(Photo courtesy of Carrie Machen)
Where were you born and raised?
I was born in North Little Rock, Arkansas and raised in Gadsden. Specifically, I grew up in the Clubview area and spent many fun afternoons exploring the woods and creeks and riding my bike through the neighborhood.
What is your occupation?
I own and operate GadRock, a climbing gym and paddle board outfitter. I am proud of the facility we built, and the purpose was always to build something that our community could be proud of as well. I have heard over and over, “no one takes advantage of our water” and “we need more things for our kids to do.” There wasn’t a blueprint for opening a climbing facility in a community like ours, but I saw a need and knew it would be successful.
What is your favorite thing about your job? Least favorite?
I love coaching our competitive youth climbing team, and while I have coached athletes all the way to USA Climbing Youth Nationals, I find the greatest joy in watching a young athlete push past fear and find success at a climb that seemed impossible at first. Just this week I watched an athlete finish a boulder problem they had tried dozens of times over many sessions. The ability was always there; they just had to believe they could do it. Those fist bump celebrations are the best! My least favorite part of the job is the number of spiders I encounter each day. The deck spiders are definitely a problem with owning a business on the water.
What made you decide to run for your position?
I decided to run because I love Gadsden and I am confident that I am the right leader for the job. I am an entrepreneur, and when entrepreneurs spot gaps, they fill them. For some time, I have seen a leadership gap at city hall. It has been frustrating to watch different groups battle it out week after week, when all we really need are strong leaders to step up. I want to bring some momentum to the city council. Gadsden has seen large employers leave, population decline and a big shift in the economy. Now is the time to elect talented leaders that love our city and love our people. I am not a politician, but I am willing, ready and the best fit for the job.
Tell us about your family and pets.
Chris Machen and I have been married for 18 years and have two high-school-aged kids, Dillon and Madelon. Chris’s first career was in the United States Army, so we have lived all over the U.S., including Maryland, North Carolina, Virginia, Alaska and California. We moved back to Gadsden 10 years ago. After retiring from the armed forces, Chris started Machen Plumbing and I opened GadRock. Our kids stay busy with school, climbing, football, cheerleading, soccer and many other things. Life is busy, but we all really enjoy our family homemade pizza nights. Our pups, Shelby and Lola, may be some of the laziest dogs ever.
What school or schools have you attended?
I went to Eura Brown Elementary School, Disque Middle School and Gadsden High School. I earned my BA in Economics and Political Science from Auburn University. War Eagle!
What do you like to do in your free time?
If I have just a little bit of free time, I enjoy getting out on the water and paddling. I also love to travel, and most of my travels involve many outdoor adventures, great food and unique accommodations.
What would you say is your greatest accomplishment?
Chris and I started life post-college as a military family, and my greatest accomplishment was raising kids and supporting my spouse during this time. We navigated moves, multiple deployments and new schools without skipping a beat. September 11, 2001 forever changed the course of our life and so many others. Of all the lessons learned during this time, the greatest one was resiliency. I am forever grateful for the sacrifices our military and their loved ones make each and every day.
From where do you draw wisdom or inspiration?
I most definitely draw wisdom from God, and I am inspired each time I venture out into the natural world that he created. I love being out in nature, just me and God.
Name the one person that has been the most influential in your life. Why?
There could never be just one person, but today I want to highlight the influence of my grandmother, Laverne Fronabarger. When I was younger I was very interested in politics, and she was the one person that would listen and talk with me about the topic for hours on end. Maybe it is a grandparent thing, but she loved to listen. If you know me, you know I like to talk, but as I knock on doors, meet people and make calls, I have tried to follow her influence and listen more than I speak. Running for District 4 City Council is not about me; it is about us and what we want our community to be. I am listening!
To what do you credit your success?
Coffee and long showers, in that order.
What is your favorite thing about this community?
I love the beautiful natural resources we have here, and our sunsets are some of the best I have ever seen. Every single time I get outside in our community I am inspired by the beauty of the area and the people I meet. Our people are our greatest resource, and I am proud of our culture of generosity.
What would you like to see change in the community?
I want to see more economic growth and job opportunities. I have a senior and a junior in high school, and I want them to look at our community and envision a path of success right here. In fact, I want this for everyone in our community. We have so many talented individuals here. Let’s invest in our people, so they will invest back into our community. This is how we create new resource development.
What are your goals for the City of Gadsden? What existing areas would you strengthen?
My major goal is to work with the new council and administration on developing a community-driven master plan. This plan needs to be tied to metrics so that our community can measure and periodically assess the health of our city. I also want to see these metrics compiled, published and easily accessible through an online dashboard. I was happy to see pay increases for our first responders and funding for our school system restored in the 2023 proposed budget, but we still have a long way to go in mending relationships that are so vital for prosperity. I want to strengthen our financial support for education, not just through the city budget, but also through targeted grants. Community growth starts with our schools and students. It is an investment in our future. They need all the resources, support and funding they can get to continue preparing our students for the workforce requirements of a changing economy. Education is economic and workforce development.
What is something surprising that many do not know about you?
I have a really old car that I love and still need to fix up. It is a 1961 canary yellow Volkswagen Karmann Ghia. It belonged to my great grandparents and then my dad. Many years ago someone offered my dad $5,000 cash for the car. When he told me this, I immediately drove to his house with $1 and a speech. My offer won, and I hope the Ghia stays in the family for a few more generations.
What is your favorite quote?
I love the phrase, “you are what you think,” and one of my favorite bible verses is Phillipians 4:8, “Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, if there be any praise, think on these things.”
What is on your bucket list?
My bucket list is really a travel list. Next up is a trip to Germany to visit Freidrich, our exchange student we hosted in 2020. Our family cannot wait to reconnect with him in his home country. One unique thing our family does when we travel is to continue our search for the best steak house. It is so fun to compare our dining experiences over the years, and there is always a lively debate.
What advice would you give yourself as a child?
Follow your gut!
What would you like to tell your constituents?
I am prepared and ready for this job. I have a plan and vision for our city. I love where we live, and it would be my honor to serve as your next District 4 Councilmember.