Tommy Battle

Last updated
Tommy Battle
Tommy Battle.jpg
67th Mayor of Huntsville [1]
Assumed office
November 3, 2008
Preceded by Loretta Spencer
Member of Huntsville City Council
from District 1
In office
1984–1988
Personal details
Born
Thomas Massengale Battle Jr.

(1955-12-03) December 3, 1955 (age 64)
Birmingham, Alabama, U.S.
Political party Republican
Spouse(s)
Eula Sammons
(m. 1988)
Children1
Alma mater University of Alabama,
Tuscaloosa

Thomas “Tommy” Massengale Battle Jr. (born December 3, 1955) is an American businessman and politician who serves as the 67th and current mayor of Huntsville, Alabama. His first term began November 3, 2008, and he has since been reelected in 2012, 2016 and most recently in 2020. [2] [3]

Contents

Early life and education

Battle was born in Birmingham, Alabama, on December 3, 1955. When he was 14 years old, he had his first job working for his father's restaurant. Battle went to Berry High School (now Hoover High) and spent his summers doing jobs in order to raise money for college. These jobs would range from working at shipyards in Mobile to working on ovens in Birmingham. While working, Battle would usually reside in boarding houses [ citation needed ].

Battle later attended the University of Alabama, in Tuscaloosa, to study business, as well participating in the Student Government Association and Alabama's renowned debate team. Battle would later join the Alabama Republican Party, where he would find his motivation to improve public service in Alabama. In 1975, Battle would become the chairman of the university's College Republicans, and later the Alabama College Republicans[ citation needed ].

After graduating college and holding a B.S. degree in business, Battle became a manager for Britling on the Highland in Birmingham, which he sold later on. Battle later moved to Huntsville in 1980, becoming a local real estate developer, and was elected and served one term on the city council as the council's finance chair from 1984 to 1988. During this time he met Jennifer and son Drew was born. Battle left the council to run for the mayor's office, falling just short of a win in a tight run-off against Democratic candidate Steve Hettinger in 1988[ citation needed ].

After the election loss, Battle started Battle Real Estate and owned or became a management partner in several firms in the retail and real estate sectors. [4] [5] [6]

Political career

Mayoral elections

2008 election

Battle announced his mayoral candidacy against incumbent Loretta Spencer on March 26, 2008. Battle's policies were fiscal responsibility, a streamlined government that supported free enterprise, economic development, education, and creating jobs. In his campaign, he sharply attacked Spencer on several issues. Among these were cost overruns and delays on a city jail constructed in Spencer's term, the city's controversial involvement in the relocation of a downtown rescue mission into a residential neighborhood, and what Battle claimed was inequitable treatment of some city neighborhoods, particularly minority areas. [7] Prior to the first round of voting, Spencer was endorsed by The Huntsville Times . [8] The Committee of 100, a group of businesspeople, issued a joint endorsement of Battle and Spencer. [9]

In the municipal election on August 26, 2008, Spencer led Battle by 14,871 votes to 14,486. However, two minor candidates received 673 votes, preventing Spencer from attaining a majority, forcing a runoff with Battle. [10] During the runoff campaign, Battle sharpened his attacks on Spencer, and pointed to a "bridge to nowhere". The bridge in question was constructed by the city, and ended at an undeveloped empty lot. Spencer claimed the lot was expected to be developed at some point in the future. [11] In the runoff, on October 7, 2008, Battle decisively defeated Spencer, by a vote of 21,123 votes or 56 percent for Battle, to 16,821 or 44 percent for Spencer. [12]

2012 election

Battle swept the polls in the mayoral election of 2012. On August 28, 2012, he beat out Loretta Spencer and Jackie Reed by gaining 81 percent of the vote, the largest margin of victory in a Huntsville mayoral election to date. The voting results were as follows: [13]

  • Battle: 22,838 (80.7%)
  • Spencer: 4,312 (15.2%)
  • Reed: 1,159 (4.1%)

He won convincingly in all 44 precincts citywide. Notable victories at specific locations include: [14]

  • Willowbrook Baptist Church in Jones Valley, Battle had 1,515 votes to Spencer's 366 and Reed's 56.
  • Cove United Methodist Church in Hampton Cove, Battle had 931 votes to Spencer's 161. Spencer had won that box in the 2008 mayoral runoff.
  • Oakwood University Church, Battle had 940 votes to Spencer's 135 and Reed's 64.
  • Monte Sano Fire Station precinct, where Spencer voted herself, sided with Battle with 347 votes to Spencer's 90 and Reed's 13.

Battle's successful campaign preached deliverance through the current recession while maintaining a balanced budget. Athens State University political science professor Jess Brown said Battle had a "boyish, quasi-Andy Griffith" charm that appealed to voters. [15] Battle considered the overwhelming margin "a validation that we as a city are starting to come together, and that we have a good foundation."

