No More Mr. Nice Guy
After scolding the Birmingham City Council for breaking with tradition, Council President Lee Loder promised that he, too, would ignore future committee recommendations and follow his conscience. Irate that his Administration Committee’s nomination of Emory Anthony to the Birmingham Water Works Board was ignored by the rest of the council, Loder cried foul. On February 4, a council majority instead approved the appointment of former city councilor David Herring to replace member Miles Creel. Loder cited the council move as “unprecedented,” and vowed to show similar consideration for other nominees to committees. He openly reflected on what a good sport he had been in the past. “To my knowledge, I have not opposed any recommendation from any other committee,” said Loder, acknowledging his past record of “courtesy and respect,” despite his past convictions that other candidates would have made better choices for appointment to a particular board.
Councilors Loder, Joel Montgomery, and Bert Miller, the trio that makes up the Administration Committee, supported former mayoral candidate Emory Anthony, a local attorney who had been hired by Mayor Kincaid to retain control of Water Works assets. Loder objected that the committee was rushed into choosing a candidate for the Water Works Board, noting that vacancies on other boards had existed for up to a year. “This Council has decided that whenever five folks have made up their mind about something, that we have no regard for the other four, [and] that rings so familiar in my mind as something I experienced for two-and-a-half years on the previous council.”
Councilor Valerie Abbott argued that the appointment did indeed go through the proper channels, but the Administration Committee took too long. “It went through committee, and the committee could not make a decision.” Lauding Herring, whom she nominated, Abbott noted, “David Herring gave 20 years of his time and life to service of this city. He has a strong financial background, which is deeply needed on the Water Works Board. He has time to develop policy, which it doesn’t seem we’ve had a lot of policy development recently at the Water Works Board. And he has a character beyond reproach.” Councilor Joel Montgomery joined Loder in voicing displeasure over the perceived political coup. “I don’t know where this nomination came from, other than from five people deciding to circumvent the Administration Committee.” Montgomery complained that the council did not go through “proper procedures,” warning that “chaos ensues when you don’t have rules, order, procedures, and guidelines that everybody agreed to. Folks, we even took your money down to Prattville-I didn’t go-on a retreat, so that we could all learn to get along . . . well, I don’t hear anybody singing ‘Kumbaya’ on this one.”
Loder has been praised as a “nice guy” by even his most determined antagonists. According to at least one council assistant whose boss has regularly supported Loder, this is his vulnerable spot. Loder’s cordial manner with disruptive councilors-who wink as they ignore his authority-has done little to quell Loder’s critics. Four years ago, he entered Birmingham politics as a fresh political face openly rebelling against Richard Arrington’s Citizens Coalition, to whom he had once pledged allegiance. Regarded with respectful tones around City Hall as a viable candidate for mayor, Loder has lost a step as his understated but confident stroll has turned to tip-toeing around others so as not to create too much of a commotion. His mayoral support has reportedly withered with his crumbling spine. Declaring himself a “big boy” who could accept a slap in the face from his older but more inexperienced colleagues regarding the Water Works Board appointment, all Loder could do was whine.