Clinton Woods and Crystal Smitherman were sworn into office as the newest members of the Birmingham City Council on Wednesday, bringing an end to a months-long period of upheaval at City Hall.
Woods and Smitherman were selected by the council during its Dec. 18 meeting to fill the vacancies left by Lashunda Scales and Sheila Tyson, both of whom resigned in November to join the Jefferson County Commission.
While Woods’ swearing in was relatively low-key, Smitherman’s was anything but. The 25-year-old was joined by her family, including her father, state Sen. Rodger Smitherman, and her mother, Jefferson County Circuit Court Judge Carole Smitherman, who administered the oath of office after a speech encouraging her daughter to “let no man despise thy youth.”
“You’re young in chronological years, but old in spirit,” she said. “Don’t worry about your age, worry about your duty, OK?”
Before taking her place on the daïs, Crystal Smitherman also addressed her age in a lengthy speech read from her laptop. “Representing the millennial generation is a task I do not take lightly,” she said. “There has to be a closing of the gap between the younger and older generations. … We are all one city, no matter what age we are.”
Smitherman lamented what she described as the decline of Birmingham’s western side, plagued by gun violence, dilapidated housing and “open prostitution on certain streets.”
“The same problems that existed under my mother and Commissioner Tyson’s leadership still exist today, but it is time to break the cycle and find workable solutions to these problems,” she said, referring to her mother’s stint in the District 6 seat from 2001 to 2013.
Smitherman said her tenure on the council would focus on the “three E’s of empowerment: environment, education and economy,” by promoting initiatives focused on recycling, affordable housing and STEM education programs.
Council President Valerie Abbott remarked that no other councilor had ever given an inaugural speech. “No one doubts that you have the capabilities to do this job,” she said as Smitherman took her seat.