2016 election

On September 23, 2015, Battle posted a statement confirming his running for a third term as mayor in 2016. [16]

Battle later won against his opponents, with over 80% of the votes cast for him. [6]

2020 election

On August 25, 2020, Battle won reelection with 77.65% of the vote. [17]

Mayor of Huntsville

Since Battle first took office in 2008, Huntsville has seen unprecedented job creation[ citation needed ]. In his 2015 State of the City address, Battle announced the addition of over 9,000 jobs during his second term. These opportunities were the result of many investments from major companies such as GE Aviation, Polaris Industries, and the Remington Outdoor Company. To name a few:

The Associated General Contractors of America announced in February 2016 that the Huntsville metro was among the fastest-growing in the nation in 2015 with the addition of 1,400 new jobs between December 2014 and December 2015. [21] "We have a great deal to celebrate. In the past five years, this team has created 15,000 new jobs and over $2 billion in capital investment and we are not done yet," Battle clarified in his address. [18]

During his second term, Battle, working with the State of Alabama, began the Restore Our Roads campaign and received a $250 million roads package designed to pay for necessary roadwork as well as increase economic development. In order to help fund the development further, a one-cent sales tax increase was proposed by Battle. The city council unanimously approved the increase and Huntsville saw the $453 million construction project grow to fruition. [18]

On February 22, 2016, Battle announced that Google Fiber was coming to Huntsville. "If you're going to have a high-tech community," Battle said, "if you're going to be able to address the new workforce that's out there, you're going to have a lot of people who want to work from home – mothers and fathers with children, biotech people – who are going to need high-speed Internet service." [22] The service, made available to some customers by early 2018, is handled through Huntsville Utilities. [23]

Battle saw the need to modernize Huntsville's public transportation by inviting Uber into the city. For a while, there was much back and forth between the company and the city, with general manager of regional expansion Billy Guernier stating that Uber's service was not to be lumped in with standard taxi services and that there was too much red tape. [24] After working with the city government, Battle rewrote the vehicle for hire ordinance that had kept Uber wary of adding Huntsville to its list and saw the successful integration of the service in 2016. Battle was quoted as saying, "Citizens and business travelers enjoy having transportation options". Ridesharing companies such as Uber and Lyft "offer convenient alternatives for people on the go." [25] [26]

In the hotly-contested December 2017 special election for the Senate, Battle endorsed former State Supreme Court Judge Roy Moore, stating "As a Republican, we were going to support whoever the Republican party nominated during our primary. The Republicans nominated Roy Moore." [27] [28]

Working together with leaders across North Alabama, Battle has helped to create more than 20,000 new jobs for the region. His collaborative approach to economic development has built partnerships with Blue Origin, Polaris, GE Aviation, and many others, and he led the recruitment effort of Mazda-Toyota to Huntsville. Creating advanced manufacturing jobs with those companies is building an Alabama workforce that is qualified and prepared to lead Alabama into the 21st Century. [29]

Battle’s fiscally conservative policies have had a greater than $2.5 billion impact on the local economy, led his city to 11-straight Triple-A credit ratings, created a pay-as-you-go system to build or repair more than $500m in roads, and delivered balanced budgets every year he’s held the office. [29]

2018 gubernatorial election

Full Article: 2018 Alabama gubernatorial election

After his re-election in August 2012, Battle was questioned by many on the topic of seeking the higher office of governor. During this time, Battle made it clear that his main focus was Huntsville and taking care of his city first and foremost. Battle announced on January 14, 2012, that he would not be a candidate for governor in 2014. [30] "There's a lot of things on the plate for the City of Huntsville right now. That's the job that I was elected for and elected to do, so we're looking at that and seeing if the other fits in," he said. "But priority number one is being mayor of the City of Huntsville." [31]

On April 27, 2017, Battle announced that he would run in the 2018 gubernatorial election in the state of Alabama, running as a Republican. Battle is quoted as saying "We're not just in a battle for Alabama's values; we're in a battle for Alabama's future; I'm running for governor because I'm ready to lead that fight." On June 5, 2018, Battle lost the Republican primary, coming in second behind incumbent Kay Ivey.

Achievements and accolades

Kiplinger's Personal Finance named Huntsville the Best City of 2009, pointing out the city's abundance of jobs, "bulletproof economy", and thriving scientific achievements. The esteemed financial journal also cited the large influx of job creation under Battle's leadership, stating that business was so healthy, Huntsville had a "pleasant problem". Medical and life-sciences industries were also on the rise. [32]

