By Lee Hedgepeth
Alabama Political Reporter
MONTGOMERY – The Office of the Speaker of the Alabama House of Representatives has announced the departure of its chief of staff Josh Blades, who has worked with Speaker Hubbard since his time as chairman of the ALGOP.
According to State records, Blades was one of the highest paid public officials in Alabama during his time in the Speaker’s office, earning more annually than Hubbard, Senate Pro Tem Del Marsh, and nearly every constitutional officer in the State, including the Treasurer, Secretary of State, Auditor, and Lieutenant Governor.
Blades’ decision, announced Monday, comes at a time when Speaker Hubbard is under close scrutiny by a Lee County Grand Jury investigating public corruption which has already indicted two State lawmakers.
The departure, Blades says, is not related in any way to the investigation, but to his personal life. “I will always treasure the experience of working alongside Speaker Hubbard and our entire team,” Blades said in a press release. “Being a part of the conservative reforms that Republican lawmakers implemented this quadrennium has been an honor and privilege. Now that the term is drawing to a close, however, I feel it is the right time to pursue new opportunities.”
The former Chief of Staff also thanked Hubbard and former Governor Bob Riley: “I am very grateful to have had the pleasure of serving the state I love for almost ten years under two strong leaders and great men in Governor Riley and Speaker Hubbard.”
Hubbard also thanked Blades for his service, and went further to reinforce the notion that his departure was planned and not “unexpected.”
“When I hired Josh, I asked him for a commitment to stay through four legislative sessions, which he has done. Now that the final session of the quadrennium is complete and with a growing family, it is a logical and not unexpected that he consider other options,” Hubbard said.
State finance records show Blades raked in $109,801 in 2013, more than Lt. Gov Kay Ivey ($75,366), Treasurer Young Boozer ($85,608), Auditor Samantha Shaw ($85,969), and any State lawmaker. At that level of pay, Blades earned five times the income of an average Alabamian ($23,587).
Additionally, during his four year tenure under Hubbard, when state employees and teachers received no pay increases, Blades pay increased by thousands, as did the entire budget of the Speaker Hubbard’s office – nearly doubling from the funding level under previous Speaker Seth Hammett.
In 2013, according the reports from the Legislative Fiscal Office, the Office of the Speaker spent a whopping $2,257,179, a budget totaling more than the Office of the Governor ($1,187,616) and the Alabama Ethics Commission ($1,822,177).
Ironic in light of the Lee County investigation, the Speaker’s general counsel, James Entrekin, will replace Blades as Chief of Staff.