Carole Catlin Smitherman (born 1952) is a judge on the Jefferson County Circuit Court. Prior to that, she represented District 6 and was a former president of the Birmingham City Council. She was first elected to the City Council in 2001 and was re-elected in 2005 and 2009. As Council President, she succeeded Mayor Larry Langford when he was convicted of fraud and corruption, serving from October 28 to November 24, 2009 as acting mayor.
Smitherman and her brother were adopted by her grandmother, a Lawson State Community College teacher, after her mother remarried and moved to New York. She graduated from Spelman College in Atlanta and received her Juris Doctorate from Miles College in 1979, graduating first in her class. She now serves on the faculty of Miles Law School.
Smitherman was a childhood friend of former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and, in 2004, invited her to visit Birmingham. She and her husband, Alabama State Senator Rodger Smitherman, combined their law practices in 1993 and maintain an office at 2029 2nd Avenue North. The Smithermans have four children.
Smitherman presided over the Birmingham Municipal Court in 1990. Among the cases she heard were the city's charge of "inciting a riot" made against Erica Arrington, the daughter of Mayor Richard Arrington, Jr. Smitherman acquitted her.
Smitherman was the first African-American woman to serve as a circuit court judge in Alabama, having been appointed to the bench in 1991. She lost her re-election campaign in 1992 and merged her law practice with her husband's. Mayor Arrington appointed her to the legal department where she defended the city against several claims.
She was the prosecutor for the City of Irondale until October 2008. She was notified that her services were no longer needed shortly after the City of Birmingham approved a $55 million package of incentives for Trinity Medical Center to relocate to the HealthSouth digital hospital instead of to a site in Irondale. Irondale mayor Tommy Joe Alexander denied firing her, saying that while she remained an employee, her appointment as prosecutor expired on October 1 and that the incoming council would determine whether to reappoint her.
She was first elected to the Birmingham City Council to represent District 6 in the 2001 election. She was re-elected in 2005 and was elected President. On the Council, Smitherman has served as Chair of the Administration, Budget & Finance Committee and as a member of the Economic Development & Job Recruitment and Education committees. She has taken credit for etablishing an oratorical context for Birmingham students to develop language proficiency, creating the Children of the Village program, aimed at teaching strategies for success, supporting Strings for Students to give children access to classical music training, and initiating economic development summits to address concerns and challenges faced by small businesses and corporations operating in Birmingham.
Smitherman was planning to run in the 1999 Birmingham mayoral election, but, as a member of Richard Arrington, Jr's Jefferson County Citizens Coalition, she withdrew from the race and lent her support to William Bell.
Smitherman broke with Arrington in the 2003 Birmingham mayoral election, refusing money from Donald Watkins' Voter News Network. She finished 4,000 votes behind winner Bernard Kincaid in the runoff. In 2007 she again launched a mayoral campaign, with the slogan "Birmingham Can, Smitherman Will". In that race she placed 5th of 10 candidates in the field, earning 1,804 votes out of 52,111 cast (3.46%)
Acting mayor of Birmingham
In 2009, in her role as Council President, she took over responsibility for signing federal contracts after Mayor Larry Langford was barred from doing so by a federal administrative decision. With Langford's conviction in his October 2009 trial on bribery and corruption charges, she assumed the duties of mayor.
During her first press conference as acting Mayor, Smitherman expressed sadness for Langford's conviction and pledged to work toward a smooth transition at City Hall, with special attention paid to improving transparency in the city's finance department. She accepted the resignation of finance director Steve Saylor after learning that the city's budget did indeed include a sizable shortfall. She later dismissed chief of staff Deborah Vance Bowie. She was succeeded by Roderick Royal as acting mayor on November 24 when the newly-sworn in City Council elected him their president.
While serving as acting mayor, Smitherman declared her candidacy for the 2009 Birmingham mayoral election to fill the remainder of Langford's term. Interviewed about her views regarding the city's planned domed stadium, Smitherman expressed hope that the BJCC board would help solicit corporate contributions and that if additional sources of funding weren't found, that she would support building a roof over Legion Field as a backup plan. She finished third in the race with 6,552 of 34,931 votes (18.76%).
In the 2012 general election, Smitherman won a seat on the Circuit Court. Her vacancy on the Council was to have been filled by a Council appointment, but District 6 went unrepresented until the 2013 Birmingham municipal election, won by Sheila Tyson.
|Birmingham City Council District 6
|Birmingham City Council president
Valerie Abbott (acting)
|Mayor of Birmingham (acting)
Roderick Royal (acting)
- Bryant, Joseph D. (September 2, 2007) "Hopefuls have just weeks to win votes." The Birmingham News
- Wolfson, Hannah (September 24, 2007) "Smitherman brings heart, endurance to race." The Birmingham News
- Bryant, Joseph D. and Anita Debro (October 3, 2008) "Birmingham City Council President Carole Smitherman calls firing from Irondale post retaliation." The Birmingham News
- Debro, Anita and Joseph D. Bryant (October 8, 2008) "Mayor: Smitherman remains Irondale city prosecutor." The Birmingham News
- "Birmingham City Council elections District 6: Carole Smitherman". (August 19, 2009) The Birmingham News
- Williams, Roy L. (November 19, 2009) "Smitherman wants partners to help pay for dome." The Birmingham News
- Bryant, Joseph D. (November 7, 2012) "Help wanted: Carole Smitherman's judicial win creates opens seat on Birmingham City Council." The Birmingham News