In Birmingham’s 150-year history, there has never been a woman elected mayor.
Jefferson County Commissioner Lashunda Scales hopes to change that, not because she is focused on being the first woman elected, but because she thinks she is the best candidate.
âIt shouldn’t be if you’re male or female,â Scales said. âIt should be if you’re qualified. “
Birmingham had a female acting mayor for less than a month in 2009, when City Council President Carole Smitherman took over from Mayor Larry Langford after being convicted of fraud and corruption. Thus, Scales is in the running to be the first woman elected to this post.
Scales wants to be judged on her record, not her gender, she said. âYou judge a person on what they’ve already done,â she said.
This includes a long career in entertainment promotion and public relations, as the founder of Scales Public Relations and Marketing in 2000. âI have a background in business,â she said.
She was first elected in 2009 as a member of Birmingham City Council.
Scales, 50, served nine years on Birmingham City Council and served as acting chairman of the Jefferson County Commission for more than two years.
Poorer neighborhoods deserve paving and road works, as do wealthier communities, Scales said.
âI always thought you had to be a good shepherd who smelled like sheep,â says Scales. âI never liked the idea that when you go through certain neighborhoods, the roads are in poor condition.
One of his proudest accomplishments on the board has been leading an effort to curb predatory lending from payday loan companies charging outrageous interest charges.
âTo go against predatory loans here in the city of Birmingham, people thought I was crazy,â Scales said. “But I had a mandate from God, and God allowed me to see that our working families were nothing more than working poor, and that they were being exploited by a system that made them believe that it was was in their best interest to go out and take a loan of $ 500. And then the interest was so high that all they could pay was interest. So when God told me to do that, it was like David is facing Goliath. People said, you must be crazy. It’s a multibillion dollar industry.
His effort attracted many allies.
âI took this fight to Washington, DC,â she said.
President Barack Obama visited Birmingham in 2015, speaking at Lawson State Community College and noting, among other things, that Alabama was one of the states with the most payday lenders. âThe reason President Obama came here is because I raised this issue in Washington, DC,â she said.
âIt was one of the successes of God giving me a mission,â said Scales. “It’s one of the things I can say I’m most proud of.”
She also takes a lot of credit for Kamtek and other companies investing in Birmingham. Kamtek has created more than 2,000 jobs and an investment of $ 2 billion. She helped develop a workforce development training program for students at Huffman High School at Jefferson State Community College to prepare them for jobs at Kamtek, she said.
Former mayor William Bell has served as mayor for most of Scales ‘tenure on city council and the Bell campaign challenges Scales’ claim to credit for Obama’s visit to Birmingham and Kamtek’s investments. Bell should get credit, not Scales, his campaign has said.
Scales was endorsed by former NBA player Buck Johnson, who said he believed Scales could stop the âschool-to-prison pipelineâ.
Providing better education and job opportunities is a key to reducing crime, she said.
Reducing crime and preventing homicides have been major issues for Scales in this campaign, as it has held the current administration accountable for the high homicide rates in recent years.
âPolice reform is very important to me,â Scales said. âAbove all, you have to establish a relationship. The relationship comes from communication, making sure officers get out of their cars, making direct contact with those they are there to protect and serve. I would like to explore the possibility of having officers capable of living in the community, instantly, that they patrol. I think when you have a vested interest in the community it changes your perspective and it changes your level of service. I also believe that we need to work with all levels of law enforcement to address the level of violent crime that has inhabited our city. “
She declared goals for a cleaner city, with less dilapidated housing and less crime.
âWe don’t need to politicize the police department,â Scales said. âI hold the chief of police accountable for reducing crime in this city. My job is to provide the support, in the form of funding, making sure we have the necessary tools and resources with which our officers can work. “
In 2013, Scales pleaded guilty to an ethical violation of misuse of city resources in a private business. City pump trucks and workers drained water from the site of a Scales-sponsored carnival. Scales then said, and has maintained throughout this campaign, that the charges against her, most of which have been dismissed, were politically motivated. They “tried to destroy me,” she said earlier this month at a Gatekeepers Association of Alabama forum.
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