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Bowie reminisces on 12 years on city council

With the swearing in of Selma’s newest slate of local leaders Monday, Selma City Council President Corey Bowie caps off 12 years as a member of the Selma City Council, first as a representative of Ward 8 and finally as the council’s leader.

Bowie was elected in 2008 to represent Ward 8, one of the city’s largest, and was elected in 2010 by the council to serve as President Pro-Tem, taking over oversight duties in the absence of then-Selma City Council President Cecil Williamson.

“During that time, I guess it was divine intervention where, during my 2010 tenure, Cecil Williamson took ill and that’s when I began serving as president in my pro-tem role, as well as council person for the ward,” Bowie said. “During my tenure, I can say I was always putting the citizens first.”

Bowie ran for reelection to the president’s seat in 2012, ultimately winning out in a run-off to serve under Selma Mayor George Evans, who Bowie lauded for being cooperative and diligent.

“We had a great team,” Bowie said. “We worked together for the common good.”

Bowie noted that, among his achievements during his first stint as council president, reaching a consensus with local club owners to curb gun violence in the area was a big success – the ordinance required club owners to install security cameras and hire certified guards, as well as meet annually with the city’s police chief to submit a security plan.

“Prior to that, we had a rash of shootings downtown in the club area,” Bowie said. “But crime dropped due to that ordinance and we had a relationship between the club owners and the municipal government and police chief. The clubs are part of the quality of life – we’ve got to give citizens something to do – so that was crucial.”

Bowie also celebrated his “Gearing Up for College” initiative, launched during his first tenure as president, which sought to connect high school seniors with resources to provide them with a broad perspective on what opportunities awaited them after graduation.

Bowie also added stamps back to tobacco products in the city, which generated 16-cents per product sold for the city.

Broadly, Bowie remembered the years between 2012 and 2016 as years of, if nothing else, functionality.

“We shared different visions sometimes, we may not have agreed on everything, but at the end of the day we worked for the common god,” Bowie said.

But 2016 saw the beginning of the end for cohesion in city government, as Selma Mayor Darrio Melton’s administration turned on its head the traditions employed by his predecessor.

Bowie noted that his second tenure as council president saw him ebbing away from legislative duties and into executive duties, which he was forced to take on when Melton refused to move on various requests for assistance put forth by the council.

While Bowie celebrated the fact that the council was able to rename the walking trail at Bloch Park in honor of local veterans, he bemoaned the fact that efforts to bring a land bank to the city, which would have worked to remove and refurbish dilapidated properties, never panned out, as well as efforts to bring in an accountant to assist with finances in the absence of Selma City Treasurer Ronita Wade due to multiple removals from office and implement team-building exercises to encourage cohesion on the council.

“I know we’ve been criticized about the financial side of the city, but I did try to bring in an accountant from a local area on two or three occasions, but that didn’t materialize,” Bowie said. “I also tried to reduce some of that friction in the council meetings by bringing in someone to do team-building exercises early on, but that didn’t come through.”

One of his biggest regrets during the last four years was not working more closely with the Selma-Dallas County Economic Development Administration (EDA) and the Selma-Dallas County Chamber of Commerce “to make Selma more appealing for industries to come into the city.”

“I wish I would have taken more of an interest with that,” Bowie said.

Still, he celebrated the installation of a police precinct near George Washington Carver (GWC) Homes and the creation of a council Education Committee, as well as his work leading the fire and police chief selection processes.

“As council president I always viewed myself as a consensus builder,” Bowie said.

Bowie, who works at Wallace Community College-Selma (WCCS) leading the school’s Talent Search Program, serving as Student Government Association (SGA) advisor and overseeing retention, asserts he will still be involved in the city’s functioning and has high hopes for the incoming council.

“Even though I may be leaving 222 Broad Street, I will still have that service heart and mind for the citizens,” Bowie said. “The best thing I can hope to see from the new council is to stay unified, be very candid with one another, don’t have a smiling face and then stab one another in the back for self-gain. Work together collectively. My charge to this new administration is to be on one accord – if you have to fight, have your disagreements behind closed doors, don’t bring it before the public because the citizens of Selma deserve your best at all times.”