PHS grad brings politics to Wing

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Wing is not typically on the stump list for gubernatorial candidates, but thanks to one recent Pleasant Home graduate, that’s exactly what it was Saturday as the site of a meet and greet for Dr. Robert Bentley, a 2010 Republican candidate for governor.

Ethan Henley, the 2009 Pleasant Home High School valedictorian and current University of Alabama freshman political science/public relations major, organized the meeting.

Henley found his way onto the Bentley campaign by joining the College Republicans at the university.

“I’ve always been politically minded,” Henley said.

“Politics are fascinating to me. So when I heard about the opportunity (to work on Bentley’s campaign) I said this is something I have to do, and it has been absolutely fascinating.”

Henley described the process.

“Politicians – we see them on the television and they seem like such celebrities,” he said. “To watch how they interact with the public is amazing to watch. To realize the amount of work it takes to run a campaign is something. Most politicians are down-to-Earth people who want to make a difference in their community, which is exactly what I liked about Dr. Bentley.”

Saturday, a crowd of more than 50 residents greeted Bentley, a dermatologist and current state representative from Tuscaloosa County, with questions ranging from gambling issues to health care.

According to his Web site, Bentley is running for governor “to grow the economy and create jobs without increasing taxes or spending.” It cites his desire for more transparency and accountability in Alabama government and states he will not accept the governor’s annual salary until Alabama reaches full employment.

“The Wing event on Saturday night turned out phenomenal,” Henley said.

“We had a fair turnout of approximately 50 people. Dr. Bentley spoke about 30 minutes, discussing his overall platform and why he thinks he is the best candidate for the job.

“Then we went into about a 45-minute ‘Q & A’ session where Dr. Bentley said they really put him through the ringer, but he really enjoyed answering their concerns,” he said.

All agreed it was probably the first time the town had been visited by a gubernatorial candidate, and Henley said the majority of the questions stemmed around health care.

“The majority of the people in attendance were aged 50-plus, so of course, health care was a big concern of theirs,” he said.

“And while the issue is on a national level, Dr. Bentley did speak about how the governor can play a roll in the process. He spoke about how he, if elected, would propose a constitutional amendment that would allow the state to not opt into the national health care system.”

That, people liked, Henley said.

“I feel that Dr. Bentley was well received by the audience and according to my parents (Wing fire chief Bill Henley and wife Pat) everyone was thoroughly impressed by him.

“In my opinion, Dr. Bentley shines in these types of situations,” he said.

“He truly is a regular person wanting to do what is right for the state and is not in it for any personal political gain. Everywhere we go this is the first thing that people perceive about him.”

As for Henley’s political aspirations, he said, “I think I’d rather work behind the man.”

“I’m going to see where things take me,” he said. “Today, Wing and Tuscaloosa. Tomorrow maybe Washington, D.C. I’m just going to have to wait and see.”