It’s been the honor of my life serving the good peoples of Newton and Morgan Counties.
It’s a testament to your generous hearts that you could so thoroughly welcome myself and my family, even though we’re not from here. Thus, as I step down from 16 years of public service and 23 years of military service, I feel the need to acknowledge my gratitude.
Attempts like this always fall short, and I’m certain to forget someone dear. But I believe that to hazard the attempt — even with the chance of accidentally leaving someone out — is better than to not dare.
My efforts in Newton County began with the generosity of Terry Evans introducing me around Covington. Buncie Hayes bestowed me unbounded positivity, as did Fred Greer. I was blessed with the counsel of Denny Dobbs and Kathy Morgan.
I was honored to work with many elected friends, especially Stan Edwards, Keith Ellis, Nancy Schultz, Marcelo Banes, Jerry Roseberry, Steve Horton, Abigail Coggin, and Trey Bailey. I was also blessed with the friendship of Charles Berry and Billy Fortson. Most of all, I wish to thank Becky and the late Mayor Sam Ramsey. Being befriended by this fine couple has been one of the most rewarding part of these past eight years.
In Morgan, I wish to thank my “Inner Circle” whose tireless efforts won this seat, especially Allison Thompson, Mike Torino, Fred and Jeannie Johnson, and Betsy Quillen. Many others guided me, especially Chris Lambert, Bob Mason, Ginger Gardner, and especially the late Jim Boyd. Everett Royal and Dan Rather helped with several fundraisers, and Keith Kelly has helped the GOP countless times.
I learned a great deal from my time on the School Board, especially from Nelson Hale, Keith Howard, Andrew Ainslie, and Superintendents Stan Dejarnett, Ralph Bennett, and James Woodard. However, my favorite colleague is Minnie Peek, perhaps the sweetest and most sensible woman I know. I honored Mayors Bruce Gilbert and Fred Perriman at the Capitol, and was pleased to serve with Sherriff Markley, Ellen Warren, Ron Milton, Donald Harris, Whitey Hunt, and Mike Naples.
Other community leaders that I really appreciate include Christine McCauley Watts and Ralph Castillo. Most of all, I continue to be inspired by the courage of Mandi Sorohan and her commitment to cherish her son in her battle against texting while driving.
I would not have run for the House without the encouragement of Andy Ainslie, and believe him to be the most excellent public servant Morgan has had since Roy Lambert. I am even more indebted to Bob Rice, the founder of the Morgan County GOP. Jim Tudor gave me invaluable advice about navigating the labyrinth of politics, and during the first year, John Milliken came with me to the Capitol nearly every day. But perhaps the single most important person who helped me is Mort Ewing. His wisdom and sound advice were indispensable to me throughout my eight years.
I served with many fine legislators, but wish to recognize my fondness for Andy Welch, Pam Dickerson, and especially Brian Strickland. I know you will be well served by Tim Fleming, and am sure he will do a better job than I did.
Lastly, I wish to thank my three closest supporters. Julius Hays has been a constant boon to me, with his plain-spoken humor, true grit, and uncommonly common sense. Gil Gainer was the chief of my campaign, and his intellect got me through several difficult battles. Most of all is my deep, personal friendship with my predecessor, Representative Doug Holt. A consummate expert of the political process, barely a day went by when I wasn’t calling him to ask how I should deal with a legislative problem.
Finally, I wish to publicly thank my family, especially my bride. Never a fan of politics, she nonetheless “held down the fort” and tolerated my adventure. I constantly sought her advice, and can assure you that if ever I made a generous gesture, it was because of her good counsel. The more testy parts I’ll own for myself.
When asked what my biggest takeaway is, I would say it was the dwindling civility of the political process. Eight years ago, I could honestly say that the Gold Dome was not like Washington. I can’t say that anymore. Both sides are to blame, and both sides could fix the problem, if only they would be kind to each other.
I hope that they will.