Decatur City Councilman Charles Kirby, once an outsider critical of the system, said working as part of the municipal government hasn’t changed him.

As an activist, Kirby fought against a controversial one-penny addition to the sales tax, passed in 2001, and railed against city spending. He often ended his local cable television show with the saying, “If you’re not angry, you aren’t paying attention.”

Now on the inside as the District 4 councilman, Kirby is voting on issues of city finance and public administration.

The smallest council district in the city, District 4 sits mainly between Beltline Road Southwest and the railroad tracks that run through the heart of the city. Portions of the district reach west of Beltline Road to include Decatur Mall and the surrounding business district, as well as neighborhoods near Morgan County Fairgrounds and Calvary Assembly’s facility.

Kirby’s top goals for the final year of his four-year term: Begin the process of eliminating services in the police jurisdiction; work on getting more of Morgan County’s road money used in Decatur; develop standards for routine maintenance and upkeep of city roads and rights of ways; bring more federal Housing and Urban Development funds to District 4; and find property for an industrial park.

No surprises

Kirby, 62, said not much has surprised him since his appointment to the City Council in November 2011 following the resignation of Ronny Russell. Kirby was unopposed in the 2012 municipal election.

“I attended so many meetings that I understood how things were done,” Kirby said. “The thing that has changed is the economy. We don’t have the budget freedom they once had. Today, we’re struggling just to maintain basic services.”

Fellow City Councilman Billy Jackson said he thinks Kirby has “changed to fit in with the gang,” referring to the council majority of President Gary Hammon and members Chuck Ard and Roger Anders.

Jackson said Kirby was critical as an activist of any council spending or debt.

“He opposed everything — bond issues, abatements and the massive spending,” Jackson said. “But there’s no outrage now. He’s changed, like he’s comfortable with what’s going on.”

Kirby shot back at Jackson, saying, “No one has been able to deal or work with Billy in 19 years.”

Kirby said he hasn’t changed, and he remains a fiscal conservative. He remains convinced the penny tax passed on Sept. 12, 2001, has hurt the city.

“Nothing about me has changed since Billy helped Ronny campaign or since he voted against a vote recount,” said Kirby, who lost to Russell by three votes in the 2008 District 4 race.

Hammon said he hasn’t seen much change in Kirby, although he’s sure joining the council was eye-opening for the District 4 representative.

“You always go in thinking, ‘I’ll do this or I’ll do that,’ but you get in the office and realize you can’t,” Hammon said. “He’s still got his conscience, but he works within the system, and he’s smart enough to know he’s not always going to get his way.”

Ard said Kirby is “very passionate” about his services as a councilman and that he appreciates his willingness to discuss the issues.

“We don’t always agree, but Charles helps us look at things we normally might not see,” Ard said.

Animal shelter

Kirby has seen his share of controversy in his 3½ years on the council. As liaison to Animal Services, he was in the middle of the shelter controversy that led to the firing of Director Carol Wicks.

A group of volunteers accused Kirby of lying about a conversation about the shelter, and Jackson accused him of making a closed-door deal to get rid of Wicks.

Kirby said he doesn’t regret his actions in the case and feels the animal shelter is in better shape today.

“Intake is down, there’s less euthanasia and employees are happier,” Kirby said. “We could have easily fallen into the trap that Lawrence County has.”

Ginger Speidel, a shelter volunteer who supported Wicks, said life at the shelter has improved since the controversy. She complimented Kirby for his interest in the shelter, which will celebrate its sixth birthday Aug. 29.

“The shelter is on a good path,” Speidel said. “Adoptions are up, and we’re saving a lot of animals. I feel like we’re just reaching our stride.”

Police jurisdictions

Every year during budget talks, Kirby pushes for eliminating services to the city’s police jurisdiction. He made the suggestion again last week as a way to cut expenses and increase revenues to pay for the city’s capital needs.

“Roughly 20 percent of our expenses (for police, fire and planning services) are in the police jurisdiction, where we get little revenue from people who don’t pay taxes,” Kirby said.

“Would we ask Canada to provide security in the United States? No. The bottom line is we’re almost doubling our coverage for almost no return.”

Kirby said the City Council needs to include building a baseball/softball complex and buying a large tract of land for an industrial park in its long-range plans.

