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|67th Mayor of Huntsville|
|Assumed office |
November 3, 2008
|Preceded by||Loretta Spencer|
|Member of Huntsville City Council|
from District 1
Thomas Massengale Battle Jr.
December 3, 1955
Birmingham, Alabama, U.S.
Eula Sammons (m. 1988)
|Alma mater||University of Alabama,|
Thomas Massengale Battle Jr. (born December 3, 1955) is an American businessman and politician who serves as the 67th and current mayor of Huntsville, Alabama. His first term began November 3, 2008, and he was re-elected in August, 2012 and once again in August, 2016 with over 80% of the vote.
Early life and education
Battle was born in Birmingham, Alabama in December 3, 1955. When he was 14 years old, he had his first job working for his father's restaurant. Battle went to Berry High School (now Hoover High) and spent his summers doing jobs in order to raise money for college. These jobs would range from working at shipyards in Mobile to working on ovens in Birmingham. While working, Battle would usually reside in boarding houses.
Battle later attended the University of Alabama, in Tuscaloosa, to study business, as well participating in the Student Government Association and Alabama's renowned debate team. Battle would later join the Alabama Republican Party, where he would find his motivation to improve public service in Alabama. In 1975, Battle would become the chairman of the University's College Republicans, and later the Alabama College Republicans.
After graduating college and holding a B.S. degree in business, Battle became a manager for Britling on the Highland in Birmingham, which he sold later on. Battle later moved to Huntsville in 1980, becoming a local real estate developer, and was elected and served one term on the City Council as the Council's Finance Chair from 1984 to 1988. During this time he met Jennifer and son Drew was born. Battle left the Council to run for the Mayor's office, falling just short of a win in a tight run-off against Democratic candidate Steve Hettinger in 1988.
Battle announced his mayoral candidacy against incumbent Loretta Spencer on March 26, 2008. Battle's policies were fiscal responsibility, a streamlined government that supported free enterprise, economic development, education, and creating jobs. In his campaign, he sharply attacked Spencer on several issues. Among these were cost overruns and delays on a city jail constructed in Spencer's term, the city's controversial involvement in the relocation of a downtown rescue mission into a residential neighborhood, and what Battle claimed was inequitable treatment of some city neighborhoods, particularly minority areas. Prior to the first round of voting, Spencer was endorsed by The Huntsville Times. The Committee of 100, a group of businesspeople, issued a joint endorsement of Battle and Spencer.
In the municipal election on August 26, 2008, Spencer led Battle by 14,871 votes to 14,486. However, two minor candidates received 673 votes, preventing Spencer from attaining a majority, forcing a runoff with Battle. During the runoff campaign, Battle sharpened his attacks on Spencer, and pointed to a "bridge to nowhere". The bridge in question was constructed by the city, and ended at an undeveloped empty lot. Spencer claimed the lot was expected to be developed at some point in the future. In the runoff, on October 7, 2008, Battle decisively defeated Spencer, by a vote of 21,123 votes or 56 percent for Battle, to 16,821 or 44 percent for Spencer.
Battle swept the polls in the mayoral election of 2012. On August 28, 2012, he beat out Loretta Spencer and Jackie Reed by gaining 81 percent of the vote, the largest margin of victory in a Huntsville mayoral election to date. The voting results were as follows:
- Battle: 22,838 (80.7%)
- Spencer: 4,312 (15.2%)
- Reed: 1,159 (4.1%)
He won convincingly in all 44 precincts citywide. Notable victories at specific locations include:
- Willowbrook Baptist Church in Jones Valley, Battle had 1,515 votes to Spencer's 366 and Reed's 56.
- Cove United Methodist Church in Hampton Cove, Battle had 931 votes to Spencer's 161. Spencer had won that box in the 2008 mayoral runoff.
- Oakwood University Church, Battle had 940 votes to Spencer's 135 and Reed's 64.
- Monte Sano Fire Station precinct, where Spencer voted herself, sided with Battle with 347 votes to Spencer's 90 and Reed's 13.
