Name: Chris Seibert
Occupation: Director of clinical adoption, southern U.S., Stereotaxis
Education: University of Alabama, B.A. in history; University of Oklahoma, master’s of human relations; University of South Alabama, master’s of business administration
Previous political experience: none
Community involvement: First and Ten Club of Alabama, First United Methodist Church, Church Council, Habitat for Humanity, Athens Rotary Club, Athens Recreation Center Soccer Coach, Athens Dixie Youth Baseball Coach
Personal: Married to Tiffany Davis Seibert. Children, Brock and Ben Seibert
• What is the biggest challenge or challenges facing District 1, and what steps do you intend to take as a councilman to overcome them?
I think the two biggest challenges we face are complacency and maintaining a voice for Athens after state legislative reapportionment. Athens has many good things going for it and the tendency of any organization is to get complacent and not continue to strive to make things better. I think many of us who love Athens see more potential in a lot of areas and I think we have to continue to raise the bar on how to make Athens a better place for both job creation and for our residents.
Without active leadership from our council, state legislative reapportionment will threaten to dilute the importance of the city of Athens in Montgomery, especially when it comes to local legislation. It will be incumbent on our council to maintain a strong voice so that a fair share of the state taxes paid by the citizens of the city of Athens will be reinvested back into Athens to maintain and advance local services including our local fire department, our police department and the Athens City Schools.
A strong voice and a strong relationship with our state delegation will be vital to make reapportionment benefit the City of Athens and not the reverse. I will closely monitor proposed bills and I will foster strong relationships with our local and state representation to ensure Athens remains relevant from a funding perspective.
• The city of Athens has committed $1.1 million to fund a new public library at the site of the former Kroger on South Jefferson Street. The city also appropriates money each year to the library, which was $115,000 in fiscal year 2011-2012. Are you in favor of the new library, and do you feel the city should be held responsible for any operating costs beyond its annual appropriation?
I am very much in favor of the new library. One of the leading indicators that industry and retail evaluate when choosing to potentially locate in a given area is the size and quality of the city library. If a community values its library, it values the education of its citizens and, most importantly, its children.
A larger public library offers more computer resources to address the needs of many of our citizens. A larger public library provides more educational opportunities and literacy exposure to our children, especially preschoolers, which research has shown leads to greater success in Kindergarten.
I think operating costs should be shared by city and county government as well as the library foundation with the long-term plan that the library becomes a self funding entity through community focused events, family-oriented entertainment offerings, services the library will provide and the utilization of the library meeting space for local organizations.
• Members of the Limestone County NAACP claim the city does not have a good track record in terms of hiring minorities and promoting diversity. Do you feel this is a problem in Athens? If not, please explain why. If you agree with the NAACP, what steps would you take to ensure a diverse workforce?
My views on hiring for the city would be the same as they’ve been in the private sector and when I was charged with hiring civilian employees during my military career. I will advocate to hire based on merit and to hire the most qualified individual for any open position. I think it’s critical that everyone, regardless of race, be given opportunities at open positions.
We should conduct uniform interviews with all candidates and select the most qualified individual with the most potential to lead our city in the direction we want it to go.
• Athens and Limestone County have been fortunate enough to land new industries over the last several months, while others like Steelcase have announced expansions and plans to hire additional workers. As a councilman, what steps would you take to make Athens appealing to out-of-state industries and retail developers? Please be specific.
I think we’ve certainly had some recent wins in this area and we need for that to continue. Athens is very appealing because of the quality of our schools, a skilled workforce, our beautiful downtown area, our sense of community, our new library being built and the overall appeal of North Alabama. This should be a joint effort with the city council, Limestone County leadership, our state government representation and our state leadership to continue to maximize these efforts.
We have to ensure that we are remaining competitive with other city and state governments that are trying to land these same industries while making smart financial incentive packages that protect our local tax base. Finally, we have to truly understand the economic impact on our community of the industries/retail developers we are pursuing.
While weighing all of these factors, we have to responsibly negotiate these agreements, while minimizing the impact on our tax revenue and maximizing good paying jobs for our local work force. It is also critical to continue to form strong partnerships with our existing industries to ensure they see Athens and Limestone County as a valuable area to add more quality paying jobs.