J. Lynn West has qualified to run as an independent candidate for the position of New Albany alderman at large.
As alderman at large, West would represent the city as a whole.
He ran as an independent because he did not feel that either party label fit him, saying he is conservative about some issues and liberal about others. Furthermore, he does not feel as though party politics should matter in local government.
West grew up in New Albany and says his family goes back about five generations in Union County. He graduated from W.P. Daniel High School and earned two bachelor’s degrees from Lambuth College in Jackson, Tenn. in English and theater. He then earned his master’s degree in technical theater from Memphis State University.
West is semiretired and currently writes for NEMiss.News. Prior to working for NEMiss.News he was the editor of the New Albany Gazette, which he started working for in 1978. He also worked for the former New Albany News-Exchange, where he was a co-owner, cofounder and editor.
He said there are several reasons he wants to run for alderman at large, including the fact that “Both of my parents were strong believers in community service.”
West noted that his dad was a downtown merchant and active in the merchants association. West’s dad was also president of the fair board for years and was very active in the Lions Club. His mom was involved in a lot of clubs and pageants.
“I am a believer in community service,” West said. “I would consider reporting the news community service, which of course I’ve done for many years.”
He has reported the local news in Union County and New Albany for some 40 years. As a news reporter, he has focused on local government but been on the sidelines, he said. Now he wants to “get into the game.” He pointed out that he knows how local government operates.
“I have attended more local government meetings than any other person living or dead,” West said. “I can confidently say that. This is really the first opportunity I’ve had to run for office. I would know going in what it would take most people six months to a year to figure out.”
He said he was partly motivated to run because he disagreed with the pay raise amount that city employees received in the current budget. West said he believes the city employees should have received a larger raise. The employees were given a 1.5 percent raise, but West said they should have received a 3 percent increase.
“The people who voted the way they did had their reasons to vote the way they did,” West said. “But I just didn’t agree with the way the vote turned out.”
West said he has been an “advocate” for city employees for “many years,” including writing in support of them in the newspaper.
“I think that they are sometimes undervalued, underappreciated for the work that they do, which is essential and not always the highest paid,” West said.
The city could have afforded the 3 percent raise, West said, adding, “The money was there.”
Some of the city’s more experienced employees are older and close to retirement. Once they retire, they will need to be replaced. The city needs to treat its employees well if it wants to have good employees, West said.
“We want to be able to attract good people to work for the city,” he said.
West also thinks New Albany can be promoted better as a tourist destination. The local area has many attractions including the park system, the SportsPlex, Ingomar Mounds, the Tanglefoot Trail, the museum, arts and theater, West said.
“There’s enough here to keep people busy for a day or two rather than having them just buy a meal at a restaurant and go . . .,” West said.
He said the community development office under the direction of Billye Jean Stroud does a “great job,” but he “would like to see New Albany marketed beyond this area more than it is.”
West would also like to see more things done in the downtown area to make it more welcoming and attractive to people. For example, he would like to see more projects similar to the Tanglefoot Trailhead Plaza downtown.
Industrial and economic development is another area West is focused on.
“We don’t have anybody who’s just really dedicated to Union County per se for industrial or even economic development at this point,” he said.
Improving the city’s streets is also one of West’s priorities, and he said that is an “expensive problem.” A bond issue may be needed to fund street improvements, he said.
Community storm shelters are also needed, West added. He also said it would be nice if New Albany had a folk art center, saying, “It’s something to dream about I think.”
West said there are several reasons people should vote for him. He said he has 40 years of experience keeping up with local government as well as civic and community events. He also believes he has a good reputation for fairness and accuracy.
“I have a history through my writing of supporting the community,” West said, adding that he is on good terms with city and county government officials.
The fact that he is semiretired means he has the time to devote to the job of alderman at large, he said.
“For some officials it’s a one-day-a-month job,” West said. “I would have the time to serve and to attend various functions.”
West has been active in the community over the years, serving on various boards. He has served on the former New Albany Tourism Advisory Board and the former Union County E-911 Commission. He was also president of the former Historic Northside Neighborhood Association.
He is the longtime president of the Administrative Board of Trustees for the Union County Library System and also serves on the civic center board.
In addition, West has been honored by the Union County Development Association with the citizenship award. The Union County Historical Society has also recognized him for his contributions to the community.