Candidates share vision for Columbiana
By JAN GRIFFEY/Editor
COLUMBIANA — Three men seeking the job as the next mayor of Columbiana shared similar goals for the city — increased residential growth, more jobs and recreational opportunities — but each claim different ways of achieving those goals.
Allan Lowe, who is seeking his fourth term as Columbiana’s mayor, faces challengers Dr. Stancil Handley, a Columbiana city councilman and optometrist, and soon-to-be college student Matthew G. Morris Jr.
The candidates met Aug. 13 in the Shelby County High School auditorium in a mayoral forum presented by the four Shelby County Chambers of Commerce and the Shelby County Reporter.
Candidates each answered the same eight questions, ranging from anticipated changes in city operations under their administration to how each would promote residential and economic growth.
Lowe heralded several projects undertaken and completed during his administration, naming the downtown streetscape development, the jobs created by the location of the Alabama Therapeutic Education Facility in Columbiana and the city’s recent sidewalk development.
“When I took office, downtown looked very different. There was no sports complex, no tennis courts (resurfacing and fencing), no sidewalk program,” Lowe said. Columbiana has those things today “because I took the initiative,” he claimed.
Handley, in contrast, depicted the city as stagnant, without goals or vision.
“We can’t continue progress we don’t have. We cannot reach goals we don’t have,” he said.
Handley said his administration would not be a continuation of progress in Columbiana, but a “jumpstart.”
Lowe defined the role of city government in its interaction with small business to be one that provides “a safe environment for businesses as well as residents, not to make people come into their stores.”
Handley said his administration would have a full-time employee charged with public relations and business and residential recruiting.
“We’ve got to go get business. They won’t just come to us,” he said.
Handley said Columbiana has a reputation as a “no build” city, and he would work to be more helpful to builders and residential developers.
“We need to be more user friendly from top to bottom,” Handley said.
Morris said progress in Columbiana has been “way too slow.” He said city government today makes decisions without listening to and without regard to the needs of the city’s small businesses.
“The sign ordinance took far too long to pass and didn’t listen to any of the city’s small business owners,” Morris said.
He said the foundation of his administration would be based on including all in the city and seeking citizen input on city priorities.