Ronald Allen, known by some as the “no” man of the Huntsville City Council, is retiring from the position of council member of Ward 3 after fulfilling his term limit. As Allen tells it, the council didn’t seem ready for a humble man raised right off Highway 130.
In this interview, Allen reflects on his political career trying to achieve one thing: a “common plan” for his “common man.”
Describe one of your most rewarding experiences as the Ward 3 council member.
I guess it would be to bring attention to Ward 3, and I hope that I’ve accomplished things that needed to be done. I tried to get Ward 3 on the same level as the rest of the wards, and I hope I did. I hope I did.
What were some things that you were advocating for [in Ward 3] in your position?
The first thing is that Ward 3, and I don’t mean this derogatively, is basically a meat and potato ward. In other words, the people like me, who have lived there their whole life, just want the basic city services.
We want our ditches clean, we want our potholes fixed, we want our streets paved and when we call, we want police protection. We aren’t asking for special treatment, we’re just asking for the things we deserve and the things we pay our taxes to get.
So, certainly not all those pools, golf courses and the like?
Oh no. We’re just simple people who work, pay our bills, go home, try to figure out how to get our kids educated and that’s it. But sometimes you have to rock the boat to get some attention brought to this ward.
There aren’t many people that grew up like I did in Boettcher’s Mill and ever figured that they would get elected into public office, and I can say that I was lucky enough to stick it to the man before I passed on.
How did your upbringing influence your position on the council?
To be honest with you, because of my upbringing, I did not totally trust anybody in positions. I saw how things were and how people were treated. So, I went in there with a chip on my shoulder, but I never took anything for face value. That’s me.
What would you consider your most memorable moment?
Oh, the Safe Route to School sidewalk program. This is when the federal government gives money to the states and then to the cities to build sidewalks to the different schools. Well, every one of them was in my ward.
After being there for six months, I was getting complaints. The company that was building the sidewalks was tearing stuff up, jumping from area to area in people’s driveways. It was a mess, but I got another construction company in there and they finished the work. And that right there was the biggest headache I had on the council.
Serving on the council is understandably long nights and longer mornings, but what do you believe you’ve contributed to the city in your endeavors?
I think that I really tried to read the agenda and tried to understand it. I watched things closer than some. When I got the agenda, I studied it, asked questions and got opinions from others who weren’t in city government because I wanted my vote to matter. That, and I never voted for a property tax increase.
They call you the “no” man, where did you get this infamous name from, and how did this influence your advocacy for your ward?
When I first got there, they kept telling me that I had to be a team player. Well, I didn’t run to be a team player, I ran to be an independent mind and to serve my ward. I voted what I thought was right, and sometimes that was a lot of no’s.
Define the highlight of your career as a council member.
The first one was the only one voting against purchasing the old hospital to turn it into a police and fire station complex and the second was being sanctioned. I think those two moments really showed them that I was not a part of the establishment.
With your political career seemingly at rest, what do you look forward to in your retirement?
My retirement is that I get six nights off and don’t have to spend every weekend reading an agenda. I can actually just work, and its already started, and I sure feel better. I think my blood pressure went down too. I didn’t think I would feel better, but I do.
Well, you sure did leave your mark.
It’s better to leave your mark, whether it’s good or bad.