By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter
Randall Woodfin was inaugurated as the 30th mayor of Birmingham in a noon ceremony in Linn Park on Tuesday
“It is an honor to serve my hometown, Birmingham, Alabama,“ said Woodfin. “Truthfully, this is not my inauguration, it is our inauguration. I, along with the entire City Council, understand the importance of serving you.” Woodfin thanked the hundreds of volunteers, his four thousand donors and the grassroots movement that made all of this possible.
Woodfin called the nine members of the City Council on stage.
“The 10 of us, collectively, not only represent you, but want to work to help all of you,” Woodfin said. “None of us are an island. We understand that we are only as strong as our poorest quality neighborhood. We have a job to do. Birmingham, in this place and this hour, the mayor and the City Council.”
Woodfin said, “I commit to you that we will build a stronger city, a safer city.” He also promised to invest in quality jobs, fight poverty and help produce equitable schools that meet the demands of the new century. “Together, we will build the quality of life for everyone that lives in this city.”
In 1979, Richard Arrington defeated incumbent Mayor David Vann, becoming the first black mayor of Birmingham. He would serve as mayor for almost 20 years. Mayor Pro Tem William Bell became mayor when Arrington stepped down, but he lost his first mayoral election to then City Councilman Bernard Kincaid. Kincaid served two terms until he was defeated by then Jefferson County Commissioner Larry Langford. After Langford was found guilty of bribery and corruption associated with Jefferson County’s multi-billion dollar sewer debt scandal, Bell became Mayor again. Mayor Bell served from 2010 before being defeated by Woodfin in the city’s mayoral runoff in October.
“I must give much love, appreciation, and respect to my predecessor, William Bell,” Woodfin said. “He has served this city in some form or capacity since 1979. We show him much honor and respect.”
Woodfin also honored former mayors: Richard Arrington and Bernard Kincaid, who were both present. He also thanked Langford for his two years of service.
Randall Woodfin declared his candidacy for mayor on Aug. 26, 2016.
“Birmingham raised me,” Woodfin said. “I was born in Carraway Hospital, attended North Birmingham Elementary, Putnam elementary, Shades Valley High School, Morehouse College, Samford University’s Cumberland School of Law. I have been a lawyer for eight years fighting for you.”
The biggest issue hampering Birmingham is the crime. It is consistently one of the most violent cities in America in national crime statistics rankings.
Woodfin acknowledged that: “We all know that crime is a problem in our city. We have to do something, not just to honor those 90 plus victims of murder but also the hundreds of other victims of crime in our city. It will be different.”
“In the last seven days, I have talked with Fred Shuttlesworth’s son and daughter and talked with Martin Luther King III,” Woodfin said. The city can build on that legacy and build a better future for everyone in the city.
Birmingham City Council President Valerie Abbot said, “The Birmingham City is dedicated to working with this Mayor to achieve good things for the citizens of Birmingham. We aren’t always going to agree but we are going to listen to each other. Our new Mayor, he is so young that he was in high school when I started on the city council.”
Dr. John O Cantelow, pastor of 6th Avenue Baptist Church, delivered the invocation.
The W.E. Putnam Middle School Band performed on the stage. “I was a member of that band,” Woodfin said. Singer/song writer Sebastian Cole and the Parker High School Concert Choir, under the direction of Arnold Scoggins, also performed at the ceremony.
Birmingham is the largest city in the state of Alabama with a population of 214,227; but it is the 97th largest city in America. The city peaked in population in 1960 at 340,087 but has seen decades of decline since then. In the last five decades, Birmingham has transformed from an industrial steel-producing city to a much more diversified economy. The Healthcare sector has become the driver of jobs in the city and home to Alabama’s largest employer: the University of Alabama in Birmingham. The population of Jefferson County is 660,367. Almost one out of four Alabama residents live in the greater Birmingham-Hoover metropolitan area.