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Opinion | Outstanding class of freshmen state senators

“The 10-member class of Republican state senators is a sterling group.”

Then-Majority Leader Greg Reed, R-Jasper, presiding over the Alabama state Senate. Reed is now the Senate president pro tem.

The 2021 regular legislative session begins next week. Over the years I have observed some outstanding classes of freshmen legislators. Some stand out more than others and occasionally you have a very stellar class. My observation is that this freshman class of state senators is a class to remember and watch.

There are two Democrats and 10 Republicans in the freshman class of state senators, who were elected and sworn into office in November 2018. The 10-member class of Republican state senators is a sterling group and includes state Sens. Sam Givhan of Huntsville, Will Barfoot of Pike Road, Dan Roberts of Mountain Brook, Andrew Jones of Centre, Garlan Gudger of Cullman, Chris Elliott of Fairhope, David Sessions and Jack Williams of Mobile County, and Randy Price of Opelika, along with veteran state Sen. Tom Butler of Huntsville who has returned as a freshman after a decade hiatus from politics.

This group may stay together in the Alabama Senate for years to come. They are wise enough to realize that being one of 35 members of the state Senate is more powerful and has more effect over public policy than aspiring to Congress or a secondary statewide office — especially if you are one of the 10 Republican senators mentioned above. You are one of 25 who literally can control the mechanizations and budget of the Alabama government. The only post more powerful is governor.

One of the leaders of this 10-member Republican freshman state Senate class is Givhan. He is witty and has dubbed the class in football recruiting terminology. According to Givhan, there are seven true freshmen: Barfoot, Roberts, Gudger, Jones, Elliott, Price and he. Two junior college transfers, Williams and Sessions, who moved from the state House to the state Senate, and one red shirt in Butler.

Givhan is a lawyer by profession and served as chairman of the Madison County Republican Party prior to being elected to the Senate. He could be considered a state Senate legacy. His grandfather, the late Walter Givhan Sr., was a legendary state senator from the Black Belt in the 1950s and 1960s.

Barfoot won his seat convincingly in 2018. He worked his district — which includes Montgomery, Elmore and Crenshaw counties — the old-fashioned way with diligent one-on-one politicking. It paid off. He carried every box in his state Senate district. He can stay in that district until the cows come home. He was actually born and raised in Pike Road before it ever dreamed of being the fastest growing town in Alabama. Will is a lawyer by profession and a dedicated family man. He and his wife, Kathy, have five children.

Roberts is personable and honest. He has had a successful career in business and is serving in the state Senate for the right reasons.

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Jones is one of the youngest members of this class. He has tremendous potential and is doing an excellent job. Similar to Barfoot, Jones really worked his district and knows his constituents well.

Gudger is also young. He represents Cullman and a large part of Northwest Alabama. He knows his folks in Cullman well. He has the potential to be a powerful senator. Cullman has produced some influential senators over the years, especially the St. John family.

Elliott may have the most promise and ability of this group. The Baldwin County area he represents is very different from the one he grew up in. He knows the needs and problems inherent in representing the fastest-growing county in the state. He was a very effective county commissioner in Baldwin County prior to ascending to the Senate.

Sessions was one of the most popular members of the House before moving to the Senate. He and his brother operate a successful farming business. He knows his area of Mobile County and represents it well.

Williams of Mobile is quietly effective. He is unassuming and may be the most successful business-wise of this illustrious group of freshmen.

Price of Opelika represents a sprawling East Alabama district. He is a former Lee County commissioner. His wife, Oline, is the revenue commissioner of Lee County. 

Butler from Huntsville is the red shirt member of this class. Tom served for decades in the Legislature during the 1980s and 1990s. We served together in the Legislature during that era. I have never served with a more diligent and respected member. Tom is a pharmacist by profession and has not aged much over the years. He looks the same as when we were freshmen together in 1982.

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This group of senators is not only outstanding, but they are also affable and congenial.

See you next week.

Steve Flowers
Written By

Steve Flowers is Alabama’s leading political columnist. His weekly column appears in over 60 Alabama newspapers. He served 16 years in the state legislature. Steve may be reached at www.steveflowers.us.

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