Photo courtesy of Slade Blackwell's Office
0312 Slade Blackwell
By MAGGIE CARTER O’CONNOR
I sat down with State Senator Slade Blackwell in his office outside of Mountain Brook Village to talk about issues related to the state and our city.
Blackwell grew up just down the road in Montevallo. He played basketball for the University of Montevallo while working toward his Bachelor of Science degree. After graduation, he moved to Birmingham and began a career in real estate development. Blackwell married his high school sweetheart, Sally Salter, a general surgeon at St. Vincent’s, and became a partner with Inkana Development. The Blackwells reside in Mountain Brook with their three children: Colby, 9; Grant, 9; and Hagan, 7.
What current projects are you working on that affect Mountain Brook?
The Department of Transportation approved plans to implement the “Sidewalks to Schools” program. Soon, Mountain Brook Elementary School will be accessible by sidewalk from the Watkins Rd-Cambridge and Heathermoor routes.
Mountain Brook City Schools received $5,000 for professional development purposes. I am also working with the Crestline Elementary School PTO on funding a handicap accessible playground, which would be the first in the city.
What do you love about Birmingham and the communities you represent?
I love the sense of community that Birmingham and the other surrounding areas have. Everyone wants to better their community and the state as a whole, which is encouraging. It’s nice to represent people who are proud of where they come from and are willing to work hard for what they believe, so that we leave these communities in better shape for future generations than we found them.
How would you describe your job?
Engaging, challenging, rewarding… tiring! I soon discovered that I had been naïve about the time this position requires. It is an all-encompassing job. Without my legislative director, Anna Catherine Roberson, I would not be able to attend to as many projects and constituent requests.
Your district stretches from Pinson to the town of Shelby, through both Jefferson and Shelby counties. Are there some things in common that you hear from your constituents when you speak with them?
There are a lot of things I hear from constituents that resonate throughout my district. Some of the main issues I hear about are jobs, economic development and the Jefferson County sewer crisis. No matter where you live right now, jobs, or lack thereof, are a major issue that must be addressed. We need to continue working on how we can bring businesses and jobs into the state to relieve the unemployed.
The Jefferson County sewer crisis continues to be a major issue right now. Since the county commission filed bankruptcy, I’ve heard a lot from constituents who are worried about the direction of our county and state.
We must make economic development and job creation a top priority. The bankruptcy filing doesn’t make our job any easier.
How do you feel about the Jefferson County bankruptcy filing?
I was disappointed in the county’s decision to file for bankruptcy. I had been encouraged by the progress that was being made in the weeks before the bankruptcy decision and had hoped that the county could have reached a settlement. I think bankruptcy will be devastating to our city, county and state in terms of economic development, job growth and recruitment of industry. It is truly a black eye for our region.
Along with your elected responsibilities, you are also a small business owner. How does that help you relate to your constituents? How has your schedule changed since taking office?
Being a small business owner has only helped me be a better senator for my district. Not only has it taught me the value of hard work and dedication, but also I feel like I can better relate to my constituents because of my conservative business roots. A lot of my district is made of small businesses, so it’s easier to know what those guys are going through and find a way to give them all the opportunities they deserve.
My schedule changed quite drastically since taking office. In addition to being in Montgomery for the legislative session four months out of the year, I am constantly meeting with elected officials and constituents throughout the district. I find that it is important to stay connected to those in your district. It helps me get a better understanding of the wants and needs of the people in my district and how I can best help. For me, being a senator is not just something I do four months out of the year. I am always working to see first-hand how we can improve district 15 and the entire state of Alabama. Over the past six months, I have held town hall meetings in Trussville, Irondale, Leeds and Chelsea. I hope your readers will join us for an upcoming community meeting in their area.
In your rare “spare time,” what do you like to do?
I enjoy spending time with my family, hunting, coaching my kids’ basketball teams and spending time at the farm. I currently serve on the board for the Lakeshore Foundation, the Birmingham History Center, the Pinson Education Foundation, the Birmingham Golf Association and the Shelby Arts Council. I am also involved with the Birmingham Business Alliance, the Alabama Republican Party and several chambers of commerce.