By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter
Thursday, June 29, 2017, Jefferson County Commissioner David Carrington (R) was at the Golden Corral in Center Point addressing the East Jefferson Country Republican Club about his campaign for Governor of Alabama.
Commissioner Carrington said, “Everyone talks about draining the swamp; but I am the only one who has actually done it, in Jefferson County.”
“When we were elected Jefferson County had $3.2 billion in sewer debts and we were in default on $100 million in general obligation bonds. The sewer receiver wanted to double sewer rates that first year, double them the second year, and he wouldn’t tell us what he wanted to do in the third year. We owned a hospital, Cooper Green, which was losing money and a County nursing home. The prior county commission had lost the trust of the public. Today the county government is operationally and fiscally sound.”
Carrington urged the other Republicans to support Commissioner Joe Knight next year. “He deserves our support.”
Commissioner Carrington said that his hardest decision was to close Cooper Green Hospital. We were losing $10-15 million a year and we were only investing $one million a year in capital improvements. They were still using analog x-rays instead of digital. I would not send my wife or daughter there. By getting out of the hospital we were able to expand primary care and specialty care. We still pay for indigent care but that money goes to UAB and St. Vincent’s instead of the county running the hospital itself.”
Carrington said, “Now Instead of running a $10 to 15 million deficit every year we are running a surplus every year. Democrats think government is the solution to everything.”
“We were running a nursing home we weren’t full but we had more employees than we needed. It has become a government jobs program. The previous commission had voted to sell the nursing home; but we had to open the bids. The highest big was $2.8 million and the property appraised at $8 million; but we were losing $3 million a year. We decided we would not accept the bid. The Republicans made the decision to instead break up the assets in pieces. They brought $11 million. Now we have two nursing homes run by for profits that are full and serve more patients and employ more people. This is applying Republican principles to government.”
Carrington said that when they took over, “The county was spending $400,000 a year on animal control. The Jefferson County animal control would catch animals and put them down seven days later. 90 percent of the animals were euthanized. The animals and the workers were being trained on because the roof was in disrepair. The Humane Society came to us and offered to take over animal control. We agreed to give them $400,000 and formed a joint venture with the Humane Society. We went from 90 percent of the animals euthanized to 90 percent adopted. They are now going to build a $10 million new facility that includes a dog park and a dormitory for visiting Auburn University Vet School students. Auburn vet students were doing only four small animals surgeries before graduation. The Auburn vet students now come to the humane society and are getting to do 20 to 30 surgeries in a three-week period.”
Carrington said, “These are examples of getting government get out of the way and letting the private sector take over. There are others. The county had a print shop. We sold that. The county had a laundry. Sold that too. We applied Republican to government and in two yearsJefferson county will be the model for the country. When we took over the commissioners had legislative and executive branch responsibilities. We recruited a professional county manager to separate the executive and the legislative branches. Former Hoover Mayor Tony Petelos was hired to be the county manager. We still have problems. We are solving them. We are not just kicking down the cobwebs, we are killing spiders.”
Carrington said, “Jefferson County is the second largest government in the state.” “If it can work for Jefferson County it will work for the state.” “I don’t need to b governor egotistically. I don’t need to be governor financially. What have you go to lose?”
Carrington said that as Governor, he would sell the ABC stores: “ We are going to get a lot of money for them. The employees will be in private enterprise.”
“One of the problems in Jefferson County was the people did not trust us. The State has the same problem. Being trustworthy is not enough. You also need to be competent and some of the people we have elected have not been competent to do the job.
“One of the biggest problems in Alabama is that a half a million working age adults do not have a high school diploma. They are stuck in a minimum wage job. They don’t make enough money and by them being in that minimum wage job, they are preventing young people from getting that entry level position. The state needs to get a program to get those adults a high school equivalency and some job training so that they can advance to jobs paying more. That would then open up more opportunities for young people to get an entry level opportunity.
“The state needs to improve K-12 education. The problem starts in the early grades. If we can get a child passionate about learning and teach them how to read they will advance. We developed the Alabama Reading Initiative and now we don’t fund it. In Jefferson County we started the TASC program where high school kids were taught job skills. They graduate from that to jobs making $12 to $15 an hour. We started with 100 students and are now doubling that to 200 students. And that is not just poor kids. We have kids from Vestavia taking those classes. Only 32 percent of the jobs require a college degree.”
“Who is smarter: a kid that goes to school to become a lawyer and after seven years of colleges and law school makes $68,000 a year and owes $150,000, or a kid who becomes a plumber’s apprentice who makes $80,000 a year and owns a bass boat and a home? Who is the better capitalist?”
Carrington said that 86 percent of the jobs are in metropolitan areas. “I can’t change that. You can’t cite a 1500 job employer in a 1500-person town; but I can aggressively recruit 15 to 20 job employers for rural Alabama. Birmingham gets a bad rap because it is Birmingham. You have to promote the metropolitan area.”
“I am a believer in term limits.” He said that they fixed Jefferson County in two terms. “I would not serve a third term even if I were not running for Governor.”
On the worsening prison crisis Carrington said that the prisons are so overcrowded that it is not conducive to rehabilitation. He did say however, “I am concerned with borrowing $800 million and pay for it with cost savings (referring to Gov. Bentley’s Great State 2020 prison construction plan). You have to prove that your model works before borrowing $800 million. I would prefer us focusing on Tutwiler. If you want to build a new women’s prison I am all for it. We need to look at our sentencing guidelines.”
Carrington and his wife, Sonia, have been married for 47 years. They have two children and seven grandchildren.
The major party primaries will be on June 5, 2018.