See who’s who in the District 4 special election


Left to right: District 4 candidates Lee Busby, John Earl and Frank Fleming participate in a forum held by the League of Women Voters. Photo courtesy of WVUA 23 News

On Tuesday, Oct. 8, Tuscaloosa’s District 4 residents will vote in a special election to determine their new representative in city council. The election comes three months after former councilman Matt Calderone resigned from the position following his move out of District 4, which covers most of campus, downtown and a few select historic neighborhoods near downtown. 

Calderone served as Student Government Association (SGA) President for the 2012-2013 academic year, with a focus on connecting with as many students as possible and helping however he could. His passion for the people led him to run for the District 4 City Council seat in 2013, which we went on to win.

While Calderone did receive Machine support in that election, he has repeatedly denied connection to the underground society in any form. 

During his time on the council, Calderone organized Live at the Plaza, a free concert held annually at Government Plaza by City Hall. He also paid special attention to the Tuscaloosa Police Department and pushed for the additional downtown precinct that opened in 2015. 

Since Calderone announced his resignation this past July, three candidates have stepped up to fill the seat.

A forum was hosted last week by the League of Women Voters of Greater Tuscaloosa at First United Methodist Church. There, candidates Lee Busby, John Earl, and Frank Fleming addressed an audience of roughly 40 citizens on why they think they are the best candidate for the job. 

Lee Busby

Colonel Lee Busby (retired), 62, is a Tuscaloosa native, UA alumnus and Marine Corps veteran. Busby served for 31 years in the USMC before coming home to Alabama, where he began sculpting the busts of fallen American soldiers. Busby has four children. Busby was also an official write-in candidate for the 2017 Senate special election. 

Busby, who lives in the historic district, said he feels that downtown neighborhoods are important and give Tuscaloosa character. Busby has also expressed concerns over renters who make their primary profits off of short-term rental services like AirBnB. 

“I only have one platform item and one pledge: my goal is to do everything possible to leave District 4 as good or better as we found it,” Busby said in his opening statement.

John Earl

John Earl, 72, has been living in District 4 since 1970. Earl has attended many of the Original City Association (OCA), Tuscaloosa Neighborhoods Together (TNT) and pre-council meetings for years. 

Earl is running on a platform of putting neighborhoods first in District 4 and seeks to combat underage drinking wherever possible. He proposed many policy ideas, including electronic verification of ID, a moratorium on off-campus student housing, more accountability on rentals with more than two unrelated residents and increasing awareness on the city’s policy on short term rentals. 

“I want a level playing field,” Earl said. “I’ve been involved in neighborhood issues and monitored city government longer than any other candidate, and I know how things work.”

Frank Fleming

Frank Fleming, 28, is originally from Geneva, Alabama, although he has now lived in Tuscaloosa permanently since graduating from the University in 2013. Fleming co-owns Heat Pizza Bar with his brother but said that it is not a conflict of interest when asked at the forum. Fleming declared that he will run again in 2021 regardless of Tuesday’s outcome. 

Fleming said he wants to see the city invest more in police officers and allow them to patrol more areas. He said he does not want to kill the short-term rental industry in Tuscaloosa, but see it limited. Fleming also found issues with parking in the city as well as intoxicated students wandering neighborhoods. 

“The decision to run was simple to me,” Fleming said. “I’m passionate about this area, the district and the city. I care about what direction we go in, and I want to see us head down a positive path.”

Fleming was close with Calderone, and were both members of the Sigma Nu fraternity on campus. 

For those who registered to vote in District 4 before the cutoff date of Sept. 23, the elections will take place in the Calvary Baptist Church annex from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Tuesday, Oct. 8. 

Not sure what district you’re in? View this interactive map of Tuscaloosa.