Meet the Huntsville City Council Candidates: District 3

From left to right: Jennie Robinson (incumbent), Rosemary List Schexnayder

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.

Candidate Trent Iley did not respond to the questionnaire.

Jennie Robinson (incumbent)

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

I have 16 years’ experience in city government including the last four years on City council. During that time, I have worked with a strong network of leaders to

  • create significant change in South Huntsville including formation of the South Huntsville Business Association (SHBA)
  • receive designation for South Huntsville as a MainStreet Alabama Urban Corridor
  • create the master plans for the Sandra Moon Complex and Ditto Landing
  • work with land owners to create the plan for the redevelopment of Haysland Square and surrounding commercial corridor
  • open the South Parkway mainline a year ahead of schedule

In addition, I have been an active community leader and have chaired the Leadership Huntsville Board of Directors and served on the boards of the Rotary Club of Greater Huntsville, United Way, and WEDC Foundation. I have also been a business consultant and have created strategic plans and trained leaders for corporations and nonprofits.

I am also the second woman in Huntsville’s 200 year history to serve as council president and currently serve as president pro tem.

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

Revitalizing the South Parkway: We have worked with SHBA and MainStreet Alabama on the UrbanMain project to redevelop the South Parkway and Haysland Square area. We held community engagement sessions that told us people are excited about the potential in South Huntsville, especially in the South Parkway area. Now that the overpass mainline is open and with the future redevelopment of Haysland Square, there will be a ripple effect that will permit us to recruit new restaurants, retail, residential, and commercial space all along the South Parkway. The UrbanMain project will create the vision and the city will work with property owners and SHBA to execute that vision.

Maintaining Aging Neighborhoods: Over 70% of the houses in South Huntsville were built before 1980 during the “space boom.” Those aging neighborhoods are the heart of our community and have become very attractive to young families who want to live in South Huntsville. Keeping our schools strong and expanding recreational amenities like the greenways, Ditto Landing, and Green Mountain will attract young families and build property values for our aging population as well. The Sandra Moon Complex on Bailey Cove (site of the old Grissom High School) is being rebuilt and will be home to renovated gyms (including an indoor walking track), new ball fields and walking trails as well as tennis and pickleball courts. The auditorium will become a performing arts center managed by ArtsHuntsville. A new 39,000 square foot library will be built as the old school is torn down. In addition to creating recreational opportunities, we will continue to focus on paving neighborhood streets. They are the frame through which the community views our neighborhoods. We have paved three times as many streets in the past four years in District 3 as we have paved in previous years. It has made a tremendous difference in our neighborhoods and we will continue that process based on street ratings. Ensuring public safety also keeps our neighborhoods strong. South Huntsville continues to have the lowest crime statistics of any area in Huntsville. Safe, clean neighborhoods and a strong quality of life will increase property values and attract homeowners.

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

 The Challenge of Growth: Huntsville is one of the fastest growing cities in the Southeast and will soon be the largest city in Alabama. Creating needed infrastructure ahead of that growth is a tremendous challenge. That’s why the $250 million Restore Our Roads project is so vital. This innovative cost-sharing agreement between the City of Huntsville and the Alabama Department of Transportation is helping us complete major road projects in key corridors throughout the City. In addition, the City is funding its own road projects including an aggressive paving program to rebuild major connectors and neighborhood streets. Increased growth also results in increased public safety concerns. We need to work on reducing our response time in all areas of the city by recruiting, hiring, and training additional police, firefighters, and other first responders. We also need to build additional fire stations and police precincts in areas with highest response times. Our electric, water, sewer, and drainage systems are also all in need of upgrades to handle growth. The good news is that new industries moving to Huntsville help grow our property and sales tax base. That will help us fund infrastructure projects so that we can maintain the quality of life that makes Huntsville so attractive. 

Workforce Development: Our workforce is aging and 50% of our employees at all our major corporations, Redstone Arsenal, universities, and healthcare systems will retire in the next ten years. In the meantime, we have made promises to employers that are bringing hundreds of jobs to Huntsville. With increasing demand and shrinking supply, we have a skills gap to meet the requirements of new and existing industry. We need to grow our workforce to meet those needs. Creating an environment that attracts young professionals including entertainment venues, recreational activities, condominiums, greenways, bike trails, great neighborhoods and good schools for young families is critical. Partnering with school systems, community colleges, and local universities to provide training programs targeted at specific skills will help us keep our promises to employers and help recruit new industry.

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

It surprises people to know that I have five children. Because my children all deserved to be embarrassed equally, I served five times as a PTA president. After completing my term of service as PTA president at Grissom High School, I received an Honorary Lifetime Membership to the Alabama PTA. People are also surprised to learn that I have a “day job” in addition to serving on City Council. I run an operating foundation that works to reverse the cycle of poverty by helping individuals and families set goals and create plans so that they can find the resources they need to support themselves and their families and then help others.

5—Why should voters trust you?

I have been honored to have the trust of the voters four times in the past. They have shown their trust with their votes and I am always mindful of that stewardship. Solving problems is at the heart of public service. I enjoy tackling problems for my constituents and getting answers and my track record is probably the best reason people should trust me. We promised significant improvements in South Huntsville and we’re following through on those promises. In addition, I believe in transparent communication. I answer my own email and most people have my cell number. I also believe that if you don’t give people good information, they make it up. Rather than letting them depend on questionable facts shared on social media, I share information with voters in many different ways: quarterly town hall meetings, a District 3 Facebook page, a monthly electronic newsletter, regular updates at neighborhood association meetings, and one on one meetings with constituents. I think the best really is ahead as Huntsville becomes the largest city in Alabama. Revitalization of the South Parkway, construction of the new Sandra Moon Complex, and execution of the Ditto Landing master plan all present significant opportunities for South Huntsville. I will follow through on these promises and others in the next four years.

View her campaign Facebook page here.

Rosemary List Schexnayder

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

As the Director of Student Grievances for the University of Alabama at Huntsville, my two terms working with the Student Government Association’s Legislative body required I learn how to create a bill and gather consensus to pass a bill.  I have owned businesses in Huntsville since 1972 and am currently developing a port on the Tennessee River to boost Economic Development for our community. My work as a consultant required global travel and constant learning in several disciplines of management. I understand Commerce, especially for this city’s international business organizations.

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

Roads and preserving the layout of existing neighborhoods. I will propose an ordinance called Opt-Out Ordinance that will allow existing neighborhoods to keep the same number of lots/houses they currently have.

Encouragement of independent businesses to return to South Parkway, not have an association that is a political action group tell the citizens what they can or cannot have in South Huntsville.

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

The challenge of leadership for the citizens must be desired in City Hall.  Communication from the City seems to have leadership for personal gain as the goal. This must be rectified so the public knows it is their City Hall and they are considered first. Our rapid growth and rapid debt must be addressed, for they are our greatest challenges.

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

I love people. Talking with folks is how you learn your community. And building business is fun for me. I am inclusive of people and love rapid expansion!

5 — Why should voters trust you?

 I will do as I say and if something prevents that, I will find a better way to still accomplish the task. Teachers would send me from class with a note to the principle for them, just folded, because they knew I would not read it as they had told me.  I am honest and always work my best. I build consensus.

View her Facebook campaign website here.