Decatur Mayor Tab Bowling would like to hire former Fairhope Mayor Tim Kant to advise the city, for $1,500 a month, on issues like beautification, litter and city operations.
Bowling this week proposed an agreement with Kant that would initially run for 90 days and could be extended if successful. The proposal made during the City Council's work session would require Kant to travel to Decatur twice a month.
Bowling said he and Council President Jacob Ladner were introduced to Kant in December by Sen. Arthur Orr and Rep. Terri Collins, members of the local state legislative delegation.
“The discussion focused on the numerous areas where Tim could help the city of Decatur in beautification and litter control,” Bowling said.
Councilman Carlton McMasters said he’s usually against the city hiring consultants “but $1,500 a month would be a bargain” if Kant can help find a way to conquer the litter problem. He said he and his daughter helped a group last weekend pick up 2,000 pounds of litter in the city.
“I would like to see us get proactive and do anything we can to beautify this city,” McMasters said.
Ladner also said the cost is low enough that the city could benefit from Kant’s help.
Councilman Billy Jackson said he won’t support hiring Kant because of the uncertainty of the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on city finances. He said there are many other city priorities that need to be addressed before hiring Kant.
“That’s so far off on the horizon, I don’t see supporting the proposal right now,” Jackson said of hiring a consultant.
Jackson said the city “needs to take care of nuts and bolt right now” and not spend money on a consultant for beautification.
Bowling said Kant was successful in finding available federal money and bringing it to Fairhope, “which is very nice and something he believes he can do for Decatur.”
Bowling said getting federal grants could become more difficult now that the presidential administration is Democratic while Alabama is a Republican stronghold.
Orr said he and Collins were “impressed with the depth and breadth” of the former mayor’s knowledge and what he’s done in Fairhope. This city on the Gulf Coast grew from about 12,500 in population when Kant became mayor to about 23,300 today.
“I’ve been across to Fairhope multiple times when I’ve traveled to the Gulf Coast, and it’s a beautiful city,” Orr said. “There are a lot of historic homes and a historic district downtown that’s a real draw.”
A 1977 Auburn University graduate with a horticulture degree, Kant was hired in 1983 as Fairhope’s first horticulturalist. He added waste management, streets and volunteer fire department chief to his duties before his election as mayor in 2000. He then served as mayor for four terms totaling 16 years. He lost in his bid for a fifth term in 2016.
“I have a lot of knowledge of landscaping, beautification and a lot of municipal experience,” Fant said Wednesday. “I think I can help the mayor and City Council be more effective in taking care of the citizens’ needs. I want to see if we can help the city grow.”
Fant said he is consulting with Lanett to help that city renovate its downtown, build up its economy “and whatever the mayor needs.” He also worked with a Mobile hospital.
“It’s refreshing to meet new people, see other cities and help the cities in Alabama improve,” Fant said.
After touring Decatur with the former mayor, Orr said he thinks Decatur would benefit from Fant’s experience in multiple areas of running a city.
“Cities no longer operate in a silo,” Orr said. “And, as I’ve tried to do on the state level, I think it is good to occasionally have someone ask, ‘Why are you doing something this way?’ Or, ‘Is there a better way to do this?’”
Orr said Kant can help city officials “establish some priorities in the way they deliver city services and achieve some efficiency of scale.”
Bowling said he believes $4,500 for three months “would be worth it if Kant can just be successful if showing us something new in beautifying the city.”