SARALAND, Ala. (WALA) - Saraland Mayor Dr. Howard Rubenstein is a native of Chicago, who after finishing medical school at the University of Illinois headed to Florida.
He said he planned to do his residency in Pensacola and spend time at the beach for a couple of years before heading back north; however, he said marriage and falling in love with the Gulf Coast changed those. Mayor Rubenstein recently shared about his love of public service, family practice and Saraland.
"I grew up in the Marcus Welby generation, the kind physician who could just go out and be of service to people and help make people's lives better. And I think that stereotype of the kindly family physician really stuck with me," Rubenstein said.
Rubenstein said he's always liked helping people. Welby's influence and good grades led him to medical school.
"Our residency director had been the former mayor of a small town in Missouri. He ingrained into us while we were training that we needed to give back to our communities once we settled and practiced there," Rubenstein shared.
In his second year in residence in Pensacola, Rubenstein met his wife and he said sealed his future on the Gulf Coast.
"She was actually a nurse taking care one of my patients in the hospital. That's how we met. Once married, she pretty much said that we need to be within close distance of her parents, and I didn't mind at all. I fell in love with this area and the people here are just wonderful. There's just a sense of community that I don't think you can find any better place to raise your family than right here," Rubenstein said.
He said his nurturing personality also helped lead him to practice medicine.
"I think when you go in to medicine as a profession, you have to care about people and that's one of the things that led me into also doing public service. When I went into practice in Saraland 27 years ago, I did. I got very active in Saraland," states Rubenstein.
Rubenstein served on the Saraland Chamber of Commerce, several civic organizations like the Saraland Lions Club and as Team Physician for the high school. In 1996, he was elected to Saraland City Council. Rubenstein served as council president for seven years before becoming mayor in January 2011, following the death of longtime Mayor Ken Williams.
"I enjoy being of service, and I don't mind working. And as a councilman, I was used to putting in long days. And, as mayor I'm putting in some even longer days. As mayor, you're pretty much responsible for running the city. You have all the day to day responsibility, personnel decisions, overseeing programs, overseeing the administration of the budget, recruiting new businesses to our community, dealing with citizens' complaints. It's enough to keep you pretty busy," Rubenstein said.
He said the city is making some exciting changes.
"We're very excited about what we have going on here in Saraland right now. I think a big part of it is our city school system. We've built a brand new $30 million high school. We've done a $5 million renovation to our middle school. But, it's not just buildings, it's the spirit," he said.
Rubenstein said the community's hard work and dedication is paying off.
"We've had double digit increases in standardized test scores. We think we've really raised the bar with education," he said.
Rubenstein said, however, the success of their schools is just one of the reasons the city is growing.
He said new businesses are moving in and the Chamber of Commerce is adding new members monthly.
"I think we have a very pro business community here. We have several business owners on our city council. We understand what it is to run a small business. And we're very open to attracting business, to doing things that will be attractive to business and just setting the stage where business can come to Saraland. I know it's going to be successful. We've got great infrastructure. We've got outstanding police and fire protection and high traffic and just a good area, I think, for new businesses to look at when they're trying to locate their respective places," he said.
He said with new business comes other growth.
"We received a $5 million grant that's being used to develop commercial property and as well as a new medical campus on Highway 158. We've got plenty of new residential subdivisions and new housing starts going on. We are definitely in a growing mode right now," he said.
Those new subdivisions are also easily accessible to north Mobile County's steel plant. Mayor Rubenstein said that makes his city attractive to commuters.
"With ThyssenKrupp, we've had multiple residents locate to our community, and they've been a great addition to Saraland. I think Saraland is a outstanding place to live and work," he said.
Rubenstein has served Saraland in elected office for 17 years. When asked about his future plans, Rubenstein said he really enjoys what he is doing.
"I enjoy taking care of my patients. I enjoy taking care of our city. I really enjoy myself. I really enjoy
giving back to my community, to having input into a positive direction for our community. I hope to just keep doing what I'm doing," he said.
Saraland's population, which has grown to roughly 15,000, is poised for continued growth with recent city annexation of land off Celeste Road.
Mayor Rubenstein if you're looking for a good community with low crime, centrally located and an outstanding educational system; you should consider Saraland.
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