Like many of you, I'll soon be enjoying a Memorial Day gathering with friends and family. We will have a great meal, eat too much, and enjoy each other's company. In Cherokee County, we are blessed to have a great reminder of what made today's good times possible for all of us in America. The Avenue of Flags has become a local fixture in our county's observation of patriotic holidays. Stretching along US Highway 411 between Centre and Leesburg, the line of American flags stand as a silent testament to the service and sacrifice of Cherokee County's veterans. At the base of each flag is a simple white cross bearing the name of a deceased veteran and the war in which they fought. We live in a great community that won't let our patriotic holidays become just another day off. I am thankful as well for the dedicated volunteers who make this local tradition possible. As we all enjoy Memorial Day 2012 in Cherokee County, let's commit to taking a moment to reflect on the high price paid for our freedom.
Posted on 28 May 2012, 17:04 - Category: Veterans
I was on hand to hear Senator Richard Shelby talk when he visited Cherokee County last Saturday. Senator Shelby makes it a point to visit each of the counties in Alabama at least once a year and share the latest news from Washington. I’ve attended these gatherings regularly since I came back home from the Army. Pretty soon that will be coming up on ten years and I am sad to say that it seems not much has changed up in DC. If anything, things keep getting worse.
Senator Shelby made an excellent point when he summed up the root cause of our nation’s financial difficulties: 1. we spend too much, 2. we save too little, and 3. we borrow too much. All of the pundits can debate until the cows come home about how we as a nation got to the point of accumulating $15.2 TRILLION in debt, but I think it all boils down to what the senator said. Sometimes the simplest answers hold the greatest truths.
A few years before I came back home, our national debt was $5.6 trillion. Now that debt is $15.2 trillion and projected to be $26.1 trillion by 2020 if things remain unchanged. Now I have to call it like I see it here - politicians from both parties had a hand in creating this mess. They also know what must be done to fix it. The question is do they have the will to do it?
Politicians make decisions based on politics and short term gain. They have an agenda which they will further even at the expense of the nation. Leaders, on the other hand, make decisions based on what is best for the people and not the party. A leader does not fear political repercussion when he or she does what they know is the right thing. We need leaders – not politicians.
Whether you are talking about a family budget, a county budget, or even a national budget, the principles remain the same. If you spend and borrow more than you take in, then you will soon find yourself in debt and massive debt is poison to future growth. If you aren’t careful, then you will be struggling just to pay the interest on the debt while the amount owed continues to grow exponentially. I am afraid that that is where we are as a nation.
As Chairman of the County Commission, I oversaw a budget of $16 million. Now, the county’s budget is around $20 million. I hold that the same principles you use in your family’s budget work for the county as well. We all know that there are times when you must take on long term debt as a family such as buying a new car, buying a house, or sending a child off to college. There are also times when a family budget has to take on unplanned expenses due to an accident or medical emergency. Also, there are other events that can limit a family’s income such as the loss of a job, a death in the family, or added expenses due to the birth of a child. The key is to manage your budget so that it can weather the bad times.
We all know the story in the Bible about Pharaoh’s dream where the seven fat cows were eaten by the seven emaciated cows and how Joseph told him that meant seven years of plenty would be followed by seven years of famine. Pharaoh heeded Joseph’s advice and stored up grain during the time of plenty to last the kingdom through the time of famine. There are two major lessons from this story: first, a time of plenty shouldn’t be a time to spend all that you have gathered. You need to save for when times aren’t so good. Second, and most important, you have to listen to good advice and work together. Leaders can do these things. Politicians, on the other hand, choose to keep kicking the can down the road for someone else to deal with.
Posted on 23 Mar 2012, 8:04 - Category: Government Spending
Last night, I had the honor of speaking to Cherokee County's NAMI group. NAMI is the National Alliance on Mental Illness. Their mission is to improve the lives of those suffering from mental illness as well as those affected by mental illness such as loved ones and family members. According to NAMI, 1 in 4 adults in America is impacted by mental illness as well as 1 in 10 children. In Alabama 1000,000 of our residents receive treatment through the Department of Mental Health each year. In the Cherokee-Etowah-DeKalb (CED) region, nearly 5000 of our friends and neighbors are currently receiving treatment through CED Mental Health.
I found while I was in office that there are moments of joy as a probate judge, such as presiding over adoptions; and there are also moments of sorrow, such as when you must commit someone in mental health crisis to involuntary treatment. It is a traumatic situation for the individual as well as the family. The goal of mental health treatment is to use the least restrictive means to treat a person's condition. This could be counseling, therapy, or medications. But sometimes, a person's illness escalates and they go into crisis. If this crisis reaches a point where the individual poses a threat to themselves or to others and they refuse treatment, then a petition is made to probate court to have them involuntarily committed for treatment.
One of the principles I will follow as probate judge is that those suffering from mental illness who come into Probate Court are to be treated compassionately and hearings for them need to be conducted in a manner that will put them at ease and ensure their safety. I've found that each case is unique because each individual is different. You must work with family members, mental health professionals, and law enforcement to determine how best to conduct the hearing for that individual.
