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New member profile: Rep. Mike Shaw

About 20 years into his career in information technology, Hoover resident Mike Shaw was elected to his community’s city council in 2016 with 67% of the vote, his first foray into politics. Four years later in 2020, he would go on to win reelection with 77% of the vote.

After seeing firsthand the impact he was able to make on his community through public service, Shaw made a bid in 2022 for the Alabama House of Representatives’ District 47, which includes Hoover and parts of Birmingham. The District 47 seat was last held by Republican state Rep. David Wheeler, who died in office Mar. 9, 2022.

Shaw defeated Democrat Christian Coleman by a margin of almost 4,000 votes, and now says he has his sights set on expanding the impact he can make in his community and across the state, particularly in the realm of education.

Vestavia Hills, just north of Hoover, is known for its school district which consistently ranks as among the best in the state. As talks of offering more school choice ramp up ahead of the state legislature convening in March, Shaw voiced a commitment to preserve what works within the current public education system, while still remaining open to funding alternatives such as private or public charter schools.

“I know we have some school systems that are really challenged in the state, but we’ve got to make sure we don’t hurt the good things about our educational system,” Shaw said.

Shaw was  appointed to three Alabama House committees: State Government, Financial Services, and the Ethics and Campaign Finance Committees. 

Shaw has served as the chief technology officer of Mutual Savings Credit Union for the past 17 years, and is a co-founder of Destination Hoover International, a nonprofit organization that promotes cultural outreach and international exchange.

Shaw is a graduate of Auburn University, earning a bachelor’s in public administration in 1995.

Q&A with Rep. Mike Shaw *questions are paraphrased

Q: What motivated you to run for office?

“I spent the last few decades in my technology career, but I started to pay attention to what our local government was doing, and you realize pretty quick that if people don’t step up and volunteer to be ready to serve, it doesn’t make for a good government. You want a lot of enthusiastic people running for these positions to hopefully do their best, and that’s democracy. That’s what our government is built on: citizens getting involved, and so I wanted to do my part.”

Q: What do you think might be your biggest legislative priorities as a freshman state House representative?

“My personal priority is to learn as much as possible. In technology, the first two things of any project are learning and planning, and so the legislature is very large (and) complex, and so a big part is learning the process, learning the people, and learning how to be an effective legislator. 

People elect us to go down there and get things done – and I intend to do that – but I think you’re much more effective at that if you observe and learn the ropes before you make mistakes.

Having said that, I know we’re going to have some things come forward that will affect this district, so I intend to represent this district well. I’m sure we’ll have some things with education come through; that is something that’s very important in this district.

Q: With many state leaders advocating for more school choice and alternatives like private and public charter schools, where do you land on this topic?

“Whatever we come up with (regarding) plans for education, I know we have some school systems that are really challenged in the state, but we’ve got to make sure we don’t hurt the good things about our educational system. 

The unintended consequences of however we plan for education statewide could affect our local school system here, so I think we need to be careful that we don’t get into one size fits all situations for education. So I intend to really look hard at how our education agendas could affect the local school system.

The issue I think is these school systems here have been built and curated over decades, and so the funding mechanisms that they have were put in place for certain purposes, and they are relied on. So if we start changing those funding mechanisms, if we start diverting funds away from the school systems here, we have to be careful that we don’t hurt the school systems that are doing very well. 

I think as a state, we have a lot of challenges educationally, and we need to be open to all sorts of approaches. I’m wide open to any of those, but when it comes to how it affects some of the successful school systems in the state, we just need to tread very carefully.”

Q: What other issues do you see yourself potentially addressing as a state legislator?

“I know there’s a lot of talk about mental health; everybody has a story about how it’s affected their family, their friends or their workplace. I think there’s things we can do.

Hoover’s very focused on public safety and we saw needs for doing things to assist in mental health situations, so I’m very keen to be a part of whatever we come up with on mental health in addressing the crisis we have nationwide, but also here in Alabama.

I’ve had an unfortunate experience of trying to help an extended family member through mental health issues, and I saw just how few resources were there. What specifically those resources look like, I’m not sure, but you need well-trained people, whether that involves law enforcement, medical professionals or teachers, it really cuts across all of our different worlds. 

So I don’t know what the final solutions will look like, but I know it’s going to take funding and well-thought out approaches.”

Q: Are there any issues specific to your district that you’d like to address as a state legislator?

“The water works is a huge issue that my district is very, very interested in, so I’m interested in being a part of that because that touches everybody’s lives here with the water bills they’re getting.

The (Birmingham Water Works and Sewer Board) is routinely cited as a problem by our citizens here. There’s not a lot of representation for all the people who are served by the water works. What comes out of the tap is great, but I just think the way the organization is run needs some reform, and I think we need to take a look at that with an eye toward regional cooperation.”

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