. He wants to restore the west side of the city, create a Black business district, and unify Tuscaloosa with more diversity while reducing crime.
Lewis was convicted of a felony in 1992 for distribution of a controlled substance. He was 21 years old but says he has turned his life around.
“Even since that time we’ve done several things that have brought the community together,” Lewis said. “I want to give my time and attention here and God has provided me with an opportunity to have another chance and I want to use that opportunity to better the community and better my surroundings. I feel that what we are doing is going to make this entire city better.”