Frank Fleming, 28, is the owner of Heat Pizza Bar and is seeking election this upcoming Tuesday.
Q: Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?
I was born and raised for most of my childhood in Geneva, Alabama. After relocating to Hoover, I graduated from Spain Park High School in 2009. After high school, I moved to Tuscaloosa for college, and I have resided in a wonderful neighborhood in Tuscaloosa’s Historic District since that time. I graduated from the University of Alabama in 2013 with a degree in marketing and in April 2016, I was part of the group that opened Heat Pizza Bar in downtown Tuscaloosa, which I still own today.
Q: What brought you to run in this election?
My love for Tuscaloosa. I want to give back to this community that has given me so much.
Q: What experience have you gained in your career/owning Heat Pizza that you can bring to the council seat?
Starting Heat Pizza Bar was the challenge of my lifetime. It taught me patience and perseverance, relentlessness and attentiveness. Beyond these things, operating a successful restaurant in Tuscaloosa takes strong fiscal governance without sacrificing creative solutions to correct problems and grow the business. The unique challenges facing a new business owner, specifically a restaurant that employs and serves so many of the diverse demographics and stakeholders in District 4 have uniquely prepared me to serve in this seat, and I would love to bring that perspective to the council.
Q: What are your key platforms and policies? What differentiates you from other candidates?
My key platforms and policies are public safety, thoughtful development for our future and preserving our historic neighborhoods. What differentiates me from the other candidates is my ability to effectively communicate to all constituents of District 4. The district is made up of three distinct areas: Our University, our downtown business community and our historic neighborhoods. I live in a historic neighborhood, I own a business downtown that employs students and serves the community at large and, since I only graduated from the University five-and-a-half years ago, I believe I can still relate to the students that are so important to the economy of our city. If elected, I will have an open-door policy to all of my constituents and I look forward to lending an ear to and being a voice for all areas of District 4.
Q: What’s something you’d immediately like to address if elected?
One of the most chronic problems for District 4 has been its lack of unity toward problems that should unify us all – safety, development and quality of life. While I am not naive to the various opinions on each of these issues, these opinions, if not genuinely considered and responded to in an appropriate and positive way, will continue to divide this district. I look forward to immediately meeting with the leaders of the diverse constituents of District 4 to create a common voice for those things that unite us and to find common ground and practical solutions.
Q: What’s your plan if you don’t win on Tuesday?
Besides not sitting on the council, my plan will be very similar to my plan if I win. I will continue to proudly operate and improve Heat Pizza Bar, and I will continue to work to improve, grow and unite Tuscaloosa. Provided I am in a position to do so, I intend to run for city council again in March 2021.
Q: Do you think your young age gives you an advantage over the other candidates?
I believe it’s an advantage. My age grants me a unique perspective over the other candidates. I can better relate to the University and its students, which will allow me to narrow the divide between the permanent residents of District 4 and the students that at times may frustrate those residents. My age also allows me to understand what variables young professionals consider when choosing where to work, where to open businesses and where to make their home. These young professionals are necessary to the continued growth and prosperity of Tuscaloosa and I will make it a primary focus to use my youth as an advantage in recruiting and retaining the best young talent and businesses to District 4.
Q: Have you gotten any advice from former councillor Calderone about city council?
Matt is a good friend of mine, and I believe he was a great representative for District 4. I have had many conversations with Matt about Tuscaloosa over the years, and he was certainly someone that I reached out to when considering a run for his vacated seat.
Q: Finally, do you think your connection with UA’s Greek organizations on campus will have any influence on the election?
No. While I was a Sigma Nu at UA, I do not believe that has any bearing on the election beyond what I learned most from that experience, which was how to communicate and develop positive relationships with strong personalities. What I hope influences the electorate, regardless of age or background, is not my prior affiliation with a fraternity, but my passion for and commitment to unifying the district and improving Tuscaloosa for all members of the community.
Editor’s Note: Fleming was unable to attend an in-person or phone interview before publication, so his responses are copied from an email correspondence. Earl and Busby’s interviews were conducted in person.