Wade on Birmingham

Carole Smitherman becomes Birmingham’s first female mayor

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Another Alabamian, Regina Benjamin, wins Senate confirmation as surgeon general

Video: Interim mayor Carole Smitherman promises transparency

With Larry Langford’s automatic removal from office for his federal conviction, Birmingham city council president Carole Smitherman became the interim mayor, making her the first woman to hold the city’s highest office in its 138-year history.

Smitherman, an attorney, ran unsuccessfully for mayor in 2003 and 2007. She was the first black woman in Alabama to serve as circuit court judge.

Her term as mayor may be short lived. The newly elected council takes charge Nov. 24, at which point it can select her or someone else as council president/interim mayor. Smitherman has not announced whether she’ll run in the special election for mayor, which will be held within the next 90 days or so.

She released this statement Wednesday, shortly after Langford’s conviction:

It is with a heavy heart that I assume the duties of acting mayor. This is a sad day for my friend, Larry Langford, his family, our city and the state.

Birmingham is a great city known for her ability to use her resources and her people to rise above adversity. Birmingham will prevail. In this time of tribulation, it is imperative that the leadership of this City stands united and ready to deal with our challenges. We must serve the people who elected us and depend upon us.

Tomorrow morning, I will begin meeting with the executive staff of the Mayor’s Office. At 10:00 a.m., we will hold a press conference in Council Chambers at City Hall. I am asking that all my fellow city councilors join me. Tomorrow afternoon, I will meet with other city employees as we plan a seamless transition.

Tonight, I will attend church with my family and visit with my friend, Larry Langford. Tomorrow we will begin the process of moving the city forward.

Thursday, she promised to investigate city finances but also to continue Langford’s projects. She told the media:

“I am deeply aware that you have not elected me as mayor by your ballots, but I fervently hope that you will elect me with your prayers. I did not seek this responsibility, but I will not be intimidated by it.”

Also, this week saw another Alabamian on the rise.

Mobile’s Regina Benjamin was confirmed Thursday by the Senate as the next surgeon general. Sen. Jeff Sessions said in a statement, “The American people will undoubtedly benefit from her knowledge and unwavering dedication to improving the public’s health and wellness.” [See "10 things you didn’t know about surgeon general nominee Dr. Regina Benjamin."]

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