District work

District 4 is the second-poorest district in the city, and Kirby said he wants to work to get federal Housing and Urban Development grants for several projects.

District 4 resident Jann Laughmiller said her neighborhood desperately needs the city’s help.

“Wimberly Drive is a nightmare,” said Laughmiller, who lives on McDonald Drive Southwest. “It’s filthy and dirty from the trash cans overflowing. There’s a problem with crime. We’ve seen nothing of Mr. Kirby or the city.”

Laughmiller said the roads “are terrible,” especially Wimberly Drive and Fairgrounds Road.

“These roads are used a lot so they don’t need to be patched,” Laughmiller said. “They need to be redone.”

Kirby said he understands the primary things people want are basic maintenance and infrastructure needs.

“Regardless of whether their feelings are right or wrong, they want their grass mowed, they want their roads fixed and they want the garbage picked up,” Kirby said.

U.S. Census Bureau

Bayne Hughes can be reached at 256-340-2432 or Follow on Twitter @DD_BayneHughes.
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(34) comments

Jett the Angry Dwarf

Wow. Insider Charles Kirby is losing it folks. We might really need to see those health records he says entitle him to retirement. Mental health deficiencies seem clear through these comments. "The wrong lion was hunted." What an idiot.

charles kirby

Sniper - calhoun annonymous......the wrong lion was hunted.....

Jett the Angry Dwarf

Insider Charles Kirby

Susan Smith

Every single person I know - without a single exception - has at one point or another made the same comment about the city council: "Billy Jackson is the only one of them who has any sense!" So it's fascinating to me that both Kirby and Jett are on here pouncing on Jackson, and clearly from this article Kirby has no love for Jackson whatsoever. It's a phenomena I've seen in business, too - the slackers who know, at least at some level, that they aren't doing the job condemn anyone who is. And God forbid the one who IS points out the one's who aren't - then all heck breaks loose....and you get the kind of sniping Kirby and Jett are engaging in here.

charles kirby

"SNIPPING"....."ATTACKS".....not so. All was said in statement of fact. Name one thing about Jackson (though most of what I said did not name names), but name one thing that cannot be authenticated by research through records at city hall. If you don't like the facts......don't blame the messanger. If you think the facts ARE ATTACKS.....perhaps you are mad at the wrong person. Perhaps the only people you know are from the discontent crowd or the clueless crowd!? EXAMPLE QUESTION: Who voted for the tax increase in 2001? ANSWER: JACKSON, RUSSELL, MONTGOMERY, WOLLER and HASTINGS. It passed 5 - 0. At least Fowler, Montgomery, Hastings and Woller were honest about their support of the tax. Call it sniping (as if you are not), but prove me wrong......go ahead.....what's the glory! The another question: Who approved an animal shelter that was four (4) times the price it should have been? Be careful on your answers.....

George Harvey

Charles is doing the best can considering that Hammond, Ard and Anders control the votes for Kyle.

Facts are facts! Huntsville, Madison and Athens are growing in population, industries, business and new housing construction.

Charles can enlighten everyone on how Decatur City Council is the leader in achieving what the other cities have and are accomplishing.i

Jett the Angry Dwarf

Agree with Cavnar except I don't believe Kirby is a good person. A good person wouldn't talk to little old ladies the way Kirby does on here.

Charlie Specoli

Thanks...and point taken.

Susan Smith

Kirby better hope nobody in District 4 actually reads this and other barb-trading he engages in on this site. Probably not the best campaign material....unless you're running against him! LOL! [smile]

Jett the Angry Dwarf

I think the voting public has a right to know what "by health I am old enough to retire" means. I want to know what chuck Hilary Clinton kirby has in his medical records. Is he fit to serve?

charles kirby

Just dying to reach into the darkness and invent something....aren't ya!? You just cannot stand someone whos record isn't tarnishable as you would like. Keep dreaming & keep attacking. You continue to expose just how viscious, mean and nasty you are.

Jett the Angry Dwarf

Oh Charles! You mean if your "bosses" we're known by the public, they might get harassed! That's what you just told Janice but you yelp like a kicked puppy about anonymous people here. Hypocrite! Who is this mystery employer you got? Is property manager another term for janitor? You can say you're retired all you want but we know the truth. Tell us about the family business you hypocrite.

