DECATUR, Ala. – Several runoff municipal elections took place across Alabama Tuesday. In North Alabama, mayoral runoffs occurred in Florence, Sheffield, and Decatur.
Decatur is a city facing many challenges and both mayoral candidates are noteworthy.
The outcome of the election will be historic regardless of who wins. If William “Butch” Matthews wins he will be the first black man to serve as the city’s mayor. If Bowling wins, he will be the first mayor to win reelection since 1994.
There is a lot on the line for the future leader of Decatur. In August a crowded field of 7 candidates was reduced to two. Leaving incumbent Mayor Tab Bowling and former city councilman William “Butch” Matthews to oppose each other in the runoff.
During the August municipal election, only about 8,300 people cast their vote in the mayor’s race. The latest census data shows that about 55,000 people live in the city.
Both candidates are urging residents go to their polling place and cast their ballot.
“Well, we always use social media, but this time we also used commercials,” said incumbent Mayor Tab Bowling.
“There were a large number of people who not only didn’t vote, but they had no interest, so we tried to really spread the word of what some of the issues we were interested in fixing, you know, we got a lot of problems in this city,” William “Butch” Matthews said.
One of those problems? Sanitary sewer overflows. In 2020 alone more than 1 million gallons of wastewater overflowed from manholes in the city during heavy rains. Bowling says Decatur Utilities is responsible for the timeline on fixing this problem and it could take 10 to 20 years. He says as DU tackles that the city needs to coordinate street repairs. Matthews says the 10 to 20 year timeline is too long.
The city is also embroiled in a lawsuit as a co-defendant with 3M that seeks to get the corporation and the city to clean up contamination in the Tennessee River.
“We’d like to see it resolved and we believe that that’s near,” Bowling said.
Matthews says, if elected, he would work to provide the public with more transparency on the the litigation.
“I think a public official that goes into a meeting, and he comes out, and he can’t tell people what’s going on, that’s a problem,” Matthews.