By Steve Flowers
The 2021 Regular Legislative Session begins next week. Over the years, I have observed some outstanding classes of freshman legislators. Some standout 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 ten-member class of Republican state senators is a sterling group and includes Sam Givhan of Huntsville, Will Barfoot of Pike Road/Montgomery, Dan Roberts of Mountain Brook/Jefferson/Shelby, Andrew Jones of Cherokee/Etowah, Garlan Gudger of Cullman, Chris Elliott of Baldwin, David Sessions and Jack Williams both of Mobile, and Randy Price of Opelika, along with veteran-state senator Tom Butler who has returned as a freshman after a decade hiatus from politics.
This group may stay together in the Alabama State 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 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 House to the Senate, and one Red Shirt, Tom Butler.
Senator 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 1950’s and 1960’s.
Senator Will Barfoot won his seat convincingly in 2018. He worked his Montgomery/Elmore/Crenshaw district the old-fashioned way with diligent one-on-one politickin. 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.
Senator Dan Roberts of Mountain Brook is personable and honest. He has had a successful career in business and is serving in the state Senate for the right reasons.
Senator Andrew Jones is one of the youngest members of this class. He has tremendous potential and is doing an excellent job. Similar to Barfoot, Andrew really worked his district and knows his constituents well.
Garlan 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.
Senator Chris 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.
Senator David Sessions, of Grand Bay in Mobile County, 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.
Senator Jack Williams of Mobile is quietly effective. He is unassuming and may be the most successful business-wise of this illustrious group of freshmen.
Senator Randy Price of Opelika/Lee County represents a sprawling East Alabama district. He is a former Lee County commissioner. His wife, Oline, is the revenue commissioner of Lee County.
Senator Tom Butler from Huntsville is the red shirt member of this class. Tom served for decades in the legislature during the 1980’s and 1990’s. 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.
This group of senators is not only outstanding, they are also affable and congenial.
See you next week.
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.