Hundreds of supporters filled the Greater Gulf State Fairgrounds Exhibition Hall Feb. 23 for the kick-off rally of Mobile mayoral candidate Sandy Stimpson.
A rapt audience wearing Sandy Stimpson shirts and/or stickers listened to the candidate, as well as his brother and campaign manager, as they described the person who they hope becomes the next mayor of Mobile.
Stimpson began his speech saying he wasn't running for mayor to "get a job." Instead, he said the decision was because he felt there needed to be a change in leadership style for the city.
"This is not about me. This is about the future of Mobile," he said. "I'm not running against anyone. I'm running for you, your future, the city, and your children's futures.
"This is not for me to get a job. I have a job, but I want to make sure the job for Mobile gets done."
Stimpson, who is a native Mobilian, graduated from the University of Alabama with a bachelorâ€™s degree in civil engineering. He returned to Mobile to work for his family's business â€” Gulf Lumber Company that later became Scotch & Gulf Lumber.
His time as the company's CFO is one of the biggest assets he would bring to Government Plaza if he is elected, Stimpson said.
"The mayor needs to be a CEO of the city," he said. "I have the business experience to do that, but what we need more is a person to unify our city.
"Job creation is important, but Mobile will never be what it could unless there is one Mobile."
The concept of "One Mobile" is such an important issue for Stimpson that he made it his campaign slogan. He illustrated this concept by having several signs with the names of communities and neighborhoods in Mobile, but also had one saying "One Mobile" displayed.
One time when Mobile came together and benefitted greatly, Stimpson said, was in securing Airbus.
"I chaired a committee that raised $10 million for economic development, which brought in Airbus," he said. "It wasn't just from that. It was a collaborative effort between the Governor, our U.S. representatives, the city council, the mayor and the county commission. It was everyone working together that landed Airbus.
"That's what we need to do for Mobile â€” everyone coming together for a better Mobile."
Stimpson said he went on a yearlong "listening tour" throughout the city to hear what people had to say about the state of the city.
He said those who he spoke to expressed disappointment with the city's public services, the process to start up a new business and the issue of crime.
"Very few citizens told me they felt safe in Mobile," he said. "Last year 1,600 people were victims of violent crimes, which are rapes, murders, robberies and assaults with a deadly weapon. This has got to stop."
Stimpson then explained why public safety was among his top concerns.
"One morning I got the call no parent would ever want to get. I received a call that my daughter Nancy had been attacked in Birmingham," Stimpson said. "When you see your daughter's blood on the walls and ceiling, it changes the way you think about crime. Thankfully she escaped before she was raped and murdered, but just seeing it changes the way you think."
Stimpson said he would help combat crime by reactivating neighborhood watches, community action groups and getting faith-based groups involved.
He also said police officers are leaving in mass numbers from the Mobile Police Department because they are not compensated enough.
The city of Mobile should also become business friendly, Stimpson said.
"We do a great job rolling out the red carpet for the big businesses, but we are strangling the local business owners with red tape," he said. "I've been told it takes too long to make something happen with a business in Mobile."
Stimpson said he wants Mobile to become the safest and most business-friendly city.
Education, while not a prime responsibility of the mayor, is something Stimpson wants to help improve anyway he can. The candidate has served on the board for the Prichard Preparatory School for several years. Seeing the improvements when "children's education is first on the agenda," made Stimpson want to work with the Mobile County Public School System's board and superintendent.
He told a story illustrating why it is so important for education to be first.
"I always carry a coin my friend Andy Andrews gave me. It has the profile of two men on it. The two men are Booker T. Washington and George Washington Carver," he said. "I keep it to remind me with the right teaching at Prichard Prep for their mind, body and heart, then there could be another Booker T. Washington or George Carver walking those halls."
The last issue Stimpson addressed was downtown and waterfront development. He said he wanted the downtown and waterfront areas to be the envy of the Southeast.
Stimpson wasn't the only person to speak though.
His brother Fred talked about how Stimpson has always been a hard worker and was the one who "never got in trouble."
Joe Bullard, chairman of Stimpson's campaign, summed up why he felt the time for a new mayor is now.
"I'm going to be honest. Sam Jones has done a decent job, but the time has come that we can't accept that anymore" he said. "I'll use a football analogy. At the University of Alabama, Mike Shula was a good guy, but was he the right guy to be the best they could be or was Nick Saban?
"The Nick Saban for Mobile, Ala. is Sandy Stimpson, and he isn't going to cost $5 million. He's going to only be $89,000."