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Candidates appeal to St. Clair County Farmers

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By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter

Monday, January 15, 2018, the St. Clair County Farmer’s Federation held a political forum in Ashville, Alabama.  Candidates spoke to the farmers about the issues facing St. Clair County and the state of Alabama.

“I have served one term in the Senate and three terms in the House,” state Sen. Jim McClendon, R-Springville, said. “I am going to do it one more time. I look forward to your support.  I don’t think I have ever taken a stand against a Farmer’s Federation position.”

Greg Cobb is running for St. Clair County Schools Superintendent.

Cobb, an alumnus of Samford University, also has a degree from the University of Alabama. His experience ranges from working as a teacher’s aide in Ashville to working as a leadership aide in the state Department of Education as well as a principle at one of the local high schools.

Cobb said that the St. Clair County schools need to produce graduates that are not only college and career ready; but ready to face the fire.

“We need persistent and reliable revenue we have to invest in our children,” Cobb said.  “I want the community to communicate back to the Superintendent’s office. I will meet with advisory groups on a monthly and quarterly meetings.”  “Over 50 percent of our children live in poverty. Children from a poverty background often are not ready for school.” Somebody from the Superintendent’s office will actually go in the home to give the parents a book to tell them what the child needs to do to get ready for school.  “The education system should be a reflection of our community.  I want everyone held accountable.”

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Mike Howard is also running for St. Clair County Schools Superintendent.  He is the principal of St. Clair County High School.

“I was born in Roanoke and grew up in Alexander City,” Howard said. “My mom worked two jobs.  My father left the family at  two years old.  My stepfather was an abusive alcoholic who did not work.  I lived in a single wide trailer for the first 18 years of my life.  My grandfather was an enormous influence.  He taught work ethic and that a man must honor his word.  I have been married to my wife Melanie for 19 years. I have lived in Margaret for the last 15 years.”

Howard said that when he took the job as principal at St. Clair County High School his focus the first year was discipline and safety.

“Install those and the grades will go up,” Howard said. “I had heard the rumors and seen the videos.  The first year I focused on that and grades have gone up. GPA is even higher than it was last year. I want to be perfect in everything I do.  We are not there yet. I taught special ed. at Oak Mountain for years before I became an administrator there.  I was a football coach for 16 years.  To be the best That philosophy did not change when I stepped down from coaching.”

Howard said that he has instituted a peer character education, where students teach other students.  He is also pilot testing a virtual system.  The traditional lecture system we have growing up does not reach the students.  Howard said that a virtual classroom will allow students to take electives online so as seniors they can leave early each day to go to work and go to college.  If they can leave after a half a day that will motivate student not to drop out.

“Being a leader is not knowing everything; but knowing what I do not know and knowing where to get it,” Howard said.

“We have got to upgrade and expand facilities,” Howard said.  In my school alone we have 50 more students than last year.  “I strive every day to outwork my opponent.  My mantra is raising the bar.  We are not going to raise the bar we are going to become the bar.  In academics, athletics, and in facilities.”

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Incumbent Superintendent Jennie Seals is retiring.

Billy Murray is running for Sheriff of St. Clair County.  He is currently the Assistant Sheriff.  “I see a lot of friends in the room and nobody I have arrested recently.”  “I have had the privilege of working for 25 years and soaking up all the training and knowledge like a sponge.”  “It is the only job I really have ever had.”  “I have had some opportunities to leave but my heart has always been here.  Everything that I have done in my life has prepared me for this.”

“If you have a good sheriff you probably don’t notice it; but if you have a bad one you will know it real fast,” Murray said. “I have working in every division and supervised every division.  It is my life.  I humbly ask that you consider voting for me.”

Incumbent Sheriff Terry Surles  is retiring.

Rusty Jessup is running for Alabama House of Representatives district 30.

“I am not only a follower of Jesus Christ but a soldier for Jesus Christ,” Jessup said.  “I am the Mayor of Riverside.  I want you to know how import the St, Clair County Farmers Federation is for all that you do.”

Former Ashville Mayor Robert McKay is also running for House District 30.  “I have worked 27 years with the City of Ashville, 31 years with the American Legion.  I drive a school bus now.  If you want someone who will go to Montgomery to represent you, I have the experience to do that.”

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McKay said that he has worked with cows and on a dairy, I have cleaned chicken house.  McKay said that he is still undecided how he is going to vote on the January 30 referendum to raise property taxes in St. Clair and has concerns with how they are going to spend the money. “ I would like to represent you guys.  I wish y’all would afford me that opportunity.”

Craig Lipscomb is also running in House District 30.  “I am an Architect.  I am a business owner  I have a wife and two children.  I am a conservative Christian.  I live on a small farm outside of Gadsden.”  Lipscomb said that he has been President of the Kiwanis and is active in the Symphony and has been involved with non-profit work for 17 years.

Lipscomb praised farmers.  “You guys literally feed Alabama you are literally the heart blood of Alabama.”

Incumbent state Rep. Mack Butler, R-Rainbow City, is vacating the position to run for State Senate in District 10.  State Sen. Phil Williams, R-Rainbow City, is not seeking another term.

It was announced that there will be introductory beekeeping classes taught at the ALFA building in Ashville.

ALFA Area Director David Farnsworth announced that there are available scholarship opportunities,  “As of this morning we have not had a single kid from this county apply for any of these scholarships.  It has been open since November 15.  To me that is sad.”

The ALFA Foundation will award 100 $1,000 scholarships for students attending Alabama colleges, universities, and technical schools.  Go to for more information.  The Alabama Farmers Agriculture Foundation will award up to 67 scholarships for $1,750 each to students majoring in agriculture or forestry at Auburn University or Alabama A&M Universities.  Only Farmers Federation members of their children can apply.  Applications are available through January 31.

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“For $30 I would take a chance at a scholarship,” Farnsworth said.

St. Clair Farmer’s Federation Vice President Donald Ray Walker said, “Our young people are our future.”

Members were reminded that there will a vote on whether or not to raise property taxes across St. Clair County on January 30.  The revenue will be earmarked for the public schools.  Polls will be open from 7:00 am to 7:00 pm.

Cobb told the Alabama Political Reporter that without the new revenue that the schools will have to start making cuts.   The increase will be 5 mills and 3 mills for a total of 8 mills.

St. Clair County is one of the most Republican voting counties in the state.  Every elected office in the county, including the state legislature and judgeships are currently held by Republicans.  There were no Democratic candidates at the forum.

The major party primaries are on June 5, 2018.

Brandon Moseley is a former reporter at the Alabama Political Reporter.

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