Battle's successful campaign preached deliverance through the current recession while maintaining a balanced budget. Athens State University political science professor Jess Brown said Battle had a "boyish, quasi-Andy Griffith" charm that appealed to voters. Battle considered the overwhelming margin "a validation that we as a city are starting to come together, and that we have a good foundation."
On September 23, 2015, Battle posted a statement confirming his running for a third term as mayor in 2016.
Battle later won against his opponents, with over 80% of the votes cast for him.
Mayoralty of Tommy Battle
Since Battle first took office in 2008, Huntsville has seen unprecedented job creation. In his 2015 State of the City address, Battle announced the addition of over 9,000 jobs during his second term. These opportunities were the result of many investments from major companies such as GE Aviation, Polaris Industries, and the Remington Outdoor Company. To name a few:
- GE Aviation announced it would be investing $200 million to construct two advanced manufacturing plants to employ 300 highly skilled workers.
- Remington constructed a $110 million plant that has pledged to add over 2,000 in a decade.
- Polaris Industries built a 505-acre facility that will have added over 1,170 jobs by 2021. Polaris stated they will be investing over $142 million on the new Huntsville campus.
The Associated General Contractors of America announced in February 2016 that the Huntsville metro was among the fastest-growing in the nation in 2015 with the addition of 1,400 new jobs between December 2014 and December 2015. "We have a great deal to celebrate. In the past five years, this team has created 15,000 new jobs and over $2 billion in capital investment and we are not done yet," Battle clarified in his address.
During his second term, Battle, working with the State of Alabama, began the Restore Our Roads campaign and received a $250 million roads package designed to pay for necessary roadwork as well as increase economic development. In order to help fund the development further, a one-cent sales tax increase was proposed by Battle. The City Council unanimously approved the increase and Huntsville saw the $453 million construction project grow to fruition.
On February 22, 2016, Battle announced that Google Fiber was coming to Huntsville. "If you're going to have a high-tech community," Battle said, "if you're going to be able to address the new workforce that's out there, you're going to have a lot of people who want to work from home – mothers and fathers with children, biotech people – who are going to need high-speed Internet service." The service, made available to some customers by early 2018, is handled through Huntsville Utilities.
Battle saw the need to modernize Huntsville's public transportation by inviting Uber into the city. For a while, there was much back and forth between the company and the city, with General Manager of Regional Expansion Billy Guernier stating that Uber's service was not to be lumped in with standard taxi services and that there was too much red tape. After working with the city government, Battle rewrote the vehicle for hire ordinance that had kept Uber wary of adding Huntsville to its list and saw the successful integration of the service in 2016. Battle was quoted as saying, "Citizens and business travelers enjoy having transportation options". Transportation network companies such as Uber, Lyft and Sidecar "offer convenient alternatives for people on the go."
In the hotly-contested December 2017 special election for the Senate, Battle endorsed former State Supreme Court Judge Roy Moore, stating "As a Republican, we were going to support whoever the Republican party nominated during our primary. The Republicans nominated Roy Moore."
2018 Gubernatorial election
Full Article: 2018 Alabama gubernatorial election
After his re-election in August 2012, Battle was questioned by many on the topic of seeking the higher office of governor. During this time, Battle made it clear that his main focus was Huntsville and taking care of his city first and foremost. Battle announced on January 14, 2012 that he would not be a candidate for governor in 2014."There's a lot of things on the plate for the City of Huntsville right now. That's the job that I was elected for and elected to do, so we're looking at that and seeing if the other fits in," he said. "But priority number one is being mayor of the City of Huntsville."
On April 27, 2017, Battle announced that he would run in the 2018 gubernatorial election in the state of Alabama, running as a Republican. Battle is quoted as saying "We're not just in a battle for Alabama's values; we're in a battle for Alabama's future; I'm running for governor because I'm ready to lead that fight." On June 5, 2018, Battle lost the Republican primary, coming in second behind incumbent Kay Ivey.
Achievements and accolades
Kiplinger's Personal Finance named Huntsville the Best City of 2009, pointing out the city's abundance of jobs, "bulletproof economy", and thriving scientific achievements. The esteemed financial journal also cited the large influx of job creation under Battle's leadership, stating that business was so healthy, Huntsville had a "pleasant problem". Medical and life-sciences industries were also on the rise.
