Underwood was one of nine children born to a bulldozer operator and cook in rural Greene County. He followed a sister into the accounting program at the University of Alabama and, after graduation, went to work for the firm of Banks, Finley, White & Company, Certified Public Accountants, which counted the city of Birmingham among its public clients.
In 1987 Underwood was hired by the city as a senior auditor in the tax division. He held that job for two years before returning to the Birmingham office of Banks, Finley, White & Company as a partner. In 1989 he applied for the job of Jefferson County Finance Director, losing out to Steve Sayler. Sayler hired him, however, as his assistant. He returned to Birmingham City Hall in 1994 as Director of the Finance Department, replacing the retiring Hoyt Beningfield.
In 2001, Underwood left to become the Assistant General Manager of Finance and Administration for the Birmingham Water Works under Mike Vann. Mayor Bernard Kincaid appointed Michael Johnson to succeed him as acting director.
Underwood was quickly promoted to Deputy General Manager, and then to General Manager on March 1, 2005. The board claimed that Underwood resigned his position on December 5, 2018. Through his attorney, Underwood denied offering to resign. Assistant general manager Michael Johnson was (again) appointed to succeed him on an interim basis.
Underwood is Certified as a Public Accountant, a Government Finance Officer and Government Finance Manager. He has an extensive background in Computer Information Management. In addition to his service to the Water Works Board he has served on the Birmingham Regional Chamber of Commerce, and the UAB Accounting Advisory Board. In 2017 Underwood became the first African-American elected to chair the board of the Association of Metropolitan Water Agencies (AMWA).
Underwood went on to found his own consultancy. In August 2022 the Water Works board hired him to review an ongoing issue where numerous customers had not been billed for months, or billed for estimated water usage that far exceeded actual usage.
|Finance Director, City of Birmingham
Michael Johnson (acting)
|General Manager of Birmingham Water Works
2005–December 5, 2018
Michael Johnson (interim)
- Nabbefeld, Joe (November 26, 1994) "Age doesn't count in finance: Youthful director Mac Underwood knows the ropes." The Birmingham News
- Reynolds, Ed (May 1, 2001) "Finance Director defection heats up Water Works imbroglio." Black & White
- Freeman, Laura. (Fall 2003) "Mac Underwood: Helping a Valuable Resource Stay in the Flow." Venture (UAB School of Business) Vol. 6, Issue 1
- "BWWB’s Mac Underwood named to Leadership Position in the Water Industry" (October 23, 2017) The Birmingham Times
- Pillion, Dennis (December 5, 2018) "Mac Underwood out at Birmingham Water Works, says he did not resign." The Birmingham News
- Gann, Heather (August 10, 2022) "Birmingham Water Works’ solution to customer billing problems? Bring back the old boss" The Birmingham News
- Senior Management Profiles at Birmingham Water Works website