Janice Pointer

Mr. Kirby, it is a well known fact that Decatur streets are terrible and employee satisfaction is low. There, a statement of fact for you.

charles kirby

I think you will find a lot of the employees like my record, including that the PJ is costing them pay raises. Streets are just as bad in Hartselle, Athens, and Huntsville. I have been in all three and have seen it. Don't call it fact, it is a popular opinion.

Pamela Blakely

Well Chuck, I drive in Huntsville almost every day and rest assured their streets are no where near as bad as Decatur's. That is a fact!!

Janice Pointer

It says Mr. Kirby works "multiple part time jobs." Is this true? What are they? The employment history or lack thereof is important information for voters to know of someone who stands for election to public office. Mr. Kirby criticises some for anonymity, yet one of the most basic biographical points of a politician is unknown. I find that highly suspicious.

charles kirby

Why does it matter that I work property management or any other job. Fact my employers don't want to be vicitms of the attack squad. FACT - my first job lasted over 30 years. FACT - by age and health I am old enough to retire.

Barbara Pace


charles kirby

Attack squad delta.....robot control.....attack....but use no facts....they don't suport your case. Of course, you can't use facts, because there are none that support your attacks.

Jett the Angry Dwarf

He didn't miss it Susan. He's Chuck Kirby, he's never wrong and what you say is venom and wrong. Because he knows best.

Sam Cat

Putting aside who did what and who voted which way, one thing is for sure, Decatur has had little to zero growth over the past 15 years while Madison and Huntsville are practically exploding.

charles kirby

Decatur was lagging in growth a lot longer than the last 15 years. It does seem curious why the lack of growth that goes back 30-40 years is suddenly someone's fault!

Jett the Angry Dwarf

“Nothing about me has changed since Billy helped Ronny campaign or since he voted against a vote recount,” Sounds like have it both ways Kirby is the one making it personal to me.

I never seen two people talk so much without say anything. Susan is exactly right.

Kirby rather attack Jackson or commenters than talk about what he does right. Or like Jett jump on the paper. That is just deflecting and overcompensating for their little man syndrome. We know all we need to know about Kirby and he needs to go. We are paying attention chuck Kirby and we are angry. The only question I have is whether Kirby snores. Can you answer that Jett?

Pamela Blakely

Ever wonder why the “I hate Decatur” movement is so strong outside (and inside) Decatur? “I hate Decatur” is not something new.

THE DECATUR DAILY unofficial motto - “My newspaper, every once in a while right, but usually wrong and circulation dropping like a rock, my newspaper."

My apologies to Commodore Stephen Decatur, an honorable man, who unfortunately has his name attached to the name of a poor excuse of a newspaper.

I love it when THE DECATUR DAILY quotes former Council President Jackson saying Kirby is an insider.

Maybe THE DECATUR DAILY forgot, or maybe they just got it wrong again - like when a recent article stated there was a 1.5 percent sales tax in the PJ. Where did THE DECATUR DAILY hide the "clarification" of yet another simple mistake?

What are some positions outsider Jackson has taken over the years?

- Jackson voted for the penny sales tax increase.

- Jackson voted for the overpriced animal shelter.

- Jackson voted for moving the fire department headquarters to his district.

- Jackson voted for eliminating the downtown fire station (it was not in his district)

- Jackson voted for a new fire station near the edge of Decatur (but in Jackson's district) that is not needed if Decatur does not have the PJ. Expect Jackson – the champion of the little people – to support spending millions in the PJ when Decatur is falling apart.)

- Jackson voted to deny a new ambulance service to Decatur - the old service when busted and the new service has cut response times. How many lives were saved due to this change?

- Jackson pushed to get his brother promoted to Fire Chief.

- Jackson refused to have his picture made with the mayor and council (ever read that in THE DECATUR DAILY)

- Jackson has numerous relatives employed by government over the years (I do not think Kirby has any)

- as Council President, Jackson pushed to get council work sessions moved from the council chambers to the 7th floor (the fact that the sound system hinders television coverage was not a factor in making the decision)

If Jackson liked "outsider" Kirby so much - why didn't Jackson support Kirby in his election against Russell? So Council President Jackson opposed the "outsider."

