Guy Gunter reflects on 41 years of service to Opelika
By Anna-Claire Terry
Before City Attorney Guy Gunter began law school, his original plan was to become a dentist. Because of eyesight issues, a decades-long law career began and Opelika gained an attorney who would represent the city for 41 years and counting.
Gunter joked that he “went in kind of cold” with an undergraduate degree from the University of Alabama in chemistry and biology. “Graduating in chemistry is not the easy way to get through law school, I’ll tell you that,” he said. Gunter also became a commissioned officer in the U.S. Army in 1972 and served in reserve unit under Opelika’s Judge James T. Gullage for many years. After graduating law school from the University of Alabama in 1973, Gunter accepted a job with Thomas “Pep” Melton. “You may wonder how I ended up being city attorney… I kind of inherited the job,” Gunter said. “The law firm that I joined had been city attorneys since 1952. I started representing the city in 1975.” Gunter was in private practice while representing the city until 2014. His responsibilities include advising the mayor and city council, preparing resolutions, ordinances, contracts and other legal documents, attending council and planning commission meetings, and representing the city in city court.
According to Gunter, the most difficult part of his job is sometimes giving advice that people do not necessarily want to hear. “People don’t like to hear the word ‘no’ sometimes, but my role is to research the law and tell elected officials what I believe the law to be.”
Gunter said he has had a good experience in his position as city attorney and he values the relationships he has made over the years. “I have met a lot of interesting people. I know a lot of people that care a lot for the city, and I think all elected officials want to do the best they can for the city,” he said. “This city has been fortunate enough to have a lot of high quality people serve in elected office.” He added that he also enjoys having the opportunity to be involved with what is going on in the community and interacting with people. “To be a good lawyer, or to be a lawyer with any success, you have to have good relationships with people You have to be able to communicate with people, and I have enjoyed doing all of that,” Gunter said. He added that very little of what he does in his job was learned in law school. It took years of reading, research and experience to gain all of his knowledge of municipal law.
Gunter has also represented the Opelika utilities and E-911 boards. His contract is for three years, and he said he would like to keep the position until retirement. He enjoys sports, reading and enjoying his grandchildren in his free time. “I’ve been blessed with three granddaughters ranging from ages two-11, and I like to spoil them,” Gunter said. He and his wife Jan have been married for 37 years.
Gunter also stays involved in the community outside of the job. He is a member if the Rotary Club and First Baptist Church of Opelika.