Mayoral candidates face off

Billy Ray Simpson, Rick Singleton and Mickey Haddock discuss their visions if elected as Florence mayor April 16 in the GUC performance center. The Student Government Association-sponsored event allowed each candidate to answer questions in a debate style format.

A packed GUC performance center was the home of the SGA Florence mayoral debate April 16 where candidates Billy Ray Simpson, Mickey Haddock and Rick Singleton took to the stage to inform citizens of why they should be the next city mayor.

Haddock concentrated on his future vision of the city, Simpson on his compassion toward citizens and Singleton on his experience as Florence police chief.

Haddock, Simpson and Singleton focused heavily on the importance of building a stronger relationship between the university and city of Florence.

“We don’t understand really what a jewel we have in the University of North Alabama, and as mayor I plan to build on that … it’s a great resource and we need to tap into it,” Haddock said.

Singleton echoed Haddock’s comments when he was asked how the city and university could improve their relationship. He said the mayor should sit down with the university administration and SGA to brainstorm.

“We need that kind of working relationship,” Singleton said. “We are joined at the hip; what’s good for one is good for the other.”

Haddock, if elected, said he plans to create advisory committees to the city government and fill them with UNA students, faculty and staff to create a more transparent government.

Simpson said there are development opportunities in the city’s west side that could be worked on to improve UNA and Florence relations.

“There’s many ideas that I have as far as integrating our city and community with UNA,” Simpson said. “There are many plans to open up the west side of town here because there is a lot of UNA students that are walking, and they don’t need to go to the other side of town, and they don’t need to go all the way out to Cox Creek (Parkway) in order to have a place to shop and in order to enjoy a bite to eat.”

Candidates were asked their personal opinions on the UNA board of trustees’ decision to move their athletics programs to NCAA Division I athletics last year.

“Personally, I am going to support the decisions of the board of trustees,” Haddock said. “That decision has been made, and as mayor I am going to work to support that decision.”

Simpson disagreed, citing that the university is an educational institution and should not put athletics before academics.

Singleton said he needed to look more into the issue and he is excited the university will be competing more with its rivals in the future if the D-I transition is successful.

Haddock centered his statements on creating jobs, improving the city’s “outstanding schools,” working with local hospitals, creating more government transparency and building a civic center to host musical events.

Simpson’s closing remarks focused on the current plans city leaders have to improve the city.

“It takes a team in Florence,” Simpson said. “It takes people working together for a common goal.

“It takes people that have a heart to come together for the common goal.”

Singleton, who closed the debate, focused on his experience.

“I am not going to stand here and make a bunch of promises to you about a civic center and bridges, because those things cost a lot of money, and this city does not have the money right now,” Singleton said.