Does that mean Council President Jackson supported an "insider?"

Ironically, Jackson and Kirby seem to vote more alike than other council members on big issues.

Both voted

- against the Depot spending,

- against the Bass Pro spending

- against trying to force a mayor-council form of government that would have in all likelihood eliminate minority representation on the council and the schools.

- against the recent utility increase

So what is the difference? When Kirby takes a stand, it does not get personal.

Even when Kirby votes against the majority, he continues to work with them and be civil.

Pamela Blakely

I wonder why Dwight, your I hate Decatur Daily movement is so strong. You still read the paper you claim to dislike daily. And how do you know their circulation is dropping like a rock? This article was about Chuck Kirby, not Mr. Jackson.

Donald Edwards

I agree with Susan. Well said.

charles kirby

Some problems with these "Assumsptions": ONE- other cities ARE struggling with providing basic services. Athens has a tax vote coming real soon. Media has run numerous strories on numerous cities citing deminished revenues. TWO - The city of Decatur doesn't have one thing to do with building schools (necessary or unnecessary). If you have a problem with "School plans", attend school board meetings like I did and express your feelings to them. THREE - others haven't figured out what is claimed, or they wouldn't be holding tax increase votes and many others investigating what kinds of taxes they could increase. Perhaps some fact finding of the real issues instead of blaming all on the council would be appropriate. Shucks, even go to a meeting (work session) to ask questions, as I did for years to get information different than "street rumor". Yes, my voting record indicates different than negative claims. As far as being able to speak only at work sessions, that limitation was initiated by former council president Jackson prior to 2012. Since the entities (business & residence) in the Police Jurisdiction do recieve services without paying appropriate revenues to the city (their taxes are paid to Morgan County) we have indeed identifed where revenues are being bled. It is difficult to get consensus on changing something that has been done wrong for decades. The PJ makes it difficult to buy police cars, the PJ makes it hard to buy sanitation trucks, the PJ keeps our employees from getting a pay raise....and on and on. Police cars getting old, new fire trucks needs, new sanitation trucks needed are old problems that weren't solved 4 years ago, not 8 years ago and not 12 years ago. So the assumption to "they" suddenly have made the problem is a FANTASY.

Charlie Specoli

Mr. Kirby, once again I must say I don't think it is very professional for an office holder such as yourself to be trading "verbal jabs" on here as you do. Second, I as a citizen of Decatur does not care if the streets are in bad shape in other cities. We are talking about DECATUR sir. The PJ is not keeping employees from getting raises. We have had the PJ for decades and raises were once done on a regular basis with the PJ in place. Police cars and fire trucks and sanitation trucks are old for the same reasons employees don't get raises. Poor fiscal planning. It is not just limited to this council, it has happened before but this council is just now starting to talk about it, it is an election year after all.

It is simple, you don't commit city money to "projects" like an old RR depot, an outside theater etc. unless basic services are funded first. Too long the council and the mayor have ignored or cut requests for new vehicles. Hint, you have to have them so budget for them. Too long employees have gone with no raises. Retired employees get no cost of living raises, a tradition started by other councils because the last one they recieved was about 12 to 14 years ago. The problem is the lack of a plan.

The citizens want their basic services funded , and frankly it has not been done right in years. You have to stop with this "other city stuff" no one is talking about other cities. Do you realize that for example that there are 11 year old police cars in the fleet? Garbage trucks that are falling apart? Why? The lack of a plan, a plan that just now you and other councilmen and the mayor are talking about putting in place. JUST NOW. So the question is....why has there not been a plan already? No plan for basic services,no plan for employees and retirees, no plan for vehicle replacement and you really think this is responsible government management? Maybe less "verbal jabbing" here, less comparing us to other cities, and more effort in responsible fiscal planning.

