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Mobile city leaders plan to reverse population slump

Pat Duggins

Recently on Alabama Public Radio, we reported on how Baldwin County is dealing with rampant population growth. In neighboring Mobile, they have the opposite problem. The population has declined steadily over the past 60 years. Mobile Mayor Sandy Stimpson is just starting his third term in office. And dealing with the city’s dwindling population is on the agenda.

The population of the whole Mobile Bay region has boomed in the last 60 years. Rush hour traffic on Interstate 10 is just one sign that this growth has been mostly one-sided. Baldwin County on the eastern side of Mobile Bay grew from about forty nine thousand in 1960 to over 230,000 today. The city Mobile’s population went the other way. There were just over 200,000 residents in 1960. Today that number is less than 187,000.

Mobile Mayor Sandy Stimpson addresses the local Chamber of Commerce
Guy Busby
Mobile Mayor Sandy Stimpson addresses the local Chamber of Commerce

“If we have the will, we can make it the largest city in Alabama,” Stimpson said. “In the police jurisdiction there are like 80,000 people out there and so what my hope is that the City Council will give them an opportunity to decide whether they want to be in the city. That’s how annexation has always happened in the past is that you give them.”

Stimpson said topping t200,000 would make Mobile eligible for more federal funds. That could start a trend toward growth.

“We’re looking at a mark of probably of probably over 210,000 people because if parts of the city that continue to deteriorate where you’ll continue to lose some population, so you can’t just say we want 200,000 and think that you’re going to stay there,” Stimpson said.

A lot of the growth in Mobile County has been outside the city limits. County Commissioner Randall Dueitt said developers are building a lot of new homes around the county.


“We’ve approved, I think one hundred and forty seven new subdivisions and those subdivisions have anywhere from three to five lots. Some of them have up to 300 lots, which, in the big scheme is around 2,000 residential lots in the south and west ends of Mobile County," Dueitt said. "Regardless of what the census says about growth, we’re obviously growing. That’s 2,000 residential lots we started."

Annexation isn’t the only way to increase the numbers. Another goal is to improve housing opportunities. Stimpson said the Mae Eanes project is the first city housing development east of I-65 in 20 years.

“The idea is that in a lot of our older neighborhoods that have been in decline, we can go into those neighborhoods with new housing or fix up existing housing and breath life back into them because we can’t just abandon those neighborhoods, we’ve got to do something to energize them,” Stimpson said.

Mobile County Commission President Mercia Ludgood said county population trends show that good housing draws new residents.

“It’s shifting, so after the 2020 census, for example, District 1 lost right at 18,000 people and they moved to the west and the south. So, it’s where people are following the good housing stock is my judgement,” Ludgood said. “I think they’re going where they can get a house for their family that is consistent with how they see what they want to be able to provide.

Stimpson said they want to show that Mobile, the home of America’s Mardi Gras, is a great place to live.

Guy Busby

"For years, we’ve talked about visit Mobile and what we’re doing for visitors, but we really haven’t talked about what we’re doing for Mobilians to enjoy Mobile and that’s really our focus right now, one of our focuses,” Stimpson said. “I hope that you recognize through Grow Mobile and the street parties, all of the money that’s beings spent in the parks, the different in programming that we have in the recreation areas. It’s all about things we’re doing for Mobilians to enjoy Mobile so that you can bring your family and friends and visitors to do that.”

Mobile’s biggest competitor for residents isn’t outside the city limits. Alabama’s fastest growing county is just across Mobile Bay.

“Our competition in Baldwin County, whether people like to admit it or not, that’s our competition,” Dueitt said. “That’s not a bad thing, but if you want people to live in your community and work in your community, then you have to provide them with a standard or a quality of life for their family.”

Stimpson said Mobile is in a better position now to grow than it was in the recent past.

Guy Busby

“We’re on a very, very sound financial footing. More so than we’ve ever been, to be able to do things that we haven’t done in the past,” Stimpson said. “Also, we have a very seasoned team in place that has learned a lot, on the job training over the last eight years.”

He said that in the next several months more plans will be unveiled to show what officials hope for in the next three years.

“In the city specially, you heard us talk about the thousand day framework and the one hundred day plan,” Stimpson said. “Imbedded in that are so many things that we’re doing to try to improve public safety, just the experience Mobilians have enjoying Mobile, visit Mobile and so forth.”

He said the time has come for Mobile to move forward.

“From an execution standpoint, we’re really ready and poised to start doing things that really, we were dreaming about eight years ago or four years ago. So, it’s a great time in the city of Mobile,” Stimpson said.

Guy Busby is an Alabama native and lifelong Gulf Coast resident. He has been covering people, events and interesting occurrences on America’s South Coast for more than 20 years. His experiences include riding in hot-air balloons and watching a ship being sunk as a diving reef. His awards include a national Sigma Delta Chi award from the Society of Professional Journalists as part of the APR team on the series “Oil and Water,” on the anniversary of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. Some of his other interests include writing, photography and history. He and his wife, Elizabeth, live in Silverhill.
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