Do you want to meet the Dothan resident that’s currently running for congress? In this episode of “Home Grown,” we’re going to talk to Vimal Patel, a candidate for the second congressional district seat for US representatives. We’ll learn about his background and find out how he plans to support the community if elected.
Meet Vimal Patel
Vimal Patel is running for the second congressional district seat for US representatives. Originally from Troy, Alabama, he moved to Dothan when his wife got pregnant. Troy didn't have an OBGYN, so it was the difference between having to travel for an hour or just moving to Dothan. So they moved to Dothan, and have been here since.
Vimal and his wife have an experience in the hotel industry. They built a few hotels back in the 1990s, which they still run and manage today. The congressional seat has always been what Vimal has been looking towards, as that's really where the will of the people is represented.
After attending Auburn University with a political science degree, he came out with a choice between going to law school or getting straight into business. Vimal believes the business background is much more important when it comes to the congressional seat.
Credibility And Growth
When it comes to the credibility to run for this office, Vimal says we really have to figure out how we want to define credibility. He’s not behind career politicians; he doesn’t like the idea of having made commitments a decade or two ago that has to be fulfilled today. He’s not one of them.
Vimal has never run for a political office besides fourth-grade treasurer—and he didn't win that one. He really wants to win this election for vindication purposes. With the success that stems from a big business background, Vimal has been able to build great teams. He believes that's what we really need to push forward. Do we really want career politicians, or do we want somebody who can build a big team and have no 20-year-old promises they need to fulfill today?
The Wiregrass area is experiencing a lot of growth and a lot of success. However, there are always things that can be improved upon to further grow the success we're seeing in South Alabama. Vimal and other young leaders were invited to Fort Rucker, a place he feels is the heartbeat of the Wiregrass. More attention needs to be dedicated there, and a congressional seat is the perfect way to make sure that the impact Fort Rucker has continues to expand and not retract.
Vimal is also involved a lot with zoning. If he could make one single change to our zoning code, what would that be? Vimal loves the planning and zoning department; as a businessman, getting an inside look at how things are done has been a real eye-opener for him.
If there was one change he would make, it would be to make sure that businesses always feel welcome, wanted, and respected—not only in Dothan but in our entire district. The Dothan and Wiregrass area are known as the regional leaders when it comes to jobs, health care, and everything else.
With Fort Rucker being the home of Army Aviation, military from all over the country and the world move in and out of the Wiregrass area. These servicemen and women are such an integral part of the big growth that we're seeing—whether they’re active duty or retired veterans opening or supporting small businesses.
Supporting Small Business
As a business owner, Vimal has the experience and knowledge to champion small businesses. While there’s a laundry list of what can be done to protect Dothan’s small businesses, Vimal doesn’t feel like he’s protected on either side of the aisle. Thankfully, his office has field directors specifically dedicated to small businesses.
For example, there were certain programs—even during the pandemic—that a lot of Vimal’s friends didn't even know about, such as state-awarded grants. It’s important to give credit to our Chamber of Commerce, as they do a phenomenal job of making sure we are aware of things that positively impact small businesses. This includes monthly breakdowns and statistics.
The Chamber of Commerce has helped out members and small businesses throughout the community, even as the pandemic has thrown a challenge at so many people. Without everybody working together, there are a whole lot of things that people would have just missed out on or not known about without that support.
Lighting Up The City
I asked Vimal what he would do if South Alabama was given a million-dollar grant from the state—or if Jeff Bezos decided to wave his magic wand and give us a billion dollars or more. If there was a grant he could put his stamp on and make happen for South Alabama’s Second District, what would that be?
Vimal has actually started talking to some local leaders about this, floating the idea of an aesthetics committee. For example, when you drive into the city, what is your impression of Dothan? Every time he’s come through, Vimal always thinks we need to be better lit than we are. Dothan needs more lights—which cost adds up very quickly.
With that said, there are so many great towns throughout our area—Dothan included. The downtown area of any town or small city is very important. As we see communities grow and expand throughout the Wiregrass area, they expand outward.
With all of this outward expansion, I asked Vimal if it was a positive thing or if there should be more attention focused on cleaning up and developing from within. Vimal would love to have his cake and eat it, too; there's a good avenue to encourage and empower both areas.
When we talk about new construction, development, or moving out, the attention to revitalizing downtown Dothan from our leadership is unbelievable. Vimal tells us there’s a board that's dedicated to this, and the Commission has a big hand in supporting this endeavor.
Healthcare And Transportation
There are also pockets of health care throughout the Wiregrass that have grown. For example, Dothan has two hospitals plus ACOM, the medical school—in addition to tons of other offices and clinics. Clinics, different doctor’s offices, and regional medical centers are popping up in different neighboring towns as well.
As that healthcare grows, people in rural settings may not have the transportation needed to get back and forth to those appointments. Vimal feels that we’re definitely behind the curve when it comes to having a complete, dedicated public transportation source. There’s no shortage of what could be done better in this regard.
With the emergence of things like Uber Eats or takeout delivery, you now have infrastructure being put into place in the private sector. Vimal would love to find a way to utilize these services to help with things like transportation. Older veterans, for example, have the money to buy what they need. The issue is that they just can't physically get to the grocery store. Why not enlist the help of drivers that are sitting and waiting in their cars? It would be a win-win for everybody involved.
Some of these older people might simply not know how to set up an account for Uber or Lyft. They often just want someone to pick them up, take them to Walmart, let them get their groceries, and then get a ride back home. A voucher program or something similar to utilize Uber or Lyft as a resource might be a good option for transportation.
Listening To The People
Vimal believes that any local, elected leader should have a clear-cut time that their constituency knows they're going to be in their office. They should want to hear from their constituency, which is really the crux of the issue. A lot of folks get reelected and then go back to fundraising.
The reason Vimal is running is that he wants to give everything he’s got towards meaningful education, reform, championing small business, and making sure that our first and second amendments don't just become political footballs—where we end up losing two key critical things that establish the sovereignty of our nation.
If elected, Vimal wants to get on education reform. He finds a lot more resistance to education reform than he expected, even though everyone agrees that we have to empower our teachers more. The teachers are overloaded, and the infrastructure of the buildings doesn't support what they're trying to get done. Vimal also thinks nobody should dispute the fact that teachers need to be paid more, period.
As a small business owner, Vimal wants to support other businesses. He has four or five different hotels and motels, a real estate broker license, and a laundromat—all in District 2. He doesn’t feel like there's a true advocate for small business owners, besides maybe the chamber of commerce—which is more of an advocate than anybody else.
Vote For Vimal Patel
Vimal believes that all of his plans are very easily achievable things. So if you’d like to have a small business owner representing our district, make sure to vote for Vimal Patel.
Don’t forget to subscribe to the channel so you never miss an episode of “Home Grown,” my show all about Dothan and our Wiregrass community. See you on the next video!