Councilman discusses UA’s impact on position

Katherine Martin

Councilman Lee Garrison, whose district encompasses the University of Alabama, said improving the quality of life for students, visitors and other Tuscaloosa residents is a never-ending process.

            “Tuscaloosa is a unique city centrally located in the state and with dual interstate accessibility,” Garrison said. “The extra factor is our campus layout, cleanliness, downtown and riverfront areas. These, however, are secondary factors to academics. There’s no question the academic level has risen.”

            The councilman said the University comes into consideration for the majority of what he does every day.

            “I always take into account what is in the best interest of the University—that includes students, faculty and administration—when making a decision,” Garrison said.

            Mayor Walt Maddox said Garrison has a very challenging district because of the wide spectrum of needs from University students and the historic district.

            “I have found that Mr. Garrison does a great job of balancing all these issues,” Maddox said. “He has a heart for our students and is a strong voice for them in the council.”

            Improving the image of areas leading to campus, signing ordinances that allow for more student residences and working with police and fire officials are just a few tasks involved in Garrison’s job as councilman.

According to the City Council’s website, the Tuscaloosa native actively led the effort to return the SGA to the University and was elected to his first term on the City Council before graduating from the Capstone in 1997 with a bachelor of science in commerce and business administration.

Garrison said he always paid close attention to what was going around in the city and felt he had the energy and drive to see things done.

            “In college, I had ideas, not only ideas from a student perspective, but from a local viewpoint,” he said. “I noticed things in other cities and I thought , ‘We could do that.’”

            Garrison said he enjoys working on creative projects students can enjoy, like the newly completed Riverwalk and the Tuscaloosa Amphitheatre.

            “Diversity at the University, a redone Strip, a nice, new Bryant Drive – [these] were all visions I had when I was about to graduate,” he said. “I have not lost the energy or passion that I had when I ran 13 years ago.”

            Projects like the Riverwalk and the amphitheatre are things that take time, Garrison said, but in the end, will be a huge success and something students can enjoy.

            Garrison said the amphitheatre will be completed by the end of the year with headlining shows starting in March.

            “It’s something that, 13 years ago, people weren’t ready for,” he said. “Now, it’s the right time and right place.”

            Mayor Maddox said Garrison brought energy and enthusiasm to the City Council at a much needed time.

“I believe his two greatest accomplishments are revitalizing The Strip and putting together the vision for our new riverfront,” Maddox said.  

            Garrison said being a UA graduate has given him a better understanding of the citizens of his district.

            “Being from Tuscaloosa and experiencing the city as a student definitely impacts my decision making,” he said. “As a student, how would I perceive what I’m doing up there? I try to put myself in their shoes.”

            The councilman said active communication with the SGA and University President Robert Witt, as well as coordinating resources, is vital.

            SGA President James Fowler said the SGA has worked very closely with city leaders, specifically Councilman Garrison, on many initiatives that affect students at the University, such as off-campus safety, engaging students in municipal government and voter registration.

“I have always appreciated Councilman Garrison’s support and willingness to reach out to our student body,” Fowler said.

            Garrison said the biggest issues he has faced with University students, though it has dramatically decreased in the past 13 years, are complaints about partying, littering and getting people to cut their grass.

            By working with the Office of Judicial Affairs and the UA police department, Garrison said these behavior issues are solved very quickly.

            Students who have any problems or complaints should e-mail him at lee.garrison@wellsfargo.com, call 311 with any questions or 911 for immediate help, Garrison said.

            “If we continue to improve Tuscaloosa,” he said, “that does nothing but improve the University.”