Dale Presley hopes to make history, twice, when Colbert County voters go to the polls Nov. 6.
If she defeats Charles Hovater in the County Commission, District 6 race, Presley will become the first Republican and woman elected to the commission.
Five seats on the six-member commission are on the ballot, including three occupied by incumbents.
There will be new commissioners representing districts 2 and 6, regardless of who wins, as a result of an incumbent losing and the decision by another commissioner not to run.
Only District 4 Commissioner Emmitt Jimmar was unopposed in both the primary and general elections.
The polls are open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Incumbent Commissioner Rex Burleson was unopposed in the Democratic primary and now faces Republican Tommy Barnes.
Burleson said residents he has spoken to want more industry and jobs, and see a lower unemployment rate.
“We’ve tried to address that and we’re heading in the right direction,” Burleson said.
Despite the sagging economy, Burleson pointed out that, Wise Alloys is involved in a $60 million expansion and Firestone Products has announced a $30 million expansion. SCA Tissue and North American Lighting also have announced expansions in recent months, Burleson said.
The commission approved a $500,000 loan for the Road Department that will match roughly $2 million in federal money that can be used to improve roads and bridges.
“We’re replacing bridges and trying to keep the roads in good shape,” Burleson said. “We’ve stayed within our budget and used money wisely.”
As a member of the Shoals Solid Waste Authority, Burleson said the county has continued to expand its recycling program.
“We’re being good stewards of the county’s funds, and that’s what the taxpayers and the county want us to do,” Burleson said.
Barnes said economic development is his priority and added the county needs to do a better job bringing together the various entities necessary for job growth.
An engineer with Shefffield Utilities, Barnes said his 30 years in engineering management and experience working with industries will help him improve the county.
“I feel I have a better vision than my opponent in the area of job growth,” Barnes said. “We really need to take more advantage of partnering with industry and other municipalities.”
Barnes said he wants to work with Gov. Robert Bentley to secure more funding for career-technical opportunities for young people, especially in the area of environmental research.
He advocates construction of a 5,000-seat amphitheater, possibly as part of the master plan being developed for over 1,000 acres on the Tennessee Valley Authority Reservation.
Lane Roland won the Democratic Party primary and faces Republican David Black in the general election.
Black, who is also chairman of the Colbert County Republican Executive Committee, said the party is interested in making in-roads in local government. Democrats, he said, have controlled county government for the past 138 years.
“It’s time for a change,” Black said. “I’m the conservative leader to make that change, to open the doors of the courthouse and open the doors to doing business in Colbert County. I think Colbert County is exceptional, but we’ve just had poor leadership.”
Black said wages in Colbert County have declined, as has the number of jobs.
“We’re falling behind economically when we should be advancing,” Black said. “We should be taking advantage of our opportunities.”
Black said people in the county have told him they want a change in the leadership of local government.
Roland said residents indicate the main issue facing Colbert County is the need for “more good-paying jobs.”
“Recently, we had some positive improvement with the additional employment at the Walgreen call center, Wise Alloys and North American Lighting,” Roland said.
Roland said his background with Sheffield Utilities and the North Alabama Gas District, along with his positive attitude, would help him recruit new industry and retail business.
“Over the years I have worked with (the Shoals Economic Development Authority on several projects,” Roland said. “Having an electrical engineering degree from Auburn University, a master of Business Administration from UNA and a registered professional engineer license in Alabama, I have the necessary education and experience to bring in new industry to provide jobs for the citizens of Muscle Shoals and Colbert County.”
Incumbent Commissioner Jimmy Gardiner defeated former commissioner James Bingham in the Democratic primary and faces Republican Gina Smith in the general election.
“I’ve been real proud of the way we’ve managed the county’s funds, balancing our budgets each year and putting money back into the general fund,” Gardiner said.
He said the commission has helped a variety of entities such as non-profit organizations though budget appropriations, and providing organizations like the Colbert County Drug Task force with office space.
As economic concerns continue, Gardiner said wise management of the county’s money and resources will continue to be at the forefront.
“To me, a county commissioner’s number one job is to serve the citizens and part of that service is infrastructure, roads, picking up garbage in a timely manner and keeping those costs as low as possible,” Gardiner said.
