3 months ago

Gen. Ed Crowell wants to bring military, leadership experience to Montgomery mayor’s office

MONTGOMERY — The August 2019 mayoral race in Alabama’s capital city is heating up and already features a highly competitive lineup of candidates.

Perhaps most well known among the motley field are former Congressman Artur Davis, Montgomery County Probate Judge Steven Reed and WCOV’s David Woods. Reed is the son of Alabama Democratic Conference (ADC) head and liberal political powerbroker Joe Reed.

However, it is two political outsiders that are taking the race by storm thus far: Brigadier General Ed Crowell (Ret.) and local attorney JC Love.

Yellowhammer News recently sat down with Crowell at his downtown campaign office, right off the historic Court Square Fountain, and discussed his decorated background, leadership style and motivation for entering the race and policy goals.

‘On the shoulders of giants’

Quiet but commanding, Crowell’s nickname could very well be “The Genteel General.” As he dove into the interview, his background in military logistics was not easy to miss. For each topic that came up, I could see the wheels turn in Crowell’s mind as he thoughtfully considered his response. Genuine yet measured, everything he said fit together neatly.

“We have the old saying in the military: ‘we stand on the shoulders of giants,'” Crowell said. “Well, the backbone of our services is the enlisted force … but there always has to be a leader. And when you’re thrusted into a leadership role, you don’t become a leader just because you’re thrusted into that role. You’ve got to earn your keeps. You’ve got to demonstrate your mettle.”

“And you do that by, first of all, being a good listener,” he explained.

This was a theme throughout the interview — his emphasis on listening as a leader. Whether it was heeding the advice of enlisted sergeants in the Air Force, subject matter experts in the private sector or other community leaders involved with the countless board and organizations Crowell has served, he stressed the importance of operating from a place of knowledge – and how to get there.

This skillet, and mentality, earned Crowell the reputation as being a fixer in the Air Force. He would go into dysfunctional units, listen to the service members, assess the situation and meticulously and personally work solutions.

This kind of experience served him well in his parallel career trajectory in the corporate world. Crowell served both as an active and reserve duty officer at various intervals, which allowed him to build quite the legacy at Blount International and then VT Miltope, where he eventually became president and CEO before retiring.

Whether at one of these distinguished Alabama companies, in a civic or charitable organization or in the military, Crowell has always led by example. One of his core tenets of leadership is that you never ask of someone what you yourself would not be willing to do. It was that frontline mentality that sometimes got him derided by fellow officers in the Air Force, as Crowell would do chores normally reserved for enlisted men and women. However, the same attribute also garnered the respect of the people he was meant to lead, with Crowell noting that troops would walk through fire for him because they knew he would first walk through himself.

“We’re a team, and we’re going to work this as a team,” he added.

Giving back

For someone who has always been on the civil service side of public life, dipping his toes into politics is not necessarily a natural thing. However, when members of the community started approaching Crowell to run, his modus operandi kicked in.

“I made a decision years ago that I was going to be on the giving end rather than the receiving end,” he explained.

And Crowell has been doing so ever since he came to Montgomery in 1968. His work in the community is renowned, best exemplified by his being named the city’s “Man of the Year” in 2018. From the YMCA to the Shakespeare Festival, Crowell has served on the board or been chairman of just about every civic or philanthropic organization possible in Alabama’s capital city. Each step along the way, his leadership style and dedication to bettering the community one cause at a time has earned him the respect of his peers, which just kept getting him recruited to serve in more and more ways.

He sees being Montgomery’s mayor as the last recruitment destination on his journey — one final, hugely impactful way to give back to the community he and his family love.

Crowell also views his longtime service as a personal investment into the community and future generations. In his opinion, Mayor Todd Strange’s administration has the city moving in the right direction, and the retired general wants to keep this momentum going and protect his investment the best way he knows how – through serving.

