Photo: Former Etowah County Probate Judge Bobby Junkins (right) swears in Craig Ford as City of Gadsden Mayor as Ford’s wife Gwen holds the Bible last Monday (Nov. 7) at Gadsden City Hall. (Chris McCarthy/Messenger)
By Emma Kirkemier, News Editor
Gadsden’s new mayor, school board and city council members took their oaths of office on Monday, November 7.
Mayor Craig Ford gave his inaugural speech to the crowd gathered at The Venue at Coosa Landing.
“We’ve been working together (with the previous administration) to create opportunities for Gadsden,” Ford said.
He was preceded in his speech by several other officials, including Lieutenant Governor Will Ainsworth, with whom Ford served as a Representative in the Alabama House.
“I’ll tell you this about your mayor,” Ainsworth said, “He loves Alabama; he loves Etowah County; he loves Gadsden.”
Ainsworth reassured constituents that he would “fight hard for Gadsden” and that, on the local level, “no one knows the system better” than Ford.
Hokes Bluff Mayor Scott Reeves then introduced Ford, who is also his cousin.
“I believe without a doubt [Ford] has the drive, the diligence and the connections to move the city forward into the future,” he said.
Ford made a point to thank city employees, asking them to stand and be recognized.
Gadsden is “fortunate to have a diverse city,” he said, and it is time to use this and the city’s other resources to its advantage.
“The time has come for Gadsden to define our narrative, not let anybody else define our narrative,” Ford said.
Having run on promises of industrial development, Ford elaborated on those plans and set expectations for projects to come. Ford claimed his administration would put forth a master plan for both the city and its riverfront within his first 90 days as mayor. He lined up several meetings with potential developers on the day of his inauguration.
Ford noted that his focus was holistic, including plans for city schools. He recognized Gadsden City Schools Superintendent Tony Reddick, reminding attendees that “as (education) goes, so goes industrial development.”
All school board members were inducted together — excepting Mark Dayton, who was not present — and led by City Clerk Iva Nelson in their oath.
To conclude his address and subsequently, the ceremony, Ford simply said: “Let’s go to work.”
He was met with a standing ovation, and “go to work” they did, as the new city council held its first meeting shortly after the swearing-in ceremony.
The council elected District 4 Councilmember Kent Back as council president and District 2 Councilmember Steve Smith as president pro tempore. It also appointed Iva Nelson for another four-year term as city clerk.
Each councilmember gave closing remarks, most commenting on the impressive turnout and expressing hopes that such attendance at council meetings would continue.
“If you can’t be excited about Gadsden right now, you need to check yourself,” Back said.
With five of seven councilmembers being new to the office and with a new mayor for the first time in 16 years, the City of Gadsden is certainly seeing change.
“People in Gadsden want hope,” Ford said. “We’re going to give them hope.”