New Lee County Commissioner Takes Seat



The Lee County Commission welcomed Ross Morris Monday night as the new District 2 commissioner.

Morris was appointed to the District 2 seat after it was vacated by Sarah Brown in October 2021. Brown filled the seat left after District 2 Commissioner Johnny Lawrence passed away from COVID-19 in August 2020.

Lawrence was the last commissioner elected to the District 2 seat, while both Brown and Morris were appointed by Gov. Kay Ivey.

“I also want to thank Sarah Brown who served District 2 very admirably with both passion and conviction,” Morris said. “I hope I can do the same. There’s still another person in District 2 I really wanted to recognize or remember and that’s Johnny Lawrence.

“Johnny was the last person elected, that’s who the people voted for, that’s who I voted for. I … communicated with Maggie [Johnny’s wife] and just wanted to let her know how honored I am and how much I really want to represent her, and their family and Johnny.”

Morris has been in Lee County since 1987 when he moved here as a student. Although he spent two years in Atlanta following graduation, he and his wife soon moved back and have lived in the county since.

He got his masters in Auburn and taught at Loachapoka for a couple of years before switching careers into sales for five years.

“[I] then decided to go work for Tyco, which is now Johnson Controls … that’s where I’m employed now, at Johnson Controls,” Morris said. “I’m a continuous improvement manager, which means I try to fix, my team and I, we try to fix problems. And that’s what we do, they give us a problem and we try to figure out the best way around it. I’m not in the engineering side, it’s the people side.”

Morris and his wife are members of Auburn United Methodist, where he spends time volunteering, he said. He is also the PA for Auburn High School sports.

“I just sincerely want to say how grateful I am,” Morris said. “It is an honor and I look at this as a service opportunity and I truly hope that I represent you, and all of Lee County and District 2 especially very well. So, thank you.”


EMA Director Rita Smith gave the commission a presentation on the upcoming third anniversary of the Beauregard Tornadoes.

The tornadoes that took place on March 19, 2019, took the lives of 23 Lee County residents.

Smith said that she spoke with David and Ashley Thornton, whose daughter Taylor, 6, was one of those lost to the tornadoes.

“What they asked that we do this year is have a picnic where they could bring families in to meet responders and personnel who actually worked that event,” Smith said.

The picnic will be held on March 3 at 5 p.m. at Providence Baptist Church.

Before the picnic, there will be a moment of silence at 2:03 central [when the first tornado touched in Beauregard] at the Smiths Station Government Center.

Then there will be a 7 p.m. memorial service at Providence Baptist Church.

“They have the lighting of the candles and the very impressive memorial at Providence,” Smith said.


The Auburn University Regional Airport is in need of a runway extension.

“We have to expand our safety area,” said Bill Hutto, airport executive director.

The north end of the runway at Country Club Road and Indian Pines Golf Course needs an additional 700 feet to bring it up to FAA safety standards. The south side already has a 1,000 foot safety area. The north end only has 300 feet.

“If we do not do this project, we will be required to shorten our runway,” Hutto said. “And our runway is 5,264 feet which is right at a mile. It’s a good length, but with the aircraft that we’re seeing today, if we have to shorten it and go under 5,000 feet it will severely impact our aircraft users and our ability to be able to serve the community.”

The land will come from Indian Pines Golf Course, however, and the total cost for that land and rebuilding the golf course will be $6.8 million, said Auburn Mayor Ron Anders.

The city of Auburn and the city of Opelika are each contributing $982,000, if that funding is approved by the respective councils. Auburn University is contributing $470,000. AO Tourism is putting in $250,000. Indian pines will be contributing $500,000. The FAA, from the state, with the University match, is $2.78 million.

Anders, Opelika Mayor Gary Fuller, Hutto and Cliff Knight Chair of the Indian Pines Board of Directors asked the commission on Jan. 31 if the county would also contribute $982,000.

“The three local governments have been equal partners supporting a number of things, Lee Russell Council of Governments, the county-wide ambulance service from East Alabama Medical Center, the Auburn University Regional Airport, the two cities participated with Lee County to construct the detention center several years ago,” Fuller said.

“… Each of us pledged 2.5 million to build the new terminal at the airport back in 2005 and the three governments, Lee County, Auburn and Opelika have shared equally in various airport projects that were not paid for by federal or state funds.”

The project will be completed, as requested by the FAA, by 2024. The funding will emanate from Indian Pines Golf Course and the money from each entity will be allocated to Indian Pines each year.

District 1 Commissioner Doug Cannon made a motion Monday night to provide $500,000.

“Then down the road, once we get their bids in then let’s go back and look at it then and see if we can do something different,” he said, which was backed up by District 4 Commissioner Robert Ham.

District 5 Commissioner Richard LaGrand said he didn’t want it to look like the county has given too little.

“I think it’s a great investment but I would like to see the bids come in as well,” he said.


– The county heard a proclamation that named Feb. 19-26 as National FFA Week.

– The commission approved the Loachapoka Park Lease Agreement.

– The commission approved the authorization to add the new County Administrator Holly Leverette as a depository authority and removed former County Administrator Roger Rendleman’s name.

– The commission approved the probation office job description.

– The commission approved a resolution against Senate Bill 157, which increased the log truck weight limit.

– The commission approved a speed limit reduction for Lee Road 370.

– The commission approved a bid for dry cleaning for the sheriff’s office.

– The commission approved an ABC License Application for The Backwaters Group LLC.

– The commission approved a promotion for Austin Jones for EMA Deputy Director.


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