“I feel I’ve made a sizable investment in this community, and I think the train is on the right tracks right now,” Crowell shared. “And I don’t want to see any regression in it. The only way I can be assured that it continues, because I’ve never been one to be on the sidelines: if you’re not in the game, you can’t play.”

“So, I made a decision that I’m going to be a part of the solution rather than part of the problem. And you do that by being in the game. If I’m in the game, I can ensure that my investment does not go astray. … I’m pretty passionate about helping. And I’m pretty passionate about making certain that there is follow-through on whatever we decide we want to do,” he continued.

‘Neighborhood mayor’

While noting there are several policy issues and goals he has, Crowell stressed that there are two priorities that stand above the rest for Montgomery right now.

“[T]hey’re visible … education and crime,” he said. “I think the root of crime is education. If individuals are not educated, or they don’t feel like they can be educated, then we’ve got a problem.”

Crowell said he will be a “neighborhood mayor,” visible and personally engaged with each area of the city. He wants to restore hope to the neighborhoods that are in a state of decay — both by addressing vacant buildings and cleaning up overgrown, neglected lots, as well as instituting tangible programs that ensure opportunity is accessible for hardworking people in Montgomery, regardless of their lot in life.

He also said he is “not going to be defensive about crime.” Crowell openly acknowledged the problem and explained that he wants to tackle the problem head-on.

“I’m going to lay the gauntlet down where it is,” Crowell advised.

He also noted that government alone cannot be the solution to Montgomery’s present or future. He urged others to get involved just as he has been for the last half-century: volunteerism. Crowell also shared some advice for those looking to make a difference.

“You learn that you’ve been given opportunities that others may not think that they have, although they were there – they didn’t take advantage of them,” he said. “You should be a spark for some of these others who’ve given up, who feel like they can’t excel. They need somebody like you to show them the way.”

Sean Ross is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

4 hours ago

Mobile Bay Bridge project awarded $125 million grant by Trump administration

The I-10 Mobile Bayway Bridge project has been awarded a $125 million Infrastructure for Rebuilding America (INFRA) grant by the U.S. Department of Transportation.

The announcement was made Monday by Senator Richard Shelby’s (R-AL) office, which said the amount signifies one of the largest competitive federal grants ever awarded to the state of Alabama.

Additionally, the city of Tuscaloosa was separately awarded a $6.87 million INFRA grant to help replace an overpass bridge located on University Boulevard and U.S. Highway 82.

“Both of these projects will help improve safety, alleviate traffic congestion and concerns with overcapacity, and promote increased economic development opportunities across the state,” Shelby said in a statement.

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“Investing in essential infrastructure in Alabama and across the country promotes a more prosperous future for our nation,” he concluded. “I thank (U.S. DOT) Secretary Chao for her attention to these projects and look forward to continuing my work to ensure that our state is well represented in any effort to fund federal transportation priorities.”

The federal award to the I-10 Mobile Bayway Bridge project comes amid significant controversy over the Alabama Department of Transportation’s (ALDOT) plan to pay for the project, at least partially, through tolling. The total projected cost of the project is approximately $2 billion.

Congressman Bradley Byrne (AL-01) has previously lamented that ALDOT was not more focused on securing federal money and avoiding tolling, even as Alabama federal officials like Byrne and Shelby worked to secure funding access.

ALDOT was previously turned down for a $250 million federal grant application for the project last year.

Byrne led Alabama’s entire House delegation in sending a bipartisan letter to Chao in February in support of funding the project with an INFRA grant.

After the news of the award broke on Monday, Byrne released a statement celebrating the news and reaffirming his opposition to ALDOT’s tolling proposal.

“This is outstanding news for the people of Southwest Alabama! Fighting for federal funding for this bridge has been one of my top priorities in Congress, and I am glad the Trump Administration has come through with this grant award,” Byrne said. “I am very appreciative of the help from our entire Alabama congressional delegation, especially Senator Richard Shelby.”

