Mountain Brook and Homewood suck leadership out of Birmingham

Alabama championship footballWould the University of Alabama have national championship football teams if 80% of its students were ineligible?

UA would have some good players, but we wouldn’t be winning many football games.

This is the heart of Birmingham’s problem.

Birmingham’s not winning because we haven’t had as many great leaders as other Sun Belt cities.

Cities like Nashville,  Charlotte, and Austin have passed us by because  they have a strong bench of talented leaders.

Where are our leaders?

Our region does have great leaders, but many devote their time and political capital to their own suburban communities.

For example, I have five charismatic, incredibly smart friends who have taken on leadership roles in Mountain Brook and Homewood.  These guys are my heroes!

Stuart Welch is the Mayor of Mountain Brook.

Bruce Limbaugh is the President of the Homewood City Council.

Bradley Sklar, Tommie Luckie, and Richard Murray are members of the Mountain Brook Board of Education.

This is great for Homewood and Mountain Brook, but not necessarily for our region.

When I ask folks from Mountain Brook, what is the reason for its success, they respond that Mountain Brook has always had good leadership.

It’s the same when you query folks from Vestavia Hills, Hoover, Homewood, etc.

Many of our talented leaders reside in Mountain Brook, Hoover, Trussville, etc.

So we have a great Mountain Brook.

A great Hoover.

A great Trussville.

And a sluggish Birmingham region.

Metropolitan Birmingham  stagnates

According to the Birmingham Business Journal (BBJ) our Birmingham -Hoover metropolitan area (7 counties) ranked 179th out of the 200 best performing cities in America–primarily due to little or no job growth.

And as Jeffrey Bayer lamented in his most recent piece, Gobsmacked by this Birmingham Statistic, our metro was ranked 86th out of the 100 largest metros in economic performance.

Atlanta Mayor warned Homewood and Mountain Brook

As Atlanta Mayor William Hartsfield warned in a letter letter to Homewood in 1959, “I have often wondered why they (Homewood and Mountain Brook) were not a part of Birmingham.  They seem to be peopled by a class of people whose advice and counsel and whose vote and civic service are badly needed by Birmingham.”

Folks in our suburbs have no real power to make our Birmingham region competitive

We can’t vote.

We aren’t eligible for public office.

Our only option is to bitch and complain.

Meanwhile our children and grandchildren have little opportunities and move to cities with stronger leadership.

Birmingham has a new City Council President and three new City Counselors–and soon a new Mayor.  Can you imagine our potential if we had the synergy and brainpower of all our regional leadership?

All five of my previously mentioned Mountain Brook and Homewood  friends play active roles to improve our broader community–but are only available for leadership roles in their respective municipalities.

That’s too bad.

Let’s turn Birmingham around.  Click here to sign up for our newsletter. There’s power in numbers. (Opt out at any time)

David Sher is Co-Founder of AmSher Compassionate Collections.  He’s past Chairman of the Birmingham Regional Chamber of Commerce (BBA), Operation New Birmingham (REV Birmingham), and the City Action Partnership (CAP).

Invite David to speak to your group about a better Birmingham.

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9 thoughts on “Mountain Brook and Homewood suck leadership out of Birmingham”

  1. Rarely do I disagree with David Sher. But, I sure do this time.

    BHM has not only ample, but incredible talent among its residents. I know it first hand. I see it everyday.

    David has fallen in to the very stereotyping that his blogging detests. Suburbanites have not cornered the market on talent! The residents of BHM are more than smart enough to run a successful and prosperous city.

    If the suburbs refuse to join in cooperative working agreements with BHM, then so be it. But, they–including the Alabama Legislature–need to get out of our way. Quit denigrating us and blocking the progress that the City is making.

    Certainly, I hope for cooperation among the municipalities. But, in no way do I accept the argument that BHM does not have the firepower to be successful. Our recent municipal elections are a harbinger of good things to come.

    1. Maury, I think you missed the point of this piece. I mentioned five friends who have unselfishly given of themselves to work for their respective communities. If my friends lived in Nashville with one county/city government then their work would enrich the entire community–rather than a small subset. I made it clear there are some good leaders in Birmingham, but having a wider base to choose from increases the opportunity for broader participation. Here’s what I wrote” Can you imagine our potential if we had the synergy and brainpower of all our region. That’s one more reason we’re not competitive. You moved back into the City of Birmingham from Mountain Brook to try to make a difference. Why can’t we find a way for all of us to be eligible to help?

  2. So it is Mountain Brook, Homewood, and outlining communities fault for Birmingham not being a better city? No, it is Birmingham’s fault for not looking at the good things that these communities are doing well, and incorporating these things into the city of Birmingham. It is the unfortunate history of corruption in Birmingham city government, and Jefferson county government, that has held Birmingham back. Hopefully the newly elected mayor will get Birmingham going in the direction again.

  3. Thank you David – excellent analysis. Our region really does suffer from the we vs. them mindset. We are only trying to improve the immediate problems of our smaller community and not focusing on a long term plan to improve the whole region.

    If we have more people pulling in the same direction, we can reach greater heights. Remember, a rising tide raises all ships. this will help everyone

  4. I moved here in 1985. It was a culture shift for sure. Worked, raised children, felt plus/minus welcomed in different arenas. Always lived in the city of Bham, kids to private schools. My impression has been that the suburbs separated themselves after school integration. So when you talk about suburbs’ leaders not being able to make a difference in Bham, ie vote, hold office, seems like a self inflected wound.

  5. I know all five and they are good people. But what sticks out to me is they are all white males. Is that really what Birmingham needs.?

    1. Jim, I’m sorry if I gave the impression that I thought that ‘white males’ were the solution to our region’s problems. I selected five people who I know personally who have volunteered politically in Mountain Brook or Homewood since those are the two cities mentioned in Mayor Hartsfield’s letter. It will take collaboration from everyone in our region to have an opportunity to become competitive. Have you had an opportunity to ready the Community Foundation report? Please review and let me know what you think.

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