Over the past 11 years while Walt has been mayor of Tuscaloosa, this country faced the worst recession in modern history, and this city saw an 8th of it completely wiped off the face of the map.
If you can lead during the hardest times imaginable, during the hardest times in history, you’ve been proven.
Walt’s core belief is that the city will be a customer-friendly environment and the work will be open, efficient and effective.
In 2007, Walt established Tuscaloosa 311 as a non-emergency call center connecting people with their government. Today, Tuscaloosa 311 answers and responds to nearly 100,000 calls annually.
In the City’s darkest hours following the devastation of the April 27, 2011 tornado, Walt provided our community determined and compassionate leadership that has been nationally recognized.
With 12 percent of Tuscaloosa destroyed, and 5,300 homes, businesses and churches severely impacted, Walt worked with the community in creating the Tuscaloosa Forward Plan which outlined a strategic approach to recovery.
Five years later, $362 million dollars of residential and commercial investment, coupled with nearly $100 million in infrastructure improvements, are rebuilding our City in a way that honors all those who lost so much.
During Walt’s first term, the Pre-K Task Force was developed to investigate and plan the path to ensure all of Tuscaloosa’s four-year-old children receive a quality pre-k education. The Pre-K Initiative was born, which provides 250 children per year an opportunity to receive a pre-k education in one of the nation’s premiere programs.
Walt also created the annual Mayor’s Cup 5k/10k, which has raised over $200,000 to go directly into the pre-k classrooms. The nationally recognized Tuscaloosa Pre-K Initiative is now the model for the state’s pre-k program.
One of Tuscaloosa’s oldest communities and financial centers, essentially wiped out by the tornado, has found a re-birth. Following the tragedy of April 27, 2011, Walt held dozens of meetings with residents most impacted including the people of Alberta. Walt’s efforts have resulted in millions being invested into the upgrades of storm and sanitary sewers, roads, and bridges.
Beyond this needed infrastructure, Walt worked with the school board in rebuilding Alberta School of Performing Arts, and ensured that both the East Police Precinct and Fire Station Four were rebuilt, not only to protect and serve, but as a showcase to Alberta’s resiliency.
Nothing points to the future more than the new Gateway Innovation and Discovery Center. By connecting broadband technology to seniors and underserved areas, this state of-the-art library provides digital training, education, and access to literature, 3-D Printing and electronic devices.
Police Precinct in East Tuscaloosa, West Tuscaloosa, and Downtown
Three police precincts have opened since 2009. One opened in 2009, another opened in 2013, and the last in 2014.
These new upscale buildings ensure the safety for our valued policemen and women, and provide more locations to serve and be a presence in the community.
Cutting Red Tape - Streamlining City Government
Walt knows that investing your tax dollars wisely and delivering innovative and effective services are absolutes. His plan has combined seven city departments in the areas of infrastructure, public services and
Walt also believes that local government should be accountable to the people which is why he led the Transparent Tuscaloosa initiative to digitally open the doors of City Hall. The initiative is the first and only open portal in Alabama and provides citizens realtime financial information about how the City spends your tax dollars.
Streamlining departments, instilling transparency, and eliminating bureaucratic red tape will ensure the best services for Tuscaloosa citizens, while maintaining the lowest major municipal sales tax rate in Alabama.
The Tuscaloosa Amphitheater opened on April 1, 2011. It averages 60,000 plus ticket sales for 15 – 20 shows annually. The Amphitheater can hold a maximum of 8,000 people, and ticket sales ranked 73rd in the world for all amphitheater venues in 2015.
The city also uses the impressive facility for Holidays on the River and other community events.
Prioritizing West Tuscaloosa
After Walt was sworn in October 2005, he prioritized investing over $100 million dollars into projects in West Tuscaloosa such as Tuscaloosa Career Technical Academy, McDonald Hughes Center, Maude Whatley Health Services, McKenzie Courts, Rosedale Courts, Foster Ferry Road Improvements, Stillman Boulevard Road Improvements, Harrison Taylor Splashpad, Cherrystone Sewer Improvements, and countless other capital investments.
Specifically the Noah’s Ark Storm Water Drainage Initiative has invested an additional $15 million in relieving long standing flooding problems in areas such as Royal Pines, Oakdale, Taylor Circle and Jemison Avenue, and has resulted in countless homes paying reduced insurance rates.
In July 2016, Walt led efforts with local banks and the Council to ensure that Stillman College remained. His recommendation was adopted by the Council and this great HBCU now has an opportunity to transform itself and its students for future generations.
$200 Million in New Roads
With State transportation funding being slashed,in the spring of 2015, Walt led a multi-jurisdictional effort to pass the Transform Tuscaloosa County Act.
The legislation redistributes existing taxes, and over the next 10 years, more than $200 million dollars of investment will result in new and/or improved roads including McFarland Boulevard, Martin Luther King, Jr. Boulevard (train trestle), McWrights Ferry Road and Highway 69 South.
Sound Financial Leadership
With transparency and accountability as absolutes, Walt has managed the City’s finances through the Great Recession and the tragedy of the April 27, 2011 tornado.
When seconds mattered and there was so much on the line, Tuscaloosa had to cash flow tens of millions of dollars. Walt’s trusted financial stewardship ensured an effective and immediate response without borrowing money or raising taxes.
Five years later, Walt’s trusted leadership is considered the model for providing outstanding services with one of the lowest sales tax rates in Alabama.
Downtown: Parking, Hotels, and Government Plaza
When Walt first took office in 2005, Tuscaloosa’s central city was blighted with failing infrastructure.
Today, downtown is transformed it into a vibrant residential and commercial center. Nearly $100 million has been invested in public improvements, including the 450-space Intermodal facility, has led to over $200 million in private sector investments.
Whether it’s new hotels, fine dining, or an evening of music at the newly created green space at Government Plaza, Walt’s bold leadership and vision has revitalized downtown.
Fire Station 1 and Fire Station 4
After being destroyed in the April 27, 2011 tornado, Fire Station #4 was rebuilt, and a new Fire Station #1 was built to consolidate the current stations #1 and #5. These new modern and better located buildings have improved response times and serve as a gateway into West Tuscaloosa.
Protecting our Environment, Preserving our Lakes
As mayor, Walt passed legislation designating Lake Nicol and Harris Lake as dedicated parks which protected thousands of acres from development, and will serve as a recreational hub for future generations. He has also been a leader in recycling.
Under Walt’s leadership, Tuscaloosa has universal curbside recycling and has opened the Curry Recycling Center. Processing over 500,000 pounds of recyclable materials annually, it has saved the City hundreds of thousands of dollars in dumping fees, and extended the life of our local landfills.
The River Front: The Market, The Trails
In the past 11 years, Walt has led efforts to expand the use of the Black Warrior riverfront. Miles of shared-use trails have been paved for all ages to enjoy, as well as the construction of the River Market which is home to locally produced goods and a world-class events venue.