I know we are in a new year, but allow me to look back into 2023 and share with you some observations and accolades from the last year.
My old friend Mac McArthur has been Executive Director and Chief Cook and Bottle Washer of the Alabaman State Employees Association for 26 years now. He is one of my best friends and we talk about once or twice a month. Our conversations last an hour as we enjoy regaling stories of Alabama politics. Nobody knows Alabama political stories or Alabama political history better than Mac.
Mac McArthur has accomplished something never before done in state history for state employees. State workers have received a cost of living raise for five of the last six years. In addition, they have benefited from the state picking up most of the tab for the increased cost of their health insurance escalation. In bygone years, state employees would get a cost of living raise about every six years.
I continue to be impressed by State Senator Will Barfoot. He has become very effective in only his second term. He is very popular around the capitol and extremely popular in his Senate district. I bet if you polled his counties of Crenshaw, Elmore, the suburbs of east Montgomery and his hometown of Pike Road, Will would be the most popular public official in those venues. He is also an astute and fair Chairman of the State Senate Judiciary Committee.
However, Barfoot probably would not outdistance the mayor of Pike Road, Gordon Stone. Even though still young, Mayor Gordon Stone has become a legend. Gordon was elected to the small community of Pike Road City Council in 2000. He became the first mayor in 2004. He has planned and overseen the amazing growth of Pike Road from a community of less than 1,000 people to a city of approximately 10,000 today. He has been mayor of Alabama’s fastest growing city for 20 years.
It seems only yesterday when Gordon and the beautiful Ellen Mosely were young lobbyists at the Capitol. They met around Goat Hill and married. They have been married for 34 years. Gordon heads the Association of Higher Education. Ellen’s father was a long time superintendent of Ozark City Schools.
While we are talking about Montgomery area political folks, Montgomery State Senator Kirk Hatcher is the real thing. He is a genuine and sincere gentleman. He is really an educator and church leader at heart. He is not a politician. He is a Christian public servant, who loves his community and church, which he grew up in.
Senator Kirk Hatcher and Senator Will Barfoot have become good friends of mine and sometimes seek my counsel on Alabama politics. I have told both over the years that they have more power and influence as one of 35 State Senators than one of the 435 members of the U.S. Congress. Barfoot, R-Pike Road, and Hatcher, D-Montgomery, would have been favorites to be the Republican and Democratic nominees for the new 2nd Congressional District. However, it appears they have taken my advice and settled into their state senate seats. I guarantee you that both will have a better lifestyle being one of 35 Alabama State Senators and spending every night in their own beds in Montgomery as opposed to flying back and forth to Washington every week and being lost as last on the totem pole in the U.S. House of Representatives.
The Alabama Community College System has taken their rightful place as the King of Higher Education in the state. With 24 colleges and more than 130 locations and 155,000 students, they are the primary vehicle for providing workers and managers for today’s economy for Alabama businesses, both large and small. Jimmy Baker has done an outstanding job as Chancellor. His years of experience in state government and, more importantly, in the business/private sector, has allowed him the foresight to lead in the development of jobs that are most needed today for Alabama economic and manufacturing growth.
Jimmy Baker has a right hand man that has evolved into his mainstay. Dr. David Walters, the Vice Chancellor of Adult Education and Special Projects and Systems Initiatives is just what his title states. He wears three hats and works nonstop. Each one of his titles is a full time department head’s job. He is a real workhouse for Jimmy Baker and ACCS. He is a tireless worker and enjoys and thrives on what he does. He believes in his mission and is passionate about it. Even though he works three jobs, he finds time to enjoy his family.
We will continue next week.