Meet the Huntsville City Council Candidates: District 2

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From left to right: Frances Akridge, Mary Jane Caylor, Keith Ward

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. — We asked each of the candidates running in the Aug. 28 municipal elections to answer 5 questions that, we hope, will give voters greater insight into the candidates and how they will approach governing.

The questions and answers are listed below, along with some links to the candidates’ own social media or web pages.

The candidates and their responses are listed in the order they will appear on the ballot.

Frances Akridge

1. What in your background qualifies you to serve in the office you’re seeking?

I grew up in a military family; this led to my commitment to knowing my neighbors and my ability to adapt and thrive in many settings. My early experiences honed my communication, mediation, and negotiation skills. My degree is in Special Education and my professional experience is directly related to many functions of city government. I have worked in residential and commercial real estate (including civil engineering, planning & zoning) project management, and contract management. I’ve been responsible for the bottom line in business. At AT&T, I prepared for 55 public hearings for construction of cell phone towers and none were contested because I met with neighbors. I was also responsible for oversight of multi-million dollar income to Reagan National Airport.

I’ve established respectful relationships with every city department manager and the administration over the last 12 years in Huntsville. Three years ago, I applied my skills and experiences to work as a full-time, volunteer advocate for 5,000 rooftops and many neighborhoods. I secured financing for local projects and improved traffic planning and neighborhood safety in the area. It’s a natural step forward to be on city council to ensure progress in the quality of life for more neighborhoods.  

2. What are two areas you will focus on in representing your district?

My campaign has identified five key priorities and you can read about them all on my website. The two that keep coming up in my conversations with people across the district are infrastructure and security. If I had to pick two, that’s where I would place my focus.

  • Infrastructure: Investing in well-built roads, adequate flood mitigation, and urban streetscapes, such as bike lanes, sidewalks, greenways, and LED street lights.
  • Security: Supporting our police officers and communities by ensuring the police have tools and technology required to protect neighborhoods and facilitating access to mental health and addiction services.

3.  What are challenges facing Huntsville, as a whole, that you want to see addressed?

Our biggest challenge is to make a commitment to systematic and sustainable growth. I want to be prepared for lean years by forecast accounting and growing our convention and tourism industry for increased revenue. It’s exciting to see all the attention Huntsville is receiving but I want to preserve our small town feel and avoid typical big city problems as we grow.

4. What would people be surprised to learn about you?

I initiated the installation of the fish food machines at Big Spring park to eliminate a public health hazard. People may also be surprised to learn that a trigger fish gave me a black eye when I was a diver at the National Aquarium in Baltimore.

5. Why should voters trust you?

I’m financially solvent and I always have been. I am not beholden to interest groups or PACs. I am accustomed to mediating situations and weighing priorities to reach a goal for the common good. I am already doing the job, delivering results for neighborhoods. Even during this campaign, I found time to improve communication between government and neighbors by setting up a page on the city website for status of the the Cecil Ashburn Drive project.

Visit her Facebook campaign page

Mary Jane Caylor

1. What in your background qualifies you to serve in the office you’re seeking?

             Education: BS, MA and EdD from the University of AL

            Served as Superintendent of the Huntsville City Schools – Negotiated % of sales tax for schools while Superintendent

            Served 4 consecutive terms on the AL State Board of Education

            Served as Executive Director of the Bicentennial in 2005

            Served as Executive Director of Big Spring Partners 2005 – 2012 – Oversight of the Veterans Memorial and downtown revitalization

            Dean of Workforce Development – J F Drake State Technical and Community College

I have worked with city, county and state government to address challenges and to achieve success in all of positions and have worked closely with the Chamber of Commerce throughout the years. I was a member of the 2005 BRAC recruitment team for 6 years as we traveled to numerous cities.     

 2. What are two areas you will focus on in representing your district?

Quality of Life – Safe neighborhoods, road improvement and access to recreation in all neighborhoods

 Education – Workforce Development

 3. What are challenges facing Huntsville, as a whole, that you want to see addressed?

Properly managing growth in our city while Balancing the needs new development while preserving the history in our local neighborhoods in the district

 4. What would people be surprised to learn about you?

I do not believe there are any surprises as my life has been a open book as I have been in public life for decades and have been transparent in all my service to the community

 5. Why should voters trust you?

I stand on my record of achievements and commitments to serve my constituency I have evidenced throughout my life and will be accessible to one and all as I do not work nor have any connections to boards, organizations, etc.  I have a proven leadership history in Huntsville as I have been a public figure for decades.  I keep my word and will have regularly scheduled listening sessions  / neighborhood meetings to hear the concerns of all citizens I represent.

Visit her Facebook page


Keith Ward

1. What in your background qualifies you to serve in the office you’re seeking?

I have over 22 years working behind the scenes in local government as Director of Communications and ETV, attending over 500 school board meetings, developing many relationships and contacts with local leaders. These experiences and insights have provided me with a deep understanding of how local government works. I also spent 12 years in local news covering local, regional and state issues, and have lived in Huntsville in District 2 for over 50 years.  In addition, I have also worked with the Tennessee Valley BRAC group and the Huntsville Arts Council.    

2. What are two areas you will focus on in representing your district?

Taking care of the needs of our existing infrastructure, such as roads and continued support for public safety.  People who live here want to have things such as neighborhood streets repaired and also feel safe in their community. Those are two important factors to maintaining our quality of life.

3. What are challenges facing Huntsville, as a whole, that you want to see addressed? 

Making sure that we pace new growth with maintaining our existing needs for our current neighborhoods.

4. What would people be surprised to learn about you? 

I grew up here with a dad who worked at NASA in the 1960s, so I have always been interested in the space program, and naturally, became a “Trekkie”.

5. Why should voters trust you? 

That is a question better answered by those who know me. Trust is never a gift, it has to be earned.  I have worked to earn it from family, friends and co-workers, and it is something I will work to earn from the community if elected to city council.  No one can simply say to “trust me”, and expect someone to automatically do so. You must, by your actions, demonstrate that you can be trusted, and that’s my commitment to voters.

Visit his campaign Facebook page

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