Battle campaigns for governor in county

Published 10:47 pm Wednesday, July 26, 2017

There are 312 days left before Covington County voters will see Tommy Battle’s name on a ballot, but the three-term Huntsville mayor made his first campaign pass through town this week.

His strategy, he said, is to do a complete tour of the state, making several visits to more populated areas. Each visit will be more in-depth, he said.

“I think it’s important to see the area so you can really understand it,” he said.

He spent Monday in Baldwin County, toured Andalusia Tuesday morning, then headed to Troy.

“It’s good to come in a community like this one and say, ‘What promise.’ You have a beautiful downtown. Older infrastructure is not without challenges, but it is also an opportunity.”

As Huntsville’s mayor, Battle first took on education.

“We hired a change agent superintendent, instituted a digital curriculum, and expected big things on accountability. We wanted to make sure we got a year’s worth of education out of a year’s worth of teaching.”

Six-plus years into what was expected to be a 10-year turnaround, he said, progress is evident.

“Then we looked at infrastructure,” he said. “Mainly, we looked at the roads in our area, and how we deliver water, sewerage and gas service, and fiber to the home.”

The city partnered with the state for $250 million in road improvements.

“It needed to be done if we were to continue to grow,” Battle said. “We also looked at quality of life, our downtown, and urban developments.”

The result is 17,000 new jobs over the last nine years, and more than $2 billion in investments in the Huntsville area. Now, he’d like to apply roughly the same formula to improving the state. The most pressing issues – education and infrastructure – are the some ones Huntsville addressed on and conquered on a smaller scale, he said.

“We want to add jobs and prosperity so people who are already working can get a better job. That’s the reason I got into this race.”

There are major capacity problems on I-65 south of Birmingham and south of Montgomery, he said.

“You have to realize it’s a seven to 10-year fix, but we’ll be more and more behind unless we take on some of these things.”

State leaders must look with broad vision at long-term needs, he said.

“Fifty years ago, it was the vision of some community leaders and German scientist that we needed a research park in Huntsville,” he said. “Now we have 27,000 jobs there.

“We built the University of Alabama at Huntsville, which is basically an engineering school, to provide engineers for all we do in Huntsville. That’s really paid off.”

Battle said state leaders will have to work deliberately to make change.

“What we find in our government is that if people find out you have a strategy, and a plan on where you will end up, they are very accepting,” he said. “You have to keep the message simple and keep moving forward.”

Battle grew up in Birmingham and graduated from the University of Alabama. After owning and operating a restaurant, he moved into real estate. Battle, a Republican, was first elected mayor of Huntsville in 2008.

The 2018 primaries are slated for June 5 in Alabama.