The Huntsville/Madison County Chamber sent the following questions to candidates, to help you learn more about the people running for Huntsville City Council District 2. The runoff is October 9. Here are the responses from Mary Jane Caylor:
Q: We all know there is a limited amount of money to meet a large variety of requests the City Council receives. If elected, how would you prioritize the requests for support that come before City Council for consideration?
A: The Mayor and City Council work together to develop a comprehensive and realistic budget annually taking into consideration the largest part of the budget is in personnel and keeping all public services well equipped and trained for the benefit of all citizens. School allocations are a significant part of the city budget as well. In reviewing the variety of requests, the City Council receives they must be prioritized to be fair and equitable to the citizens benefiting from the services provided by the requesting organizations. Many organizations have a long history as a recipient of funds for special appropriations and the value to the community should be taken into consideration. Tourism brings in significant revenue to the community and our city is steeped in cultural offerings that provide benefit to citizens across the entire city. I would study each request in depth and review the benefits gained for the community.
Q: What would be your top priority if you are elected and how would you address it?
A: Roads and traffic congestion rank as a top priority across the city. Members of the City Council must work diligently with the Madison County Legislative Delegation, the Governor and the Alabama Department of Transportation to secure adequate funding for Huntsville. Elected officials in our area must work as a team to provide a long-range plan for roads as Huntsville continues to grow. Many roads are congested and funding from state sources have been inadequate to keep up with the demand to build a better transportation system for our city. A percentage of the city’s budget should be earmarked annually for improvements in neighborhoods. We should present our plan to our US Senators and Congressmen and keep all communications open to ensure we receive needed funding for roads. The Chamber of Commerce annual trips to Montgomery and Washington are excellent opportunities to request funding for our roads.
Q: One of our greatest strengths is that we have a “small town feel” with mid-size city amenities. Do you agree with that statement? How would you approach your role as it relates to maintaining what is unique/special about Huntsville?
A: As a Huntsville native I agree the one of our greatest strengths is the “small town feel” with mid-size city amenities. I believe our downtown provides the ambience to convey this strength. The recent revitalization efforts in our downtown provides opportunities for all residents of our city and is the home to city and county government. The Big Spring is a tremendous resource to keep the history of our city alive and provides a venue to many organizations and groups to enjoy. Young entrepreneurs are continuing to start new companies across our city. We have historic districts to preserve our history and provide new residents with a sense of the past. Huntsville is continuing to experience growth in apartments that provide the residents an opportunity to live, work and play,
Q: How do you feel the City of Huntsville and the Huntsville City School System should work together to ensure that our young people receive a quality education?
A: During my tenure as Superintendent members of the Huntsville the City Board of Education, members of the City Council, Mayor and Superintendent had regularly scheduled meetings to discuss concerns and share information to continue to improve our schools. The Superintendent must be the face of the school system in our community and network with business, industry, elected officials and the public to keep everyone informed and updated regarding the Consent Order. I understand the city schools have elected board members who appoint the Superintendent, however I believe lines of communication could be improved among all elected officials as well as with the business community and the public. I believe the quality of our school system has a direct impact on economic development and how our schools are viewed will impact the future of the Huntsville’s efforts in economic development.
Q: What specific action or activity do you feel would most positively impact the attraction and retention of young professionals to our community?
A: Huntsville offers a variety of opportunities for young professionals as we open more bike lanes and create venues such as Campus 805 and the new Stovehouse. The Von Braun Center presently has a major renovation underway that will expand the offerings which appeal to young professional in music. The craft beer industry is growing exponentially and opportunities for both work and play abound in this industry. More young professionals are now serving on boards and organizations than ever before in our city. The value of their ideas and creativity is apparent and their service to the community is recognized. Huntsville has beautiful mountains for hiking, concerts in several venues, food trucks for numerous occasions, arts and cultural activities and Lowe Mill Arts and Entertainment site for both entertainment and education. Facebook is building a multi- million-dollar facility in our Huntsville as a skilled and trained workforce is required.
Q: What do you feel is our community’s greatest strength, and how do you propose we build on it?
A: I believe our greatest strength is a supportive business community, elected officials and the leadership and membership of the Chamber having a common goal and vision to always move Huntsville forward and demonstrate to those businesses making decisions to relocate to Huntsville that our community is a vibrant and forward-thinking community. Huntsville is the home to Redstone Arsenal, NASA and Research Park which provide opportunities to continue our growth and gives us both national and international recognition. Huntsville is the home to smart people who had a key role in putting man on the moon, a high percentage of our population holds advanced degrees and a significant number of retired officers chose to return to Huntsville to call it their home. We have 3 universities, two community colleges and a school system offering advanced placement classes, cyber security classes and Green Power programs.
Q: What do you feel is our community’s greatest weakness, and what is your plan to address it?
A: I believe our greatest challenges are our roads and traffic congestion which could be addressed with better signal timing and turn lanes. We must get our fair share of funds for new roads while maintaining existing roads. We must continue to provide necessary services to the residential and business community while managing the continued growth of our city. New growth is important for the health of a community if managed properly and we must be proactive in identifying existing needs in our community while we expand and recruit new business and industry. We must preserve the history of Huntsville and balance the opportunities with futuristic planning. The City Council must always be proactive and seize opportunities to make Huntsville a destination place for new residents and businesses by providing an excellent quality of life for all citizens.
Q: In your decision-making process, how would you balance the needs of working for your district with those of the City of Huntsville as a whole?
A: Balancing the needs of my district would not be a challenge as I have experience as Superintendent when Huntsville moved from at-large to five districts. The board members worked together to recognize the needs that all districts were treated fair and equitable in the decision-making process. During the Bicentennial planning each City Council member appointed a citizen from their district to plan and execute a meaningful representation of the districts unique characteristics. Unity Day event was held to showcase all districts working together for the good of the city. While serving on the State Board of Education I represented six counties in north AL. As a board member I believe each board member had an awareness of the unique needs of other districts and we voted to be fair and equitable in our decisions. I will take those lessons learned to the City Council to represent District 2.