ROGERSVILLE — Debbie Tucker said when her son, Colby, got out of bed Wednesday morning the first thing he wanted to know was if Tuesday night’s election results were real or was he having a dream.
“I just laughed and said it wasn’t a dream,” Debbie Tucker said.
In last week’s municipal election runoffs, her 19-year-old was elected to the Place 2 seat on Rogersville City Council, defeating the incumbent.
“When they posted the numbers Tuesday night we wondered if they were real or not,” Debbie Tucker said. “And (Colby) kept looking several times to see if they were real.”
Tucker, a nursing student at Northwest-Shoals Community College who works in the restaurant at Joe Wheeler Lodge, will begin his tenure on the council Nov. 5.
“I’m a full-time student, part-time worker and now a Town Council member,” said the 2011 graduate of Lauderdale County High School.
Tucker said he took a strong interest in politics in high school when he met former Rogersville resident James Baggett.
“Mr. Baggett moved into town, and I got to know him and he got me interested in politics and about three years ago, I started going to the Town Council meetings,” Tucker said. “I was hoping when I retired that I would get involved in politics, but I decided to give it a try now.”
He said he didn’t know how his youth would affect his candidacy.
“My friends are shocked; most of them didn’t expect me to win,” Tucker said.
Debbie Tucker said she and her husband, Ronnie, are overwhelmed with their son’s political success.
“He has the attitude of ‘what can I do for you?’ I think that’s what got him votes,” Debbie Tucker said. “We’re so proud of him. We know he will do the best he can for the people.”
Tucker’s former teacher at Anderson, Scotty Smith, isn’t surprised at his success.
“I taught him in the fourth grade, and even then he had good values, was well mannered and one of the most respectful people you will meet,” Smith said. “He was always a hard worker.”
Smith, who is not retired and works part-time as a security officer at Joe Wheeler State Park, said he remembered Tucker being interested in government.
“I was teaching Alabama history, and there was a little government in it, and he was really interested and really liked that,” Smith said. “I’m proud he got interested in politics. I think he will be an asset for the town of Rogersville.”
Tucker and another 19-year-old, Blake Guinn, who was elected to the Gardendale City Council this year, are among the youngest people ever elected to local government seats.
“Unfortunately, we don’t have stats regarding the ages of officials,” said Carrie Banks, a communications specialist for the Alabama League of Municipalities. She said qualification documents only require the person verifies he/she is older than 18.
She said in the past there have been young officials who were active in their communities who became active in the League of Municipalities.
She said Jim Byard, former mayor of Prattville, was first elected to the Prattville City Council when he was in his early 20s. She said Mayor Walt Maddox, of Tuscaloosa, was first elected to the Council in 2001 when he was in his late 20s.
Bill Stewart, a political science professor emeritus at the University of Alabama, said it is unusual for someone as young as 19 to be elected.
“Obviously, the people (in Rogersville) thought enough of him to elect him,” Stewart said. “Hopefully, he will be an example to encourage other young people to get involved in politics and in their community.”
Jess Brown, a political science professor at Athens State University, said 19-year-olds elected to city government is extremely rare.
“You have a large number of voters who often say someone young may have the energy, honesty, commitment, but have they had sufficient life experiences,” Brown said. “And have they faced the sufficient amount of challenges as an adult. Most voters look for people with experience in adult life.”
Brown and Stewart say Tucker will likely be closely watched by the adults who voted for him.
“It might be a little hard for him to be taken seriously, but if he does his homework and becomes knowledgeable about the issues (of the town), he will likely be accepted by the public,” Stewart said.
Brown said Tucker’s emergence could encourage other young people.
“This just might open the door for other young people to get involved in local politics or at least it may get them to come out and vote,” Brown said.
Rogersville Mayor Richard Herston said he’s eager to work with Tucker.
“I’m going to put him on a committee and let him learn about the job, what can and can’t be done,” Herston said. “I hope people don’t try to sway him and let him learn. If people let him learn and progress, I think he will make a good councilman.”
Tucker said he is eager to get started.
“I was scared in the election, but I’m excited more than anything else now,” Tucker said. “I want to be a good councilman. I want to go in and learn from the other members of the council and work with them to do the best we can for the town.”
Tom Smith can be reached at 2560-740-5757 or tom.smith@TimesDaily.com.