“Today is a positive step toward making this project a reality, but our work is not over,” he added. “The current tolling proposal for this project is unacceptable, and I will continue leading the fight against tolling and working to ensure this project helps – not hurts – the people of South Alabama.”

The tolling proposal has also become a statewide political piñata, with 2020 Republican U.S. Senate candidates such as Tommy Tuberville and Secretary of State John Merrill coming out swinging in addressing the topic recently.

Sean Ross is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

Byrne: Border battle harms Alabama communities

The detrimental effects of the humanitarian and national security crisis on our border extend all the way to Alabama communities. That’s why I’ve made it a priority to address our immigration policies.

One of the most obvious ways our insecure border harms our communities is the drug trade. Our porous border is perhaps the most significant contributing factor to the ongoing opioid crisis — the worst drug epidemic in modern American history. In 2017, over 47,000 lives were claimed by opioids. That’s more than those from car accidents and firearms. These deaths have affected families across our great state.

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The drug problem is made worse by the unprecedented migrant surge. James Carroll, director of the U.S. Office of Drug Control Policy, said just last week that drug seizures are down this year because so much attention is being diverted to humanitarian needs.

Because of that diversion, border patrol agents and resources are unable to be allocated towards their fundamental law enforcement functions. According to Carroll, more drugs are coming in than ever before.

One of the primary drivers of the migrant crisis is our asylum policy. Through a combination of loopholes worsened by a legal settlement made by the Clinton administration, migrants are encouraged to cross our border and give themselves up to law enforcement.

After arrest, migrants claiming asylum are eventually permitted entrance into the country while their claims are processed. This is permitted even when migrants do not cross at a legal checkpoint.

Although, by some estimates, only around a tenth of asylum claims are found by our courts to be legitimate, the vast majority never show up for their court date and remain free inside the United States.

A disproportionate number of these asylum claims are made by able-bodied young men. Only a few months ago, a Mobile teacher was killed in a car crash by an illegal immigrant minor who had falsely claimed asylum but never showed at his court date to avoid deportation.

The coyotes and cartels, of course, have every reason to facilitate migrants along their journey and orchestrate lawlessness at the border.

Last week, one of the biggest points of entry at the Southern border had to be shut down after a wave of nearly 50 undocumented immigrants rushed the border into Texas. The group attempted to tear down barricades and assaulted several border patrol officers who were forced to deploy tear gas and pepper balls.

Let’s call these people what they are – criminals. And while border agents were able to keep these criminals out of our communities, many more slip through the cracks while agents deal with illegal stunts like this and the humanitarian needs of asylee claimants.

Last year, a 13-year-old girl in Huntsville was beheaded after witnessing the stabbing of her grandmother by gang members in a horrific incident involving members of the Sinaloa Cartel. It is disheartening that gangs like MS-13 have infiltrated communities throughout our nation, but stories like this reinforce the sad truth that the problem is impacting Alabamians.

There are other significant problems that do not receive headlines. I’ve spoken with Alabama sheriffs who have shared horror stories about the strain illegal immigration places on their deputies. And I’ve talk to incredibly frustrated school superintendents who must divert resources away from educating local students to deal with their illegal immigrant population. Our hospitals are also placed under enormous burdens by illegal immigration. And governments are forced to pay for services for illegal immigrants that could have gone towards roads, bridges and other services for Americans.

This is not just a Texas, New Mexico, Arizona or California issue. This is an Alabama issue. I will continue standing with President Trump and work to get an immigration system that works for the American people.

U.S. Rep. Bradley Byrne is a Republican from Fairhope.

5 hours ago

Boating deaths are soaring on Alabama’s lakes and rivers

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (AP) — Alabama has already had its deadliest year in two decades for boaters — and the summer isn’t nearly over yet.

Boating accidents in the first 6 ½ months of 2019 have killed 25 people, AL.com reported.

Already, that makes this year the deadliest one since 1998, when 32 people died. The number of deaths so far this year is already higher than year-end totals for the past several years.

This July alone, 12 crashes resulted in six deaths.

