By Sam Prickett
Thirteen people have applied to fill the seat of former Birmingham City Councilor Jay Roberson, who announced his resignation last month. The lineup includes a former board of education president, a handful of candidates who previously ran for the District 7 seat, and a current member of the Birmingham-Jefferson County Transit Authority, among others.
Roberson’s resignation officially took effect Monday. At a press conference last month, he said he was leaving office to accommodate his wife’s new position with Alabaster City Schools.
The Birmingham City Council can appoint someone to fill the vacancy as early as next Tuesday, Sept. 18. Council President Valerie Abbott is facing pressure from several councilors — particularly outgoing District 1 Councilor Lashunda Scales — to fill the seat as soon as possible. The council voted Tuesday not to select a new president pro tempore to replace Roberson, so that the soon-to-be appointed District 7 councilor would be able to participate in the selection process.
Abbott has said that, if about 10 people applied to fill the vacancy, the council would attempt to interview them all before making a selection.
“Usually we just sit down in a conference room, invite (the applicants) in, ask them questions and give them a minute to talk about what they think is important, and then we go on to the next person,” she said. “I think the council is going to have to put together a list of questions to make sure that we ask everyone pretty much the same things.”
The candidates for the District 7 seat are:
- Wardine Alexander is the former president of the Birmingham Board of Education. Alexander was appointed to the board in 2013, and was elected board president in 2015. She lost her bid for re-election in 2017.
- Raymond Brooks is a former chief of the Birmingham Fire and Rescue Service, a role he held from 1997 to 2002. He served as fire chief of Compton, California, from 2002 to 2004, before returning to Birmingham, and he made an unsuccessful run for mayor in 2007. He previously had applied to fill the District 7 council seat after Miriam Witherspoon died in 2009; the council chose Roberson, instead.
- Gwendolyn Calhoun is the president of the Hillman Neighborhood Association.
- Dr. Gertrudis A. Hunter was briefly a candidate for mayor in 2017.
- Lonnie Malone ran against Roberson in the 2017 council election, placing second with 961 votes.
- Jeffrey Rowser ran against Roberson in the 2017 election. He received the third most votes (489), after Roberson (2,667) and Lonnie Malone (961), another applicant to fill Roberson’s seat.
- Theodore Smith is a member of the Birmingham-Jefferson County Transit Authority board of directors, a Birmingham fire captain and former member of the city’s parks and recreation board.
- Walter Wilson is a public works employee for the city of Birmingham. He also has served as a substitute teacher and volunteer football coach in Birmingham City Schools. He previously ran for the District 7 seat in the 2009 municipal elections, but he lost to Roberson.