Speaker challenges council

Published 1:01 am Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Andalusia council members Will Sconiers, Kennith Mount, Hazel Griffin and Ralph Wells take the oath of office Monday. Not shown is Terry Powell. Michele Gerlach/Star-News

For the first time since the 1970s, an Andalusia mayor took the oath of office for consecutive terms. Similarly, four of the five council members were sworn in for consecutive terms, the first time a majority that large has been returned to office since 1952.

Judge Lex Short administered the oath of office to Mayor Earl Johnson, returning council members Will Sconiers, Hazel Griffin, Kennith Mount and Terry Powell, and to Ralph Wells.

Former Speaker of the House Seth Hammett, who spoke at the ceremonies, said when he was introduced as Covington County’s state representative, he was always proud to add, “I live in Andalusia.”

“We have a lot to be proud of,” Hammett said, adding the city boasts a quality education program and beautiful school facilities,.

“We have a diversity of employment opportunities,” he said. “Of course, we think of Shaw, which anchors our community. There is great work at the airport and the facilities we have there.

“We should take great pride in the fact that we understand we can do more if we work together,” he said. “We realize a business does not have to locate within the city of Andalusia for Andalusia to benefit.

He said having the headquarters of Southeast Alabama Gas District and PowerSouth, as well as two engineering firms here also is a great benefit.

“And we forget what a great employer, Andalusia Regional Hospital is. It truly is a regional hospital. We have many more specialists than most communities our size could ever have.

“We have great quality of life,” he said. “Who couldn’t have enjoyed being on the square last week for Halloween? How many communities around the United States wouldn’t like to have something like that in their communities?”

Hammett also praised the city’s recreational and cultural opportunities.

“You have made great strides in the appearance of our town,” he said. “When I was at LBW, I used to say that we wanted the appearance of our facility to reflect the quality of our programs.”

Hammett said when he spoke to new members of the house of representatives, he always reminded them to remember their titles.

“I always reminded them they were state representatives, not a Birmingham or Mobile or Dothan representative, not Democratic or Republican, black or white. If you want to get elected and stay elected, stay in touch with people of your district. Talk to them and return their telephone calls. But your title is city council members. You are responsible for the entire city, not just your district.”

He said he also told new representatives, “don’t ever allow anybody to tell you how to vote.

“If somebody tells you this is how you should vote, ask them, ‘Where were you on that hot summer day when I was out knocking on doors?”

He urged them to disagree “disagreeably,” if they must do so.

“The Bible teaches us, of those to whom much is given, much is expected,” he said. “Much is expected of you folks. You have a great opportunity here and a great community. Frankly, I envy you the opportunity you have to make great place to live an even better place to live.”