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Political underdog hopes to unseat Decatur mayor in runoff election

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DECATUR, Ala – The Decatur mayor’s race had seven candidates leading up to last month’s municipal election.

None of the candidates were able to get enough votes to avoid a runoff. The two candidates who will be on the ballot on October 6 are incumbent Mayor Tab Bowling and Decatur native William “Butch” Matthews.

On the side of a busy Sixth Avenue, Matthews is working to spread the word about his candidacy.

“This is an old fashioned way to gather votes. You see people that wave at you, sometimes they’ll ask for a yard sign,” he told News 19.

Incumbent Mayor Tab Bowling received 47.8 percent of the vote during last month’s municipal election. Matthews received 17.1 percent. Bowling needed 50.1 percent to avoid a runoff. 

“We’re almost like David and Goliath. We’ve got a lot of work to do,” Matthews said. “Because we’re in a runoff, this time we’re hoping that it will equal a Matthews win. We’ve got a lot of people who want to help us and we’re just excited and honored that we’re in the runoff.”

This isn’t the Decatur native’s first time running for political office. He served on the city council 20 years ago. 

“And I got a chance to see these guys work,” he said. “And I know that we can do better than what we’re doing right now. I’m not saying anything, bashing anybody, but I just say we, as a community, we can do better.”

During his time on the council, the city addressed issues at the harbor.

“We were instrumental in getting the boat harbor fixed where it’s not an eyesore coming into the Decatur,” Matthews said. “We took a lot of opposition toward that, but now it’s one of the best things that happened to Decatur. We have some other entry ways that need to be worked on also.”

He also worked to provide safer trucks for the city’s sanitation department.

“I was involved in the garbage pickup by taking the men from riding the back of the truck where it would be unsafe and now they have the roll-back arms that picks the garbage up,” he said. 

Matthews ran for city council three times before he was elected. This happens to also be the third time he has run for mayor.

Matthews has been shouting his message from the street corner, sometimes with supporters standing by. He is frequently accompanied by a ninja turtle which he hopes will serve as a reminder to drivers that he is well aware of issues with sanitary sewer overflows. 

“It’s coming up from and overflowing in yards and places like that and that is just irresponsible,” he said. 

Matthews says Decatur is a growing city and a city experiencing growing pains.

“We can’t grow when we’ve got environmental issues in our ponds, and lakes around the city,” he said. “And the landfill where Brookhaven is located, that has been a site that we’re studying right now. And we’ve got to do something about all of those things.”

He says if elected, he hopes to address these issues through team work, transparency, and integrity.

There were 8,391 votes cast during Decatur’s August municipal election. Matthews is urging people to vote in the runoff election, which will be held Tuesday, Oct. 6.

If elected, Matthews will be the first Black man to serve as mayor in Decatur.

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