Special to the
Opelika Observer

Will you protect the Forever Wild Land Trust? – Yes
“In order to protect our freshwater resources, do you support the completion of a comprehensive water plan for Alabama? Yes, and that is not all. I started the Alabama Development Office, and as the chief administrative assistant to the governor, wrote the executive order creating it, then wrote the legislation making it and the Department of Economic and Community Affairs permanent. The statutes creating these entities contained language that required comprehensive strategic management planning for every department in the state including a comprehensive water plan for Alabama that required input from the state geologist, the state labs, the inland docks, the state docks, the Conservation Department, state parks and I am sure others I cannot remember from 50 years ago. When Gov. Riley was elected in 2002, one of the first things he did was dissipate the Office of Comprehensive Strategic Management Planning in ADO then Bentley abolished ADO completely, and comprehensive planning ended with the exception that Bonnie Fuller filed a comprehensive plan of some sort for the Appalachian Commission until she retired. When I am governor I will bring back comprehensive planning as part of the former Planning, Programming and Budgeting System as a best management practice applicable to all functions of state government, including comprehensive water planning. Planning is also the key to federal funds for assisting with water resources and all other functions of state and local government. If used properly comprehensive planning can usher in the right kinds of block grants that allow the state to manage more efficiently rather than with chopped up pieces of grants-in-aid.”
• What is your vision for how oil spill dollars can be utilized to restore coastal Alabama?
“My vision has been largely pre-empted by federal legislation that set up an organization of mostly local officials to determine how the funds will be spent. It is my understanding that the organization has so far selected water drainage, sewer and coastal reclamation projects for most of its funds. The governor is an ex officio member with only one vote. When I am governor, I will use my powers of persuasion to emphasize two areas that I think are being overlooked. First, there are many cities and towns like Prichard that are not represented in the organization; I will endeavor to represent them, and that includes towns much further inland like Pine Hill and Evergreen. I know from personal experience, for example, that the oil spill impacted many of my friends in the lawn care industry. When the spill hit the coastal area, lawn care professionals temporarily left the coast and came as far as Montgomery looking for work which drove the price of lawn care down here for a while and caused hardships for everyone in the business.
Secondly, I will push to divert a portion of the oil spill funds to a Bank for New Small Business to help the coast get back on its feet financially. New small businesses create 80% of all new jobs, and start-up businesses are starved for capital in this state. I will ask for a sir charge on interest paid by the small business that gets financing this way, and the charge will go into a revolving fund for further conservation purposes on the coast. This will be like a never ending trust fund for small business startup and coastal conservation.
• Would you support legislation that would increase Alabamians’ ability to choose solar energy for their homes and businesses?
“All things being equal, yes. But I do not think we should subsidize solar, and I want to study further what may be regulatory impediments to a customer’s freedom to choose that have just come to light. What do you think are the most important conservation issues in Alabama right now? Wow, let me count the ways:
1. Cleaner air by getting our old coal burning steam plants converted.
2. Refinancing ADEM so it can properly monitor.
3. Solving the riparian rights disputes with Georgia.
4. Settling oil spill issues on the coast.
5. Lyme disease, tick and mosquito control in our forests and out of doors so the public may enjoy them without fear again.
6. Re-opening our state parks.
7. Lobbying the Congress to re-establish the Rural Development Administration in thevUS Department of Agriculture so that Alabama may continue to get support for hervrural volunteer fire fighters who serve as backup for forest fire fighters.
8. Lobbying Congress to rebuild the Alabama Army National Guard from 12,000 personnel back to 22,000 so that among other things they can serve as emergency backup forest fire fighters.
9. Soil erosion and fertilizer run-off.
10. Controlling the pine beetle in certain areas of the state.
11. While ADEM is usually thought of as controlling water quality in a conservation sense,
I think we also have a big problem connected to water conservation in the water delivery systems provided by our state’s rural water pumps and pipes most of which are PVC and over 50 years old, many admitting contaminated ground water and sewage.”
• In your opinion what is the governor’s role in supporting conservation in Alabama?
“First, let me preface by saying that two governors appointed me to be their chief administrative assistant and to build the economic machinery that brought 350,000 good-paying jobs to our state by recruiting industries like Mercedes Benz, Boeing, Sikorsky, Toyota, Honda and Hyundai. We did it by getting federal funds to build over 200 industrial parks statewide. Govs. Riley-Bentley-Ivey tore that machinery apart, but I will put it back together, and it can be used to go after federal funds for conservation as well as economic development. That is where I got the funds for our state parks: federal funds. So the governor’s role in supporting conservation is to use the bully pulpit to make the public aware of conservation issues then to lobby the legislature for continuing support for funds that can be optimized with high-leveraged matching funds from the Appalachian Regional Commission and then from other federal sources for other areas. The governor is then responsible for executing the comprehensive strategic management plan for conservation to achieve the goals and objectives set for the fiscal year and to bring it in below budget. He is then responsible for reviewing the after-action reports of his section leaders to determine what changes need to be made in the plan next year. He then submits his findings to the state Auditor for review and critique who in turn submits his review, including that of the conservation program to the legislature and the public.
Please describe any experience you have with Alabama’s natural environment or with conservation. I think you want me to write a book, but I will try to be brief. I grew up on the edge of a small town where I came from school, threw my book sack on the porch and headed for the woods and fields next to my house. I became a Boy Scout, an Eagle with double bronze, double gold and double silver palms and God & Country Award, the most highly decorated Sea Scout in the council at the time with over one year of camping time, so I got a little of the natural environment. I went to work for my congressman right out of graduate school and served as his congressional aide (including functioning as legislative assistant) handling farm bills and conservation measures. My member was the 4th ranking in seniority in Congress in an age when seniority ruled Washington, and he served on the powerful Appropriations Committee.
I served on both the constituent and committee staffs. On Appropriations we handled the hearings and appropriations for conservation. I also handled much of the testimony for the navigable waterway system in Alabama where there were numerous environmental and conservation issues.
An example of a conservation and water quality problem I handled both on the Appropriations Committee and in the constituent office was the deepening of the channel in Mobile bay harbor. The dredging disrupted shrimp and oyster fishermen. We were able to get the Corps of Engineers to dump some of their fill dirt to make a reef for oystermen to re-seed, and they found alternate areas for the shrimpers.
Under Governor Lurleen I staffed the Conservation Department budget with the help of mentoring from Senator Walter Givhan, and I was the governor’s legislative liaison when we got the state parks bill through. I did much of the physical planning on the Lake Eufaula Park with speaker Jimmy Clark.
My staff did the grant work that did most of the funding for the parks.”