By William C. Singleton III
Unlike his two previous elections, Vestavia Hills Mayor Alberto “Butch” Zaragoza has competition in his attempt to win a third term next month.
Zaragoza, who ran unopposed in 2008 and 2012, will face retired FBI agent Ashley Curry for the right to become mayor when Vestavia Hills residents go to the polls Aug. 23.
Both candidates stressed the importance of economic development in the city, and Curry said he wanted to push for more transparent government operations.
Zaragoza, a retired Vestavia Hills fire chief, said he wants to continue the positive path the council and his administration have set for Vestavia Hills.
“I really feel we have made every effort to move the city of Vestavia Hills forward, and I still feel like I can bring some value to the community,” Zaragoza said.
In particular, Vestavia Hills has made great strides in economic development, as seen in the revitalization of the U.S. 31 corridor in the city, he said. After retail establishments such as Ruby Tuesdays and Pizza Hut abandoned their locations along U.S. 31, the city worked with developers to pave the way for a Sprouts Farmers Market and a 34,000-square-foot retail development in the same spot.
The city also has relocated city functions to a new municipal complex, selling its old site at 513 Montgomery Highway, which also is U.S. 31. Chick-Fil-A bought the property and opened a restaurant July 20.
Zaragoza said these investments have generated more tax dollars to help the city with other projects such as improving parks and recreation.
“You look at the turnaround in sales tax we’ve been able to bring into the community and the increase in ad valorem tax,” Zaragoza said. “It translates into being able to provide services and needs that we have in our community.”
Zaragoza, 70, and his wife, Diane, have been married for 47 years. They have two adult twin children and four grandchildren.
Curry, 66, said he, too, wants to continue to move the city of Vestavia Hills forward.
“I’ve got a vested interest in Vestavia Hills,” he said. “I’ve lived here for 30 years. My children grew up here and went through the schools, and I have grandchildren about to enter the schools and I want to be involved in my city.”
Curry has served both on the city’s parks and recreation board and the library board. He said he wants to make sure the Vestavia Hills school system maintains its excellent educational standard and further expand economic development opportunities.
He also said he believes city government can be more transparent.
“I hear from residents that they feel like city government has not been transparent, but I think what they’re talking about there is that they don’t feel as if they’re getting access to information and able to contribute input into decision making,” Curry said. “And I like the fact that coming from an FBI background, our job was to investigate and get all the facts. What I would hope as mayor is that I and our council would get all of the information and all of the input from citizens before we make some decision.”
Curry and his wife, Marga, have been married for 44 years. The couple has two adult children and four grandchildren.