In 2015, the City of Huntsville received a AAA credit rating from S&P and Moody's Investors Service. Huntsville has maintained a AAA rating since Battle first took office in 2008. AAA is the highest possible rating assigned to the bonds of an issuer by credit rating agencies. An issuer that is rated AAA has an exceptional degree of creditworthiness and can easily meet its financial commitments. Less than two percent of 17,205 municipal and county governments across America receive the top rankings. "I am most proud of our City to receive this distinction for three years running," said Battle. "This is no accident. We have worked hard to keep our city government fiscally responsible in a severe economic downturn and still provide the quality level of services our citizens deserve." S&P cited Huntsville's strong financial management practices, strong budgeting, and long-term capital planning in its rationale for the AAA rating. Further, its rating reflected the city's growing economy that, "despite the recession, has continued to expand and is poised for additional growth." The report also acknowledged Huntsville's "extremely strong wealth" in terms of income, diversifying property tax base, military, aerospace and electronic industries and moderate overall debt. In the Moody's report, Huntsville's strengths included its tax base, significant government presence, stable finances, above average wealth, and below average unemployment. The City's unemployment rate is 8.1 percent, the lowest in the state, and one of the lowest in the country.
On May 19, 2016, during a campaign rally at the Huntsville Historic Depot, Battle proudly announced that for the eight straight year under his leadership, the City of Huntsville received yet another AAA credit rating from Moody's Investors Service.
Battle met his future wife Eula Sammons, a kindergarten teacher at Monrovia Elementary, in March 1988, while he was a local real estate developer and a City Councilman, preparing for the 1988 mayoral election. Their dates would include going door-to-door on campaign visits. After the election loss, Battle married Sammons in December and went back to private business. Sammons was named Madison County Teacher of the Year in 2000. The couple have one son, Andrew "Drew" Battle, and two grandsons, George and Benjamin.
- Before 1916, the office was known as "President." Battle is the 11th to hold the title of "Mayor."
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- "Meet Tommy - Battle For Alabama". Battle For Alabama. Retrieved 2017-09-25.
- "Battle Pitches Platform to Bring Change". The Huntsville Times. July 2, 2008. p. 6B.
- "For Huntsville Mayor". The Huntsville Times. August 17, 2008. p. 20A.
- "Committee of 100 Endorses Spencer, Challenger Battle". The Huntsville Times. August 22, 2008. p. 2B.
- "Spencer, Battle to Meet in Oct. 7 Runoff for Mayor". The Huntsville Times. August 27, 2008. p. 1A.
- "Battle Decries Bridge to Nowhere". The Huntsville Times. September 18, 2008. p. 1A.
- Roop, Lee (October 7, 2008). "Battle's Victory over Spencer Decisive". The Huntsville Times.
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- "$110M Remington plant ramping up in Huntsville, hiring underway for firearm assembly, machining". AL.com. Retrieved 2016-03-31.
- "Here's what Polaris' new 505-acre Huntsville manufacturing 'campus' will look like when complete". AL.com. Retrieved 2016-03-31.
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- "Huntsville mayor endorses Moore for Senate". Waff.com. Retrieved 2019-12-11.
- Roop, Lee (27 October 2017). "Tommy Battle responds to pushback at home for endorsing Roy Moore". AL.com. Retrieved 15 December 2017.
- "Tommy Battle on Twitter". Twitter. Retrieved 2016-03-31.
- "Mayor Battle Promises Announcement On Governor's Race "In A Couple Of Days"". WHNT.com. Retrieved 2016-03-31.
- "No. 1: Huntsville, Alabama". www.kiplinger.com. Retrieved 2016-03-31.
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- "City of Huntsville, Alabama *** Huntsville *** Alabama *** HuntsvilleAL.gov". www.huntsvilleal.gov. Retrieved 2016-03-31.
- "Touting 16,000 new jobs, Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle kicks off reelection campaign". AL.com. Retrieved 2016-05-23.
- "About Mayor Battle". City of Huntsville. Retrieved 2019-12-11.