Qualification for the 2021 Tuscaloosa municipal elections ended Tuesday, and incumbent District 1 Councilwoman Phyllis Wade Odom will not seek re-election and opt instead to step away from local politics to spend more time with her family.

Now three community activists will compete to replace Odom on the council.

The Tuscaloosa Thread spoke with each about their background, agendas and what message they have for voters ahead of the March 2nd elections.

Candidate Katherine Waldon

Katherine Waldon has lived in Tuscaloosa for over 20 years. She currently teaches at Paul W. Bryant High School and ran an unsuccessful 2017 campaign to represent District 1 on the Tuscaloosa City Schools Board of Education.

Waldon graduated from Tuscaloosa County High School and earned a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science from The University of Alabama in 2014 and a Masters in Public Administration with a concentration in education and public policy in 2016.

She said her the planks of her campaign platform involve developing programs to cultivate trust between the community and the police and supporting equitable business developments including the Western Riverwalk expansion and renovations to the Benjamin Barnes Branch YMCA.

Waldon said she has an extensive background in serving her community. She regularly volunteers with civic and faith-based organizations including the Benjamin Barnes YMCA Advisory Council, Junior League of Tuscaloosa-Community Council and also serves as the Assistant Director of the Children and Youth Department at New Harvest Church of God.

"Although I wasn't born and raised in District 1, I call it home and I contribute to my community," Waldon said. "I believe God gives us a gift to serve the community and I want to do my part for my now-home, regardless of the outcome in March."

Waldon said her passion for civic leadership comes from the 2014 murder of her brother-in-law, who was killed in a robbery. She said she hopes to implement a "Second Chance" program for low-level criminal offenders that will help address overcrowding at the Tuscaloosa County Jail.

Her focus on crime prevention is complemented by a commitment to address homelessness and reform local education. If elected, Waldon plans to reinvigorate public safety, focus on workforce development and prioritize neighborhood revitalization.

Candidate Matthew Wilson

Reverend Matthew Wilson is stepping down from a seat on the Tuscaloosa City Schools Board of Education after one term to run for city council as he believes District 1 needs a new voice there.

"I'm grateful for my time with the Tuscaloosa City Schools Board. It was my catalyst for this journey. This is where I learned what public service is all about," said Wilson. "I was called to step up, I was told 'the City needs your voice, your communal spirit, and your collaboration. I'll still have some connection to the school board and the system."

Wilson is a lifelong resident of Tuscaloosa. He graduated from Central High School in 2001 and went on to earn his bachelor's degree in religion and philosophy from Stillman College. After that, he earned his master of divinity from the Morehouse School of Religion in Atlanta.

He currently serves as pastor of the Providence Missionary Baptist Church in Marion, and he said that his involvement with his congregation has helped open his eyes to some of the pressing needs in District 1.

He's also served several leadership roles, including a current term  as Vice President for the Tuscaloosa Interdenominational Ministerial Alliance and as a chaplain for UAB Hospital.

Wilson said if he is elected to represent District 1, he will work to tackle issues of affordable housing and rent control to keep residents in West Tuscaloosa. He also hopes to introduce non-sports recreational programs such as robotics and engineering clubs for students in the district and expressed interest in finding land to develop condominiums for students at Stillman, his alma mater, for an easier walk to campus.

Candidate Que Chandler

Que Chandler is a native of West Tuscaloosa and a mother of three. She said she is committed to giving each resident of District 1 a voice. As a recent example, she said she has personally registered over 500 voters in her area and also partnered with Emerge Alabama, a program designed to train women to run for public office.

If elected, Chandler said her top priorities include adopting policies that ensure the complete integration of West Tuscaloosa into Tuscaloosa's' economy, implementing incentives to encourage manufacturers and businesses to develop in District 1 and dedicating resources to expanding health, education, police and youth institutions.

She said she has served in leadership roles with Boys and Girls Club of West Alabama, the Tuscaloosa County Park and Recreation Authority and the Family Guidance Center of Alabama.

Chandler said she has addressed blight in the West End by organizing community cleanup days, has provided low-income families with masks and hygiene products through COVID Relief Drives and recently organized a food drive for Stillman students staying on campus over Thanksgiving break without food service.

"My agenda positions me well to be effective for District 1 from Day 1. That is what it needs," said Chandler. "More than that, I have shown my dedication to and heart for our community long before election time. That is what District 1 deserves."

 

The municipal elections will be held on March 2nd.

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