I know you are a good person, and I appreciate the sacrifice you make serving, but some of these excuses are lame. Way overdue for a plan!

charles kirby

So, Mr. Cavnar, you also saw what the annonymity of the web did during a recent election. And, you want to present that viscious attacks supporting a specific agenda and bassed upon myth and lacking in facts should be praised!? I guess you think that is appropriate depending on whether you agree with the "opinion" or not. Bad behavior is bad behavior regardless of who initiates it.You can postulate all you want to about where basic spending should be, but go get your facts from the city clerk.....NOT THE ATTACK CLOWNS ON HERE. My voting record does not support what you read here. There is only one on the council who deosn't get along with everyone else because the rest want to help Decatur. Being obnoxious to everyone is not a trait to be praised. It is damaging to the community and to getting anything done. AND YES, the economy is tighter than years past and that is why the wasteful spending in the PJ is costing employees from getting raises and stressing budgets for services. It was just ignored for years and avoided when hte economic conditions covered it up. otherwise, the Fowler administration would not have raised taxes. There is one member from that administration left. That council person DID VOTE TO RAISE TAXES. AND did posture that he was against the tax. At least Lynn Fowler was honest about his support of the tax. Also, completness of details becomes important. Such as the real total cost of anything and the sustainable re-occuring costs versus one-time expenses. I wasn't thrilled about the amphitheatre but a lot of Decatur citizens were and the vast majority of the costs were paid by private donantions. Being against anything is one thing, knowing what you are talking about and being complete and truthful are something else. I do invite you to call and set up a meeting to discuss anything you wish instead of being part of a mindless attack squad steered by someone with a specific agenda. The clerk's office has my phone number and will give it to anyone who identifies themself. I only answer calls originatin from phones with caller ID. Aligning yourself with a mob mentality is not going to serve any legitimate purpose. I look forward to your call.

Charlie Specoli

Mr. Kirby, your response to my opinion completely lacks professionalism. I appreciate the invite, but due to the lack of professionalism with your response, I believe I will pass. Responses like this will make it very easy for your opposition in the next election.

I do not belong to a MOB for your information, and I resent you implying that I do. Trust me sir, I do my homework. You seem to take these comments on here personal, and with some I can see where you could. All I did was express my opinion and you say I have a mob mentality? Why on earth would I make an appointment to talk to someone that would make that uneducated assertion?

It is not worth my time, and you sir as an elected should refrain from such comments to the public you serve.

Susan Smith

He is correct that when you get right down to it people want good streets, garbage picked up, basic city services, but I don't see that Kirby, or any of the council, have made those very basic services a priority. And blaming the economy for failure to do so is just ludicrous when cities all around us are thriving and certainly not struggling just to provide the most basic of services. Decatur needs to put ALL of its "wouldn't that be cool?" projects on indefinite hold until they can figure out and master Running a City 101: How to Provide Primary City Services Effectively. Planning new ballparks and unnecessary schools when we can't get enough trucks running to pick up garbage or city properties mowed in the summer is insane. Send the entire City Council to perform extensive research on how the city of Huntsville or even just Athens is run. They figured out how to thrive without blaming the economy or each other. Decatur just never has.

charles kirby

Susan, you are entitled to whatever you want to believe. My voting record doesn't say what you claim. Additionally you have no clue what things like new ballparks can do for our citizens' quality of life of new revenue from events that draw tourists. Without those types of things you would be paying higher taxes already. I have never presented "cool" projects. I have presented several that make good sense.

Susan Smith

My point, which you apparently missed, is what have you presented that will improve or even just provide BASIC CITY SERVICES, which are sorely lacking? Infighting between the council, the mayor and city departments have resulted in stagnation and deterioration of services, not improvements. Step back and look at the core services a city is supposed to provide and how poorly that is done. Drive a city street, if you can dodge the potholes and cracks, observe the debris that never gets picked up, the causeways that are not mowed. This is Government 101 and Decatur is failing at that most basic level. And sadly always has. It's why we are decades and decades behind every nearby city. And also sadly always will be. Councilmen like Kirby would rather do what ALL politicians do, defend their individual beliefs about their own records to the death rather than really look at Decatur's CORE problems and how to resolve them. Improve the quality of life on MY street and on my neighbor's street and only THEN will either of us want to talk about a ballpark plan or new soccer field locker rooms that will get used a couple dozen days a year. Huntsville and other surrounding cities can afford to have wonderful, well thought out long-term plans because they have already mastered the short term, day to day running of the city. Decatur has not.

Kirby=Loser #1

Charles Jett is such a hypocritical buffoon. He is just happy to be one of the guys now and doesn't even remember his district. #loser [thumbdown]

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