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“In my 24 years of doing this, I’ve never seen anything like it,” said Capt. Gary Buchanan, the commander of the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency’s Marine Patrol.

Investigators can’t definitively pinpoint the cause for this year’s drastic increase, Buchanan said.

“Some have happened at night, some during the day, some have involved one boat, some two boats and alcohol has been a factor in some,” Buchanan said. “It’s all over the spectrum.”

There has been a decrease in Marine Patrol presence on Alabama’s lakes and rivers. There are roughly 45 Marine Patrol current officers throughout Alabama. There are 21 vacancies — jobs that were all filled 10 to 15 years ago, Al.com reported.

Boater registrations have also increased in recent years.

“There’s an increase in boaters and there are fewer Marine Patrol troopers on the waterways,” Buchanan said. “There’s no doubt that an enforcement presence has an effect on behavior, just like when you top that hill and you see a trooper car in front of you.”

The year with the most boating-related fatalities was 1972, which had a year-end total of 55. The year with the fewest, according to ALEA statistics, was 2013, with 10.

(Associated Press, copyright 2019)

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6 hours ago

Alabama K9 officer dies after drug raid

“Jake,” a K9 officer with the Alabama Department of Corrections, has died following a raid Thursday on Staton Correctional Facility in Elmore County.

CBS 42 reported last week that Jake was recovering after having a medical emergency during a contraband raid at the prison. He reportedly came into contact with synthetic marijuana and became unresponsive. Medical personnel and his handler at the prison then heroically performed live-saving measures on the K9, who was expected to return to duty within a few weeks.

However, CBS 42′ Reshad Hudson reported on Monday that Jake died from complications following the initial incident.

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WSFA is reporting that Jake died on Saturday at Auburn University Veterinary Clinic.

“I was saddened to hear that one of the Corrections K9s, Jake, lost his life over the weekend,” Governor Kay Ivey said. “This K9 died in service to public safety and in service to the state. Jake is an example of the goodness, the loyalty and service that our four-legged friends provide. We certainly lost a loyal companion.”

A criminal investigation into Jake’s death is reportedly underway. More testing of the apparent synthetic marijuana is pending, according to ADOC. Officials told WSFA that anyone found to be responsible in Jake’s death will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.

Jake had worked with his handler, Sgt. Quinton Jones, since the K9 joined ADOC in 2014.

“This is a difficult time for our ADOC family and especially for Sgt. Jones and those assigned to our K9 Bureau who worked with Jake on a daily basis,” ADOC Commissioner Jeff Dunn told WSFA. “I extend our deepest condolences for the loss of this noble K9 who honorably served the State of Alabama and for ultimately giving his life while protecting the public.”

Dunn added that Jake likely saved lives by detecting the substance during the raid.

“With Jake’s training and ability to find the narcotic, he saved other lives by giving his own in the line-of-duty. Jake’s heroism and ultimate sacrifice will never be forgotten,” he emphasized.

Jake will be given a burial with full honors this week, according to WSFA.

Sean Ross is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

8 hours ago

Byrne visiting U.S.-Mexico border on Monday

Congressman Bradley Byrne (AL-01) is visiting the United States’ southern border on Monday, the Republican U.S. Senate candidate’s office announced in a release.

Byrne reportedly arrived at the border Monday morning and will meet with Customs and Border Protection officials, tour a port of entry and visit an Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detention facility.

“As the national security and humanitarian crisis at our border escalates, it is important to see the situation firsthand and talk directly with border agents, law enforcement, and local officials about the challenges they face and what resources they need,” Byrne said in a statement.

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He has been a consistent supporter of President Donald Trump’s immigration policies.

“The American people have demanded a lawful system of immigration that protects their economic and personal safety, and I will continue working closely with President Trump and his Administration to secure our border, support law enforcement, and keep the American people safe,” Byrne concluded.

Senator Doug Jones (D-AL) has opposed building a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border.

Sean Ross is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn