March 21, 2018

Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle Hopes to Bring Successful Strategy to Governor’s Office

Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle wants to change the conversation about Alabama.

Stereotypes about Alabama belie the state’s many high-tech, knowledge-centric industries, he said.

“Alabama is a smart state.”

Battle spoke with the Dothan Eagle’s editorial board Wednesday, outlining why he’s running for governor and why he thinks he’s the right person for the job.

Battle, who is seeking the Republican nomination for governor, said his record in bringing good-paying jobs to Huntsville – by his count, about 24,000 – gives him the economic development chops to lead the state.

Battle has served as Huntsville mayor since 2008 and won his last election with 80 percent of the vote. His successes include attracting investment from GE Aviation, Remington, Polaris Industries, a $1.6 billion Toyota/Mazda assembly plant, and other manufacturers.

Two important issues the next governor will have to tackle to create good-paying jobs are infrastructure and education, Battle said, adding that reforming and improving Alabama’s education system will take creativity and a willingness to seek partners from outside education to help.

Accountability is also important, and Battle proposes a system that evaluates teachers based on students’ growth between the start of an academic year and its end.

With regard to infrastructure, improving roads and bridges is important, he said, but so is improving the technological infrastructure of the state.

Battle discussed his success in Huntsville in convincing telecommunications companies to lay extensive fiber optic cable networks to provide faster internet service.

“I’d love to see Alabama become the first gig state,” he said.

Creating jobs and opportunities in the state is critical to keeping Alabama’s best and brightest young people here, Battle said.

“As a parent, there’s nothing like hearing, ‘I think I’m coming home’ from your child,” he said.

Concerning the state’s retirement system, Battle said the system has returned to solid growth following the recession, and that it’s important to keep the promises the state has made to its current and past employees.

Changes to the system may be necessary for future employees, however.

With regard to the Alabama Legislature’s occasional passage of legislation other parts of the country may find divisive or offensive, Battle said that the governor must provide leadership and stress the need for common sense.

“There is some wisdom in having two ears and one mouth – listening rather than talking,” he said.

The state also needs ethics reform that makes guidelines for lawmakers straightforward and uncomplicated, he said, which would help the state to move forward by changing the perception that Montgomery serves special interests rather than its residents.

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