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Officials: ‘He’ll be hard to replace’

Both Democrats and Republicans praised Speaker of the House Seth Hammett, D-Andalusia, as he announced his decision Friday not to seek another term of office next year, and local officials said his will be tough shoes to fill.

Hammett, who’s represented Covington County in the Alabama legislature for the past 31 years, announced his plans not to seek re-election at the close of the 2009 legislative session, saying he wanted to give those who would seek to be elected to his seat in the House and to his job as speaker plenty of notice.

Hammett’s friend and contemporary, Andalusia Mayor Earl Johnson, said he respect’s the speaker’s decision.

“I respect Seth Hammett’s decision,” Johnson said. “It’s one for he and his family to make and we will have him there for 20 more moths to represent this district.

“I’m disappointed we won’t have him for another term to represent us. He is a historic leader in Alabama, not to mention Covington County. I can think of no one who has done more to lift Covington County up and move it forward. It’s going to be impossible to fill his shoes in any time frame of the near future.

Local Democratic party chairman agreed.

“He can’t be replaced,” Woodard said. “Nobody here could ever begin to fill his shoes. Also, looking around the state, I don’t know if there’s anyone who can run the House and balance everything the way he does.”

Woodard said the speaker is respected by members of both political parties.

“He’s not overly partisan,” Woodard said. “Even Republicans talk about how fair he is.”

Indeed, Republicans were talking yesterday.

House Minority Leader Mike Hubbard, R-Auburn, called Hammett “a good speaker.”

“I have a lot of respect for him. He always worked well with me,” said Hubbard, who at times led the opposition to legislation supported by Hammett. But he said they always treated each other in a respectful manner.

Local Republican leader Greg White, who worked with Hammett for 13 years while serving as county commission chairman, echoed the praise.

“He always did a great job in the 13 and a half years I worked with him,” White said. “He was always available.”

White also said that having Hammett in the leadership role in Montgomery made it easier to get doors opened there.

Woodard described Hammett as “a gentleman and a voice of reason.”

“There aren’t many of those to be found anymore.”

His impact on Covington County will be unmatched, Woodard said.

“If you look at the four-laning of Hwy. 84, the work on Hwy. 331, four-laning Hwy. 55 to I-65, all of that was made possible because of his work,” he said.