Hisel declares mayoral candidacy

Published 12:00 am Sunday, February 22, 2004

Gene Hisel wants Selma’s controversy to end and for its people to realize their dreams – that’s why he’s running for mayor.

Hisel, the owner of Highland Avenue BP, declared his candidacy Saturday afternoon in front of 1 Broad St. Peace and harmony were the constant themes of his speech, but he also spoke of issues ranging from Selma’s crime to government accountability.

“City leaders must be accountable for peace and be responsible for it,” Hisel said. “The city leaders should set the tone of the city’s atmosphere, and they should be held accountable for it.”

Hisel said he chose to run because of his love for Selma. “I’m taking a stand to make a difference,” he said. “To help people realize their dreams and realize their goals.”

Hisel’s goals for Selma include higher wages for city employees, more jobs and an end to controversy in city government. Holding a copy of the city’s budget, Hisel said some city employees that had been working for 15 years with the city only made about $7 per hour. “How many of us could survive on what this city is paying its employees?” Hisel asked.

Concerning bringing new jobs to the area, Hisel said that Selma had a workforce strong in numbers and ready to work. “Selma has several sites for industry,” he said. “The Alabama River runs right through our town. Many cities can’t boast that.”

But many industries aren’t interested in Selma because of its controversy, Hisel added. “We should let the police department do their jobs without controversy from city leadership,” he said. “We should ensure we have enough police officers on the streets. Anytime you have controversy, it breeds contempt and contempt breeds lawlessness.”

Hisel said he believed the creation of Selma’s crime task force caused conflict in the city. “We have 600 to 700 years of cumulative experience in the police department, and we appointed lay people to direct law enforcement,” he said. “I think that was detrimental to the police department.”

Hisel said keeping the current balance of power between the mayor and City Council could solve controversy between the two. “The council should have the power to appoint department heads,” he said. “I think the power allocated to the mayor and council to direct the city adheres to the checks and balances in city government.”

Concerning the number of executive sessions, Hisel said they penalized Selmians. “A closed session for the council is not required unless a matter of great magnitude or sensitivity is present,” he added.

Ultimately, the only way Selma could stop the controversy was to replace its current leadership, Hisel said. “It’s important that people realize that there’s a light at the end of the tunnel,” he added.

Hisel came to Selma in 1968. He spent eight years in the Air Force and one year in Vietnam. He received 31 awards with the Air Force as well as an honorable discharge.

He has a degree in applied science criminal justice and has been a businessman in Selma for 26 years.

Hisel has been married for 35 years. He has three children and six grandchildren.