2021 Birmingham City Election

Scales Driven to Run After Watching Government in Action

Lashunda Scales runs for mayor of Birmingham, 2021. (Provided by Scales)

Lashunda Scales was inspired to run for government office after watching politicians and becoming disenchanted with the way they did business.

“Being that I had worked so closely with the entertainment business because of my family’s involvement in that arena, I had a different perspective of how elected officials got very little done,” she said. “I was very disenchanted with the way that I saw the results of action being taken in the community (by) those who have been elected to serve in public office.”

That disenchantment was targeted at no one in particular, Scales said. “What I had viewed is the system of government, period, where I believe that those who should be serving the public were, in my opinion, serving themselves.”

Scales said that disenchantment led her to seek a seat on the Birmingham City Council, which she won in 2009, and she followed that with her current term as District 1 representative and president pro tempore of the Jefferson County Commission.

Now Scales, 50, is bidding to return to Birmingham City Hall, running to unseat incumbent Randall Woodfin, former mayor William A. Bell and a field of five other challengers to be mayor of Birmingham.

“Living in a civil rights city that changed the world, I think that time is now that we have decided to put gender … to the side,” she said, “recognizing that we’re in a different day and time where women are being respected for their ability to lead, manage and to govern in ways unimaginable.”

Scales was raised in a single parent home by her mother, Johnnie Clark, who lived in Fountain Heights before living in various areas in western Birmingham. Clark was a retired nurse whom Scales describes as a fun-loving, hard-working woman who understands that life is karma.

“’You treat people the way you want to be treated’ is the way that I was raised by her,” the candidate said.

Her father is John Ray, a longtime entertainment promoter in Birmingham. She said he has always been a hard-working entrepreneur.

“The business side of my personality comes from my father, who is very analytical, hardworking and matter of factual,” Scales said. “The gift that I have from my mother is my heart for people. I’m willing to go beyond the job because of my true desire to see people achieve in life and to have a better quality of life in the community where they live.”

Even as a Phillips High School student, Scales made her voice heard.

“In high school, I was best known for my speaking ability,” she recalled. “I was the public announcer for the football games, which is primarily where I learned to speak in public, where I learned public speaking.”

She also remembers being passionate about social issues, recalling visits by Rev. Fred Shuttlesworth, who in 1957 was beaten when he tried to enroll a group of Black students, one of whom was his daughter, into Phillips.

“I was always interested in issues surrounding social justice and equality,” she said.

After graduation, Scales enrolled at Stillman College before taking a detour, getting married at age 20. She was a stay-at-home mom for her two children before earning an applied science degree from Jefferson State Community College.

The mayoral candidate founded Scales Public Relations and Marketing in 2000. Since being elected, she said, she has tried to make herself a better leader through Leadership Birmingham in 2016 and the Harvard Kennedy School of Government in 2015-16. She is currently part of Leadership Alabama XXXI.

Scales is proud of her accomplishments in public office, including:

  • Calling on a moratorium to stop the growth of predatory lending through payday and title loan companies while on the city council.
  • Bringing jobs to her council district along with businesses that include Kamtek, Planet Fitness, Abbey Carpet and Floor, and the Pizitz project downtown.
  • As a member of the Jefferson County Commission, streamed the commission’s meetings, which led to county streams of those proceedings.
  • Helping to pass one of the most aggressive roads budgets, totaling $26 million.
  • Supporting public transportation.
  • Advocating for fair and equal treatment of patients and employees of Cooper Green Hospital with the creation of the UAB Health Care Authority.
  • Spearheading projects responding to the COVID-19 pandemic, including testing sites and regional vaccination sites, and produce distribution.
  • Championed county financial support for the Magic City Classic, Carver Theater, Birmingham Civil Rights Institute and a number of community-based projects.

Scales said she wishes there had been more economic development in the eastern area of Birmingham that she represented on the city council. More cooperation in city government could have yielded more grocery store chains and sit-down restaurants and greater access to quality food chains, she said.

“I also would have desired to see more collaboration that yielded results for the city of Birmingham without public disputes,” she said. “I believe that disputes, for the most part, should be handled behind closed doors as much as possible so that the city’s image can be free to recruit business development, making sure that our community has a proper respect for how the local city government handles itself.”

Those “public disputes” have at times made televised meetings of the Birmingham City Council must-see TV for all the wrong reasons. Scales said she regrets that the council and the mayor’s office did not have a “relationship, or did not have a partnership that would best serve our citizens and stakeholders in such a way that we were able to get more accomplished than we were divided in our beliefs.”

That relationship would improve with her as mayor, she said, because she understands the need for the council to receive firsthand information concerning projects, policy changes and issues facing the city.

“There needs to be a conversation that is had intentionally with the legislative branch of government, which is the Birmingham City Council,” Scales said. “No city can be progressive if the mayor and the City Council are not deliberate in making sure that … both branches of government are not only in constant communication with one another but are willing to sit down together to make sure that as much as possible that we are addressing issues on the front end and not the opposite.”