In a testament to what eight years and hard work can do, Jefferson County Commissioner David Carrington has seen the county go from bankruptcy early in his time in office to the past 18 months, which have included economic development successes like Autocar, Amazon, DC BLOX and Shipt.
It has been an eventful eight years, and, at the end of his second term in office, Carrington will step away from his role as Commissioner and head of economic development for the county and into retirement – sort of. Though he’ll be out of public office, he still will be busy, working at his business, RacingUSA Inc., writing a book and cheering Jefferson County on to further success.
The Birmingham Business Alliance (BBA) recently sat down with Commissioner Carrington to look back on his time in public office and look forward to the future, after his public service ends.
BBA: When did you decide to become a public servant? Why?
David Carrington: On April 22, 1999, I was told I had cancer. During my recovery, I took time to reassess my priorities and made a conscious decision to spend less time on my businesses and more time with God, my family and my community. This led me to become actively involved in Vestavia Hills’ 2000 election. After serving on various citywide committees, I decided to run for the City Council in 2004.
BBA: What prompted you to choose now as the time to retire?
DC: I’m a strong believer in term limits. Even though I don’t know the ideal number of years to serve in a particular office, there was never a doubt in my mind that I would only serve on the Commission two terms.
BBA: What will you miss most about being a Jefferson County Commissioner?
DC: The opportunity to positively impact the lives of 1.2 million citizens in the Birmingham metro area.
BBA: What will you not miss?
DC: At all levels of government – national, state and local – politics, and the intoxicating desire for re-election, too frequently inhibits good government. Instead of “killing spiders,” too much time and energy is spent “knocking down cobwebs” and “kicking the can down the road.”
BBA: Your work with economic development is extensive. What is the economic development project you have worked on that you are the most proud of?
DC: Each project I’ve worked on was unique and challenging – but, when pressed, I would have to say Amazon and Shipt. Amazon, because the HQ2 project taught us how to think outside our feasibility comfort zone and resulted in a perfect fit advanced robotics fulfillment center. And Shipt, because it showed us that we could effectively compete with Silicon Valley for a corporate headquarters in the IT space.
BBA: Looking forward, where do you see the county in 10 years in terms of economic development?
DC: The current Commission has allocated a minimum of $10 million dollars a year for 25 years to be used for economic development and job creation. Jefferson County, if shepherded by effective leadership, has the potential to become a jobs magnet as evidenced by the recent announcements of 746 jobs at Autocar, 881 at Shipt and 1,500 plus at Amazon. Our challenge will be similar to other communities, states and countries – workforce development.
BBA: What legacy do you hope to have left?
DC: The true measure of any elected official, or any elected body for that matter, is the progress made from their first day in office to their last. In humble sincerity, I truly believe that history will shine brightly on the accomplishments Commissioners Bowman, Brown, Knight, Stephens and I were able to achieve by setting aside partisan politics and focusing on the community’s greater good.
BBA: What are you most proud of during your time in office?
DC: When the current five commissioners were sworn into office on November 10, 2010, the County was in a mess. Today, the government is fully restored operationally, fiscally and legally with no new taxes and more than a thousand fewer employees.
BBA: Do you have any regrets from your time in office?
DC: I can honestly say I only made one political vote in my 14 years of public service and I regret it to this day, even though my vote wouldn’t have made a difference. The resolution would have passed 4-1, instead of 5-0.
BBA: After you’ve retired, what might we find you doing on any given weekday?
DC: I really don’t plan on retiring. The way I see it, one chapter of my life is closing and another chapter is opening. I plan to spend more time with my family, my NASCAR business, and finishing a book on the County’s challenges and turnaround. I’m also considering the possibility of opening a management consulting firm, primarily focusing on organizations that need to be financially restructured or want outside economic development assistance.