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Losing city commission institutional wisdom

Come this November, there will be three new faces sitting on the Birmingham City Commission. We can say that with certainty as the three incumbents whose terms are ending – Rackeline Hoff, Mark Nickita and Stuart Sherman – have all decided to retire after decades of service to the city of Birmingham.

The three are each devoted volunteers who will be missed – each individually, but also collectively, as repositories of knowledge of city ordinances, development, customs, zones of the city, neighborhoods, master plans, staff – you name it, they have each worked on all of it, and most likely, had a hand in crafting plans and ordinances to the betterment of Birmingham for their fellow citizens.

And as they move on to their next experience, they take the wisdom they have accumulated with them, to the detriment of the commission, and the city.

Hoff was first elected to the city commission in 2001, and served as mayor three times, in 2005, 2010 and 2016. She also sat on the city's zoning board of appeals, board of review, advisory parking committee, ad hoc downtown development committee, and is a strong advocate for Birmingham's NEXT. In her 20 years as commissioner, she has gained a strong reputation as the residents' voice, asking questions in their stead.

Sherman was first elected to the commission in 2005, and served as mayor in 2008 and 2014. Among his many other board and committee assignments have been the board of review, hearing officer, ad hoc sewer committee, unimproved streets committee, retirement board and retirement health care fund investment committee. He has diligently worked with residents and staff to increase efficiency and output.

Nickita was first elected to the commission in 2009, after serving on the city's planning board from 1997-2000, and 2003-2009. He was mayor in 2011 and 2016. He was also involved with the Shain and Booth parks design committees, Triangle District Design Advisory Committee, Downtown Retail Window Design committee, among others. His fingerprints are everywhere in Birmingham, from increased walkability and modalities to first floor retail throughout the downtown, to name just a few.

All three were involved with the creation of the city's hallmark bistro liquor license ordinance, which has transformed the city, the development of the Rail District as a funky and unique area of the city to live, work and play, attempts to create a vibrant Triangle District, and continual work to improve the city's neighborhoods. Life in Birmingham is better because of Hoff, Sherman and Nickita. All for $5 a meeting.

Three new people will take their seats, and hopefully make positive marks in the future on the city commission. But the loss of the collective wisdom will be big shoes to fill.


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