Kerry “Bubba” Underwood will be new to the Alabama House this year, but it won’t be his first time representing The Shoals.
For the past six years, Underwood has served as the mayor of Tuscumbia, the county seat of Colbert County. Although he has been the mayor of just one city in The Shoals, Underwood said the close proximity of Muscle Shoals, Sheffield and Florence meant many decisions were made as a coordinated effort between all four cities.
“Our four cities all touch; most people don’t know where one starts and the other ends,” Underwood said. “If I could break down my time spent solely for Tuscumbia vs the entire Shoals, a big amount of time and effort was spent toward the bigger picture as opposed to just the one city.”
In addition to his last six years of political experience in the region, Underwood is a CPA, starting his own firm in Tuscumbia in 1998. One of the joys of transitioning into political service, Underwood said, is being able to map out the future instead of recording the past.
“Accounting is typically historical,” Underwood said. “The mayor’s position is visionary and proactive.”
As the new representative in District 3, Underwood will represent most of Tuscumbia, Sheffield and Muscle Shoals, as well as a fraction of Florence. But Underwood said he would be making decisions with all of Florence in mind.
Underwood hopes to use his financial background to play a role in the budgeting process.
“Of course all that’s up to the speaker. Being a freshman, I don’t know where he’s going to prioritize my skills,” Underwood said. “I feel like that is a position fit for me just because of my background, something on the finance and budgeting side.”
One particular area of interest Underwood pointed to is the budget for forensic investigations, noting long wait times to get evidence back.
“Sit can take six months, eight months and further; it’s very much a hindrance to our investigative function,” Underwood said. “If I could increase that efficiency of that particular department it helps investigators, victims, and the judicial side of the process.”
Underwood also said he wants to look into what the state can do to further address mental health and addiction needs to keep people with those challenges from ending up in an interaction with law enforcement.
“Our police department spends a lot of time dealing with same people over and over again regarding both mental health and addiction,” Underwood said. “It fuels so much crime in our Shoals area, so I’m interested in finding ways to improve the situations and how to deal with people we see over and over. I want to do a deep dive into that and see if we can find a model to assist them and getting people that help. Both of these are paramount to having more productive members of society so our officers can focus more on crime and less on people with mental health and addiction issues.”