Smith said she does not consider herself a politician.
“We have too many of those,” Smith said. “As a candidates in this race, I believe in the power and the opportunity to allow Colbert County to have a strong, free market economy.”
Smith said she’s spoken to small business owners who want to strengthen the economy and make the county and its cities more competitive with neighbors like Athens, Decatur and Huntsville.
She would like to see more tax incentives available for small businesses, which would result in increased employment. She would also like to see higher wages in Colbert County and more on-the-job training.
“Rebuilding and strengthening our sluggish economy in Colbert County is basically the platform for our party, nationally and locally,” Smith said.
Smith said she has spoken to business owners who have threatened to shut down if they get hit with more regulations and higher taxes.
Incumbent Commissioner Roger Creekmore ran unopposed in the Democrat primary and faces Republican Tommy Oswalt in the general election.
Oswalt said the issue today is the same as it has been for the past four years, a continuing need for jobs.
He also wants to work with the state Department of Transportation to ensure the completion of the widening of Wilson Dam Road to U.S. 43.
“That will be very important to District 5,” Oswalt said. District 5 includes a significant portion of Muscle Shoals.
Oswalt, the owner of the Trojan House Coffee Shop in Muscle Shoals, said he would like to see the county promote the area’s music history and heritage.
“We’re not recruiting visitors to come into the area,” he said.
Oswalt said cities in Colbert County should work together to improve their infrastructure, such as roads, and to secure new industry.
“Our main objective needs to be growing the county in the right way and work in partnership with the cities,” Oswalt said.
Creekmore said the number one issue will always be economic development.
“With the unemployment rate what it is, we have to concentrate on that problem,” Creekmore said. “We have to do all we can to ensure that our children don’t have to leave the area for jobs.”
He said the county must continue to invest in its infrastructure, including roads and bridges as well as water and sewer service.
“An industrial facility is not going to move here unless we have good roads and access to water,” he said.
Continued support of the job training efforts at Northwest-Shoals Community College is another priority, Creekmore said.
He said he’s proud of what the commission has accomplished the past four years.
“While the national government is trillions of dollars in debt and the state government had to dip into its rainy day fund, Colbert County over the last four years has lived within its means and returned money to its general fund. To me, that’s responsible government.”
Barton resident Charles Hovater defeated fellow Democrat David Isom in the primary and faces Republican Dale Presley in the general election.
Hovater said he believes in face-to-face contact with residents of his district, which will help him set priorities for the district.
“Folks like to see that you want to shake their hand and they want to meet the candidate,” Hovater said.
He said what he’s hearing is no different than what other candidates are hearing. People want to see new industries that will keep their children and grandchildren from having to move away to find a good job.
“I’m hearing a lot about our roads,” Hovater said. “They need restriping and repaving. They don’t like the chip seal.”
Residents have also asked that the county do more tree trimming along their rights of way.
Hovater wants to see infrastructure in the west end of the county improved, especially sewers, cable television and high-speed internet.
“We could look into some federal grants,” he said.
Hovater proposes the county investigate the feasibility of hiring someone whose job would be researching sources of federal grant money that the county could match and make improvements.
“You need to find someone who is really tuned in to that type of work,” Hovater said.
Presley said Colbert County residents want jobs.
Presley, the owner of Dale’s Family Diner in Cherokee, also said people have expressed a lack of trust in local government and some feel they’re not being represented.
“They’re wanting someone to be their voice,” Presley said. ”They feel like they’re not being represented.”
Presley said the county “desperately needs jobs and growth.”
She is a member of the Colbert County Republican Executive Committee, and she also noted the need for Republicans to break the 138-year hold Democrats have maintained in county government.
“I just truly believe it’s time for a change,” she said.
Presley said her experience as a manager and business owner give her a “business sense” that can be useful in county government.
“You really and truly need a business sense because you’re dealing with a lot of money in the county,” she said. “You need to stay within your budget. I would like to go through department by department to find waste and put it where it’s best suited to help the people and the county.”
Russ Corey can be reached at 256-740-5738 or russ.corey@TimesDaily.com.