City of Gadsden mayoral candidate Craig Ford addresses supporters following the results of the election last Tuesday (Sept. 23) at the Printup Hotel. Ford will face Heather Brothers New in a runoff on September 20.
By Emma Kirkemier, News Editor
It will be another 24 days before a new mayor for the City of Gadsden is elected.
Out of a field of seven candidates for the above office, Craig Ford and Heather Brothers New will face each other in a runoff election on Tuesday, September 20.
On election day last Tuesday (Aug. 24), Ford received 38.51 percent (2,297) of the vote, while News garnered 23.30 percent (1,390). Candidates must have at least 50 percent of the vote in order to win.
The remaining 38.18 was split between the other five candidates.
“Runoffs are all about turning out your people,” said Ford at his campaign headquarters at the Printup Hotel following the results. “We’ve got a plan, but every vote matters. We’re going to have an organized campaign, and we’re going to win this thing. We’ll be back here on September 20 for a victory party!”
Ford, a lifelong Gadsden resident, captain in the Alabama Army National Guard and local business owner of Ford Insurance and The Messenger, served as an Alabama State Representative from 2000 to 2018 and as House Minority Leader from 2010 to 2016.
During his time in the state legislature, Ford was commended for his education initiatives — including securing funding for local schools — and honored with the Golden Axe award for his service to first responders.
New is a Gadsden native and local business owner who served as executive director of Etowah County American Red Cross from 2008 to 2011 and president of The Chamber of Gadsden/Etowah County from 2011 to 2022. She has served on the board of directors for both Chamber of Commerce Association of Alabama and Business Council of Alabama.
The Alabama Political Reporter writes that New “transformed The Chamber” into the prosperous organization it is today during her tenure.
Mayoral candidates not continuing to the runoff election include Robert Avery (1,134, 19.01 percent); Ron “Bunchie” Barnard (53, 0.89 percent); John Jacobs (218, 3.65 percent); Michael Shell (361, 6.05 percent) and Thomas Worthy (512, 8.58 percent).
The September 20 runoffs will also determine five of Gadsden’s seven City Council seats. Newly elected council members Tonya Lynn Latham and Steve Smith carried Districts 1 and 2, respectively. Districts 3 through 7 remain contested.
The following candidates will face off in City Council runoffs: Larry J. Avery, Jr., and Denecia Ann Getaw in District 3; incumbent Kent Back and Carrie Machen in District 4; Billy F. Billingsley, Sr., and incumbent Jason Wilson in District 5; Dixie Minatra and Renay Stokes Reeves in District 6; incumbent Ben Reed and Chris Robinson in District 7.
Almost inverse to the turnover City Council results, five of the seven School Board members ran unopposed in their districts, with Adrienne M. Reed (1), Nate Carter (2), Mike Haney (4), Nancy Stewart (6) and William Allen Millican (7) all retaining their incumbent positions. Z. Andre’ Huff won District 3, and incumbent Mark Dayton carried District 5.
With a mayor still to be elected and high turnover rates for City Council (new members will comprise between 57 percent and 100 percent of the council), September runoff elections are sure to impact the City of Gadsden’s government significantly.
“Gadsden is a special community with the potential to achieve great things,” Ford said. “I grew up here, and this city has always been home. I have a passion for Gadsden and the people who live here, and I want to work with our city’s leadership to see this city achieve its full potential.”
Publisher/Editor Chris McCarthy contributed to this article.