People of Etowah – Kent Back

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(Photo courtesy of Kent Back)

Where were you born and raised?
I was born in Middletown, Ohio and moved to Gadsden at age 2.

What is your occupation?
President of Bowman & Back, Inc., a fixed cost reduction consulting firm.

What is your favorite and least favorite thing about your job?
I enjoy problem solving, saving my clients money and creating lasting relationships with clients from all over the country. My least favorite is working with large multinational corporations that may not see the need for savings.

What made you decide to run for your position?
After serving one term, I understand the challenges facing our city. We will have a new mayor and five to seven new council members, so there is a need for continuity to help guide our city through what may be some of the most difficult four years we have ever faced. Gadsden needs leadership with experience and the knowledge of how our local government operates. I have those qualities and experience to help lead our city forward.

Tell us about your family and pets.
My wife Kim is in her 39th year teaching kindergarten in our Gadsden Public School system. Together we have invested over three decades in Gadsden by serving in many ways, such as in our public schools, our downtown church and numerous volunteer groups. Our son Allen is an elementary teacher in the Gadsden Public School system after serving 10 years in New York City with Young Life, a non-denominational ministry. His wife Celeste works in an administrative role at a local financial institution. Our daughter Kirkland and her husband Morgan Cunningham are local attorneys. We are blessed with a five-year-old granddaughter and 10-month-old grandson. Our pet is Sugar Pie, our 18-year-old Peekapoo.

What school or schools have you attended?
I attended Eura Brown Elementary, Westminster Christian School, Disque Jr. High School, Gadsden High School, Gadsden State Junior College and Auburn University.

What do you like to do in your free time?
I enjoy playing golf, watching college football and basketball, singing in the choir at FBC Gadsden and singing with the Spotlight Players for 39 years. Most of all, I enjoy being with my family, especially our two grandchildren. It’s true what you hear: they’re more fun than your own children!

What would you say is your greatest accomplishment?
Being the father of two of finest people I know: Allen Back and Kirkland Back.

From where do you draw wisdom or inspiration?
Wisdom begins with prayer, as I am nothing without my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Wisdom also comes from experience, and I have gained a lot of experience in my years in business and in the last four years serving on the city council. My inspiration comes from living in Gadsden for my entire life and wanting only the best for our citizens and, of course, my family. I wake up each day with an attitude of gratefulness of living in Gadsden and strive to serve the citizens of Gadsden to the best of my ability.

Name the one person that has been the most influential in your life.
I’m not able to say just one person. I would say my parents, my Pee Wee football and basketball coach Raymond Hill, my high school choral instructor Gene Barnes, Glenwood Pierson, Rex Keeling, and my best friend Tommy Ford. They each played key roles in my development as a person during the many seasons of my life.

To what do you credit your success?
Success begins with desire. It then requires working harder than the other person, getting back up when knocked down, dreaming big and never giving up or accepting failure. Maybe one of the most important traits is treating others the way I would like them to treat me.

What is your favorite thing about this community?
I love Gadsden and our people. I love our scenery, our river, our lakes and our waterfall. I love our downtown and our Memorial Bridge. I love the amphitheater. I love our proximity to larger cities, the mountains and the gulf coast. I also love coming back to Gadsden each time I travel. Gadsden is home.

What would you like to see change in the community?
To see our community come together and erase the decline of the last 60 years. This next administration and city council must “Reimagine Gadsden.” To do this, we must do things we’ve never done before and dream like we’ve never dreamed before. We must be willing to take chances and, if need be, make hard choices to overcome all barriers to success. We must reach across all boundaries of age, gender, race, economic status and neighborhoods in order to become the city that every other city in America aspires to be.

What are your goals for the City of Gadsden?
To remain financially stable and attract modern, high-paying jobs of the 21st century. To provide a quality of life in Gadsden that makes everyone to want to live in Gadsden. To provide the workforce training and development that will make our city the most attractive city for any company to want to locate here. We must address city employee compensation and adapt to the ever-changing marketplace by becoming wage and benefit attractive in every sector of our employees. We need to continue funding our school system and meet annually with the school board and superintendent to review how city dollars can best assist the school system. We must utilize federal funds and grants for broadband to become a gig city, which will attract the type of industry and careers we all desire. We must become a Smart City that will enable us to work more efficiently and provide city services as economically as possible. We must create a full-time office for grant writing and create a public/private in-vestment on the river to bring restaurants, hotels and entertainment which will blend with improvements at Noccalula Falls. We must review every city department and expenditure and be willing to make decisions that place Gadsden in the best position possible to grow and sustain our city. We must work with our neighbors at every opportunity to strengthen our communities.

What existing areas would you strengthen?
Continue to strengthen the relationship with our local school system and continue to grow the relationship at Gadsden State with the sports complex and the new Advanced Manufacturing Center. This includes the new co-working space for Innovation and Entrepreneurship at The Venue. Assist in any way possible with the new incubator at the former Coca-Cola building. Continue to address workforce development and diversify into areas such as healthcare and technology to take advantage of our local health care facilities as well as our proximity to UAB and Southern Research Institute in Birmingham and the technology opportunities overflowing from Huntsville.

What is something surprising that many do not know about you?
From 1977 to 1979, I was a walk-on placekicker at Auburn University. A business highlight is I was a partner in a local company that made the INC. 500 two years in a row, narrowly missing the third year. That was quite an accomplishment by a good team of people. Very few companies can say they did that.

What is your favorite quote?
“Whether you think you can or think you can’t, you’re probably right.” – Henry Ford.

What is on your bucket list?
I’m not much of a bucket list guy, but Kim and I would like to take a month or so and tour Europe.

What advice would you give yourself as a child?
Don’t listen to the negative voices saying you can’t accomplish anything. We can do anything we set our minds to, so do not allow others to limit you. Don’t give in to the bullies; they’re not as tough as you think.

What would you like to tell your constituents?
It has been an honor and privilege to serve District 4 as your councilman. With your vote and support, I will continue to serve. The last four years have been remarkable in many ways. At times it has been quite the learning experience, but one I wouldn’t trade for anything. The lessons learned will serve as the foundation of making sound decisions going forward, to make Gadsden the city we all desire it to be.

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