Would you like to get to know Dothan’s newly elected District 3 City Commissioner? In this episode of “Home Grown,” we’re going to chat with City Commissioner Bradley Bedwell, a local business owner, husband, and father of two. We’ll learn more about his interests, background, and plans to build up the Dothan community.
Meet Bradley Bedwell
Originally from Selma, Bradley went to college at Auburn University – Montgomery, where he got his accounting degree. He went on to get his Certified Public Accountant, Certified Internal Auditor, and Certified Management Accountant designations. Just recently, Bradley also got his Home Builders License and the NACLA’s state contractor license.
As a husband and father of two boys, Bradley had a dream to be on the City Commission as part of the leadership of Dothan. In 2017, he had a chance to sit in the same chamber chair he serves in now—and that’s when told himself he was going to run for the position.
The New City Commissioner
Bradley ran against a long-term incumbent in a 7-month long campaign. This length of time was a relief, as it was only the two of them running against each other for 5 months. He and his opponent, Albert Kirkland, had breakfast every morning together, and both of them campaigned hard. Although Bradley ultimately won the election, the pair are still friends—and they still eat breakfast together 3 days out of the week.
In addition to his career experience and family role, Bradley is also a small business owner and is training to get his pilot’s license. If you want to play it safe, Bradley says, you can go work for someone else and get your salary. But if you’re self-employed, you might as well go for it and do all the things you want to do. What’s holding you back? You're already out there, and if you don't gather, you don't eat.
I admire Bradley’s drive, encouragement, and support—and he has great plans for Dothan.
Growth And Expansion
Dothan—and the Wiregrass area as a whole—is booming and growing by leaps and bounds. Bradley believes that if we're stagnant and have older neighborhoods, especially in District 3, there needs to be new growth to keep other areas up. Government isn't anything but a business when you get down to it. If you’re not growing, you're dying.
With that growth comes the inevitable growing pains, so it’s important to be compassionate. The best thing that could happen to Dothan is substantial growth in the next few years, and Bradley believes we need to be strategic. Take In-N-Out Burger as an example. Everybody loves new, and new is great. But you don’t need to build something new just because it’s new.
A focus on a nice, new commercial space or new apartments near ACOM would be an ideal option. This could bring together living spaces and amenities like coffee shops, book stores, and walkability to Publix and other shopping options. Would another strip mall with 75% occupancy be good? Not so much.
Another thing that’s needed is revitalizing the assets that the city already has. That's one thing Bradley has seen done on the commission. For example, they took over a lot of their own grass cutting instead of contracting the work out. Locals will notice a lot more green spaces are being cut in the city, making everything look nicer, cleaner, and more cohesive. Simple things like that can make an older building look nice.
Bradley says it’s all about getting new industry in here and more citizens here, people that add to the economic development of the area and the workforce. Revitalization starts from within, and Bradley says the city has big plans for downtown Dothan. Instead of trying to do everything at once, they plan to start small in one, doable area to show the stakeholders, citizens, and private investors that the city is serious about making changes.
Hopefully, Dothan will boom as we’ve never seen before. Even now, the businesses and activities in the downtown area are the strongest we’ve seen in years. The recent Dothan Ice & Lights was a great success, with so many of the locals coming out to the skating rink. Other additions, like the ACOM Trail to the east, have gotten people really excited about downtown—but then not much happened after that.
The growth, however, is slow and steady. One of Bradley’s biggest surprises coming into the office is how sharp the city workers and city management are. They actually care about the area. If you've never been inside the city, our government workers are fantastic. The city is getting hyper-focused on the area where they can really make a difference.
Zoning And Changes
I asked Bradley if there was one change that he could make to the zoning code, what would that be? For one, he would love to get citizens more familiar with zoning codes. He used to feel that the zoning board were the worst people in Dothan before he got elected. Now, he thinks highly of Tom McDonald.
At the Alabama League of Municipalities conference, there is no leeway. The law is the law. If you have a problem with it as a taxpayer, you get with a City Commissioner. They can then either change that law or talk with the Alabama League of Municipalities. Another thing he’d change is the Zoning Board of Adjustment process, which is your last day of a court. Bradley wishes it involved more rational thinking.
For example, Bradley had a constituent with a house who wanted to put in a carport because she didn't like the sun. She had a fence, but it didn't make any sense that she couldn’t put a carport in because of the setback requirements. She tried to do it the right way but exasperated all legal battles on that. Bradley just didn't understand it.
At the end of the day, with the zoning boundary adjustment, there is no rationality. The law is the law. It's made that way to be fair; unless someone had a house built before they decided to put a street there and it was a known hardship, there’s really nothing they can do for you. Bradley would like to make people more knowledgeable of the fact that the law is the law, and there’s no magic wand to get something changed.
Again, the law is there to treat everyone fairly. As Americans, thankfully, we're able to change the law by voting and taking part in our government. It’s the only way to get a law or a code changed.
Hearing From The People
So how does Bradley best want to hear from the constituents in his district? His executive assistant, Sarah Woodham, is the first place to start—who can be reached at (334) 615-3000. Most things she can handle quickly; 90% of problems include light bulbs, portholes, or litter.
Dothan actually has a litter program; if there’s a street that has litter on it, all you have to do is call Sarah and let her know. The city has a contract with WRC to go pick it up, which is an awesome service. Many of these issues are handled by Bradley’s team before the commissioners even see them. For example, there was a guy who wanted a $3.19 refund on his trash bill because it was missed for a weekend.
Bradley will also talk to anybody about issues they need solving. They can call his cell number at (334) 405-2680 and he’ll discuss anything a person would like to see in Dothan. It’s good to hear that there’s an elected official who cares about the people in his district—and even gives out his cell phone number to hear from them. This city really does care about its people.
While most problems can be resolved quickly, Bradley recognizes that there are others that take time. For some problems, there's not much he can do. However, people often just want someone to talk to that will listen, which is exactly what Bradley provides. And sometimes, he’ll even try to resolve the problem himself if he can.
As I’ve asked our other Dothan officials, I wanted to know what Bradley would do if Jeff Bezos swore to bestow District 3 with a billion-dollar grant. Where would he put that money, and what project would he accomplish?
Bradley would get about 18 FedEx buildings, which cost $57 million each. It’s that simple. It would create a big industry in Dothan along with plenty of jobs. Along with that would come plenty of everything else, including art and hotels. That money could also build distribution centers for Amazon and Walmart. It would be a game-changer.
Three things that Bradley hopes to accomplish during his term are the same things he promised to do when he got elected. First, it’s to increase customer service. Second, he plans to help out homeowners in older neighborhoods, especially those who may have an outside landlord that didn't keep things up.
The third is to find something for our senior centers. He also wants to give his constituents closure on the Farm Center, ensuring that they get something there that will bring value to our area. If he can get some industry and growth in that area with new houses and renovations, that would be great, too.
Bradley is a great asset to the Dothan area, and I look forward to everything he’ll accomplish during his term. You can always reach out to him if you have any suggestions or ideas on how to make Dothan even better.
Thanks for tuning in to another episode of “Home Grown,” my show all about living here in Dothan, Alabama. Stay tuned to see what I feature next!