Over the past six years, former Tuscumbia Mayor Kerry “Bubba” Underwood says he worked to increase the city’s sales tax revenue through a strategy of proactive business recruitment. The subsequent economic development created from this strategy, Underwood said, is something he’d now like to be able to implement statewide as a new member of the Alabama House of Representatives.
Running to represent District 3, in northeast Colbert County and southern Lauderdale County, Underwood won the Republican primary election in May of 2022, defeating his opponent Fred Joly with 56.3% of the vote. Underwood would go on to win the primary election that November, defeating his Democratic opponent Wesley Thompson with 63.1% of the vote.
A native of northwest Alabama, Underwood has been a certified public accountant since 1998, launching his own firm in 2004. Underwood won a bid for mayor of Tuscumbia in 2016, and went on to an uncontested reelection in 2020.
Underwood ran for the House on a platform of being pro-life, pro-gun, pro-military and pro-first responder, but perhaps most important, he told Alabama Daily News, was being pro-jobs by incentivizing economic development.
“So one of the things that mattered to me the most as mayor was the economic development of the city of Tuscumbia; raising our revenues the old fashioned way, not by taxes but by recruiting businesses,” Underwood said. “So I’m going to have that same mentality at the state level.”
Underwood was appointed to five separate House committees: the Financial Services; County and Municipal Government; Boards, Agencies and Commissions; Urban and Rural Development; and Local Legislation. Underwood said he had no particular favorite committee appointment, and that they were “all equally important to (him).”
Q&A with Rep. Underwood *questions are paraphrased
Q: What was the largest motivating factor for you in deciding to run for office?
“I wanted a bigger footprint. Tuscumbia is a lovely city, and I can think of no better city to begin your political career at than Tuscumbia because they’re very accommodating, accepting, trusting and kind people.
I enjoyed the job so much that I wanted to have an opportunity to do it for more people, for a bigger footprint. So I basically went from 9,000 people to 45,000 people, so for me, I just wanted to have a bigger opportunity to make an impact for more people.”
Q: What’s something you’re proud of accomplishing during your mayorship?
“Tuscumbia was a sleepy town, and we took it to a different level; our sales tax revenue increased, our visibility in the community increased, we made a strong connection with the University of North Alabama, and so we just broadened our horizons.
We re-balanced some of our debt to invest some money in infrastructure, and we did it by lowering our payments as well.”
Q: What are your largest legislative priorities?
“So one of the things that mattered to me the most as mayor was the economic development of the city of Tuscumbia; raising our revenues the old fashioned way, not by taxes but by recruiting businesses. So I’m going to have that same mentality at the state level.
Anything regarding economic development and the ability of people to live and work in Alabama and have a good wage. If a Joe and Jane taxpayer can live in Alabama, work and make a good wage, then that’s a big win. In fact, the most free you can be is when you earn your own money and it’s enough to do what you wish. So I would love to have any involvement in expanding the workforce in Alabama.
We’re in a better place than we were 20 years ago by a pretty good bit, and I would like to continue that. So for me, employment and the economic development of the state is a really big priority for me. That just cranks my tractor, it gets me ready to go.
(The state’s existing economic incentives) have been very effective. People can say what they want, I know there are some who say that you’re picking and choosing winners when you do that, and I get that, but at the same time, everyone else is doing it, and so I am in full support of continuing those incentives, they work.”
Q: Where do you land on the issue of school choice, or allowing for funds earmarked for public education to be diverted toward things like private schools, public charter school and homeschooling?
“I have a bit of a unique perspective on that in that as mayor, I supported our city’s school system and we had some success stories in that as well. My son is going to a private school, and when they talk about a bill that gives freedom of choice, (well) we’ve always had freedom of choice.
We always send our kids where we want to or home school them, so it’s really not about freedom of choice, it’s about where the tax dollars go. So I do have somewhat mixed emotions about it. I’m not going to make any decisions on that without considering the consequences. Until I can see what it means for the students who cannot leave, I’m not going to be able to vote until I know that.
What the concern is, the schools that are considered not the best now, that maybe are moving toward failing, will be left with students that other schools don’t want. What does that school look like 15 years down the road? Is the state now required to put more into that school, is it going to wind up costing us more money? Or will it do the opposite? I just don’t know those answers yet. “
Q: Are there any issues in your district in particular that you’d like to address?
“I’m for whatever the city councils need, whatever the county commissions need, that’s what I’m going to do. Their needs have been vetted, they’ll be community based, and I’ll take that and push it up instead of a top-down approach where I think I drive the agenda from the top down.”