A resource that those affected by mental illness have in Cherokee County is our local NAMI group. The group, headed by Sue Guffey, seeks to ensure that the mentally ill in Cherokee County get the proper treatment and help that they need. They also work to educate our community about the complex issue of mental illness. Through these efforts, our local NAMI hopes to also remove the stigma which is so often attached to those with mental illness.
Here I am pictured with Sue. Don't let her petite size fool you. She is known as "Sue-NAMI" for a reason. Her tireless efforts to advocate and educate help make Cherokee County a better place to live for those affected by mental illness. Everyone in our local NAMI is dedicated to that cause as well. By working together as a community, we can help our friends and neighbors living with mental illness get the treatment that they need to enjoy the quality of life that they deserve.
Posted on 22 Feb 2012, 10:24 - Category: Mental Health
On this President's Day, I wanted to blog about our first president, George Washington. Since blogs are supposed to be short, it was a tall order to pick one of his many accomplishments to expound upon. Washington has always impressed me because of his great sense of duty. There is a story which occurred after the British Surrender at Yorktown: a young officer suggested to the victorious General Washington that he could become the first American King if he so desired. Washington rebuked him for his suggestion - he only desired to return to Mt. Vernon and live out his days in peace. Duty called again and Washington found himself presiding over the Constitutional Convention of 1787. The result of the convention was the creation of one of the greatest documents in the history of man - the Constitution of the United States.
I finally decided to write about Washington's faith in God. It was his faith, I believe, that enabled him to have such a strong sense of duty and to accomplish so much in his lifetime. Washington was not boastful about his faith. He didn't write much publicly about his relationship with God. Most of what we know about his faith is gathered from the accounts of those around him. Many of those individuals recount stumbling upon Washington while he was in a private moment of devotion.
Washington could be found in these moments kneeling with an open Bible in front of him. Kneeling before God showed the great humility of our first president. Here is the man who led the Continental Army to victory over the most powerful empire in the world assuming the position of a servant before God. The fact that his Bible was open shows that he was seeking wisdom from God. Here is the man who presided over the creation of one of the greatest documents devises by man - our Constitution - acknowledging that he didn't have all the answers as he searched through God's Word for guidance.
The picture is of the stained glass window of Washington in prayer located in the Congressional Prayer Room inside our nation's capitol building. To be honest, I didn't even know that our capitol had a prayer room. I pray that it gets a lot of use these days. It is located near the Rotunda and was opened in 1955 as a private place for congressmen and senators to go and pray.
President George Washington had a deep and personal relationship with God. He strengthened that relationship through daily prayer. He did so privately instead of making it a spectacle in front of the eyes of men. Without a doubt, God heard the prayers of his servant. As a result, a great nation was born. On this President's Day, let's all reflect on the importance of faith and its role in the founding of America.
Posted on 20 Feb 2012, 8:54 - Category: Values
Irving Berlin wrote "There's No Business Like Show Business", but in buying materials for my campaign, I say "There's No Business Like Local Business"! I've found that almost everything I need can be bought and even made here in Cherokee County. Carl McDuff at CRS Printing is extremely creative and came up with my campaign's logo. CRS Printing has been in business since 1996 and employs 4 people who live in Cherokee County. Here's a picture of owner Carl McDuff going over the layout of some cards for my campaign. Carl made great suggestions as to the size of the card, the color combinations, and the type of paper to use. He's been at this for going on 16 years, so he knows what works. During this campaign season, Carl's been busy helping candidates from both parties get their message out to voters in Cherokee County.
Another great business right here in Cherokee County is Model Tees owned by David Crawford. David's been in business since 1987 and employs 26 people. David is a 1983 graduate of the Air Force Academy and is active in our local Red Cross and Rotary Club. The Sign Shop at Model Tees is managed by my good friend and high school classmate, Jamie Rayborn. I'd match his design creativity and quality of work up against anyone in the business. Here's a picture of Jamie and Brian Warren hard at work making my signs. They, too, have been busy helping candidates from both parties get their message out to voters in Cherokee County.
What really impresses me the most about both of these businesses is that they work together a lot of times. They constantly send business to one another in order to help a customer get exactly what they need. I think that speaks to how great these folks are as well as the sense of community that we have in Cherokee County.
That is why in my plans to make Cherokee County a better place to live and to work, I stress the need for county government to use local businesses whenever possible. On the offices that I oversaw when I was Probate Judge, that is what I did and I intend to do it again. When you support a local business, you help the entire county's economy. All of these business owners and employees live and pay taxes in Cherokee County. Why would you want to take Cherokee County taxpayer money out of the county when you could reinvest it into our community? It doesn't make any sense.
Granted, there are certain items and services that local merchants just can't provide. In that case, we should look to businesses close to us in Alabama. Our local businesses do so much to support our community and their local government needs to do what it can to support them. When it comes time for Cherokee County to buy goods and services when I am elected, there will be no business like local business!
Posted on 16 Feb 2012, 13:19 - Category: Local Economy