In 2015, the City of Huntsville received a AAA credit rating from S&P and Moody's Investors Service. [33] Huntsville has maintained a AAA rating since Battle first took office in 2008. AAA is the highest possible rating assigned to the bonds of an issuer by credit rating agencies. An issuer that is rated AAA has an exceptional degree of creditworthiness and can easily meet its financial commitments. [34] Less than two percent of 17,205 municipal and county governments across America receive the top rankings. "I am most proud of our City to receive this distinction for three years running," said Battle. "This is no accident. We have worked hard to keep our city government fiscally responsible in a severe economic downturn and still provide the quality level of services our citizens deserve." S&P cited Huntsville's strong financial management practices, strong budgeting, and long-term capital planning in its rationale for the AAA rating. Further, its rating reflected the city's growing economy that, "despite the recession, has continued to expand and is poised for additional growth." The report also acknowledged Huntsville's "extremely strong wealth" in terms of income, diversifying property tax base, military, aerospace and electronic industries and moderate overall debt. In the Moody's report, Huntsville's strengths included its tax base, significant government presence, stable finances, above average wealth, and below average unemployment. The city's unemployment rate is 8.1 percent, the lowest in the state, and one of the lowest in the country. [35]

On May 19, 2016, during a campaign rally at the Huntsville Historic Depot, Battle proudly announced that for the eight straight year under his leadership, the City of Huntsville received yet another AAA credit rating from Moody's Investors Service. [36]

Personal life

Battle met his future wife Eula Sammons, a kindergarten teacher at Monrovia Elementary, in March 1988, while he was a local real estate developer and a city councilman, preparing for the 1988 mayoral election. Their dates would include going door-to-door on campaign visits. After the election loss, Battle married Sammons in December and went back to private business. Sammons was named Madison County Teacher of the Year in 2000. The couple have one son, Andrew "Drew" Battle, and two grandsons, George and Benjamin. [37] Battle's wife passed away on October 20, 2020. [38]

Battle is a member of the Trinity United Methodist Church. Battle is also a fan of "the Eagles" and is an award-winning barbecue cook. [6]

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References

  1. Before 1916, the office was known as "President." Battle is the 11th to hold the title of "Mayor."
  2. "Tommy Battle - Mayor of Huntsville, AL". Bama Politics. Retrieved 2020-08-26.
  3. "2020 Huntsville, AL Mayor Election Results". Bama Politics. Retrieved 2020-08-26.
  4. "Former Councilman Battle Seeking Mayor's Job". The Huntsville Times . March 27, 2008. p. 2B.
  5. "Candidate Profile: Tommy Battle". WHNT-TV.
  6. 1 2 3 "Meet Tommy – Battle For Alabama". Battle For Alabama. Retrieved 2017-09-25.
  7. "Battle Pitches Platform to Bring Change". The Huntsville Times . July 2, 2008. p. 6B.
  8. "For Huntsville Mayor". The Huntsville Times . August 17, 2008. p. 20A.
  9. "Committee of 100 Endorses Spencer, Challenger Battle". The Huntsville Times . August 22, 2008. p. 2B.
  10. "Spencer, Battle to Meet in Oct. 7 Runoff for Mayor". The Huntsville Times . August 27, 2008. p. 1A.
  11. "Battle Decries Bridge to Nowhere". The Huntsville Times . September 18, 2008. p. 1A.
  12. Roop, Lee (October 7, 2008). "Battle's Victory over Spencer Decisive". The Huntsville Times .
  13. "City of Huntsville, Alabama *** Huntsville *** Alabama *** HuntsvilleAL.gov". www.huntsvilleal.gov. Retrieved 2016-03-31.
  14. "Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle's 81 percent vote total a modern-day record". AL.com. Retrieved 2016-03-31.
  15. "Huntsville voters have spoken: Tommy Battle re-elected mayor in landslide (Updated)". AL.com. Retrieved 2016-03-31.
  16. "Huntsville mayor Tommy Battle will run for re-election in 2016". AL.com. Retrieved 2016-03-31.
  17. "2020 Huntsville, AL Mayor Election Results". Bama Politics. Retrieved 2020-08-26.
  18. 1 2 3 "Mayor Battle touts job creation, entrepreneurs and Huntsville's quality of life in 2015 State of the City address". WHNT.com. Retrieved 2016-03-30.
  19. "$110M Remington plant ramping up in Huntsville, hiring underway for firearm assembly, machining". AL.com. Retrieved 2016-03-31.
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  21. "Huntsville adds 1,400 construction jobs as industry struggles with worker shortage". AL.com. Retrieved 2016-03-31.
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  23. "Google Fiber in Huntsville: Frequently asked questions (FAQs)". AL.com. Retrieved 2016-03-30.
  24. "Uber ridesharing service not coming to Huntsville anytime soon". AL.com. Retrieved 2016-03-30.
  25. "Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle extends olive branch to Uber". AL.com. Retrieved 2016-03-30.
  26. "Huntsville City Council approves Uber ordinance". AL.com. Retrieved 2016-03-30.
  27. "Huntsville mayor endorses Moore for Senate". Waff.com. Retrieved 2019-12-11.
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  38. Roop, Lee (2020-10-20). "Eula Battle, wife of Huntsville mayor, dies at 65". The Huntsville Times/AL.com. Retrieved 2020-10-21.