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What’s next for Tommy Battle? Hopefully more of the same

Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle proved three things during his failed campaign for governor:

First, that he’s the best mayor in the state of Alabama by nearly every measurable indicator.

Second, the people of North Alabama believe he’s doing a great job — they gave him plenty of votes.

Third, business and industry interests in North Alabama think he’s doing a great job, too — they gave him plenty of campaign contributions.

So what’s next for this successful executive and still promising candidate? Some observers think he’ll run for Senate in 2020.

But I hope my mayor stays right where he is, and here’s why: We have plenty of potential United States Senators

One may need to understand rocket science to be mayor of Huntsville, but one doesn’t need to be a rocket scientist to be a U.S. senator.

Sure, it takes years to develop the knowledge, network and seniority to become as influential as Sen. Richard Shelby, but at this point, all we need is someone we can trust to vote “yea” on conservative bills and nominations and “nay” on everything else.

It’s that simple, and if there’s ever a question just say “ditto” to whatever is said by Utah Sen. Mike Lee (or ask “WWJD” … “What would Jeff do,” as in Jeff Sessions).

We have plenty of proven conservative lawmakers in Alabama who could seamlessly step into that role. State Senators Del Marsh of Anniston, Bill Hightower of Mobile, and Arthur Orr of Decatur are just three who spring to mind. We have many others, including mayors like Sandy Stimpson of Mobile.

But we don’t have plenty of potential mayors of Huntsville

Being the mayor of a hyper-booming city like Huntsville is an entirely different ballgame in terms of complexity, responsibility, authority, accountability and, most of all, impact.

Big things are happening up here, and fast. We have no time for a mayor to get on-the-job training, and the risk of bringing another captain aboard is too great.

And here’s why this matters to everyone else in Alabama, not just folks north of the Tennessee River: The decisions made by the mayor of Huntsville in the next five years will have an impact across the entire state for the next five decades.

Huntsville will soon be our largest city, our largest economy and one of our largest sources of state revenue.

Our state’s flagship will no longer be the Magic City … it’ll be the Rocket City, and the center of gravity in many decisions will necessarily shift from Birmingham to Huntsville. “Heresy,” say the blue bloods of Birmingham, Montgomery and my beloved hometown of Mobile. But the numbers don’t lie, and as with most things, influence will follow the money.

So, the growth of Huntsville can continue as it has under Battle’s leadership — smart and sustainable — or it could stall or slide under someone else. And Alabama’s economy will rise, or fall, accordingly.

So while the natural tendency may be to promote someone like Battle to another office, we, and he, should resist that temptation in this case.

Alabama may want a Senator Battle.

Alabama may someday even want a Governor Battle.

But right now, Alabama needs a Mayor Battle.

@jpepperbryars is the editor of Yellowhammer News and the author of American Warfighter

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