MCGOP – 17 September 2011

Congressman Mo Brooks received a standing ovation from more than 300 people at the Madison County Republican Men’s Club breakfast this morning.

Congressman Brooks spoke about the “Obama Kill Jobs Bill” and the futility of trying to compromise with people who have an “aberrant ideology”.  Mo may have said “abhorrent” – either adjective is correct when describing the left…

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MCGOP – 20 August 2011

After missing the past couple of Madison County Republican breakfasts because of travel, I attended Judgefest yesterday. 









Recently appointed Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Chuck Malone was the featured speaker.  Attendees included: Court of Criminal Appeals Judges Liles Burke and Mike Joiner; Circuit Court Judges Dennis O’Dell, Alan Mann, and Ruth Ann Hall; District Court Judges Dick Richardson and Alison Austin, Madison County Circuit Court Clerk Jane Smith;  prospective District Court Judge appointees Jonathan Pippin and Robert Rodgers; plus District Judge candidates Chris Messervy and Don Rizzardi

I listed the judges to illustrate how completely the people of Alabama have entrusted the judiciary to Republicans.  Consider that before 1994, no Republican held a statewide judicial seat (since Civil War Reconstruction).  Now every statewide judge is a Republican, furthermore, every State office is held by Republicans except Public Service Commission President Lucy Baxley (D).   The Republican Revolution is transforming the State at the County office level too.  Madison County Republicans won every office on the ballot in 2010.  Their rejection at the polls helps explain why Democrats push for unelected judicial selection instead of election by citizens.

More notes from the meeting…

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District Court competition

The Republican Primary for Madison County District Court Judge got competitive today with Chris Messervy entering the race.  Assistant District Attorney Don Rizzardi announced his candidacy last month.  Incumbent Judge Lynn Sherrod (D) hasn’t announced her plans to run for re-election or retire yet.

From The Times article about Messervy by Brian Lawson:

The District Court has broad responsibility. The court handles civil cases up to $10,000, misdemeanor criminal cases and preliminary hearings, custody disputes, traffic charges and small claims cases.

“The District Court judge is really on the front lines between the community and the court system,” Messervy said. “You make all the decisions from the bench; there are no juries. And often, what the community thinks about the court system most likely derives from their experience with the District Court.

“I think being respectful from the bench goes a long way.”

Messervy has already picked up endorsements from retired Circuit Judge Loyd “Buddy” Little and Circuit Court Clerk Jane Smith.

From The Times article about Rizzardi by Brian Lawson:

“You will never find a more dedicated public servant than Don Rizzardi,” [Madison County District Attorney Rob] Broussard said. “He does have vast trial experience, and like many in our office, a lot of if it is unheralded work in the courtroom. He has ground through his cases and always done his duty. We’ve always been proud of Don in our office.”

The years in the courtroom and managing a heavy caseload have prepared him for the challenges every judge faces, Rizzardi said.

“I’ve seen a lot of different judges, and I’ve seen what works for some and what doesn’t. I will take the best I’ve seen from all of them,” he said.


Full disclosure:  I’ve known Don Rizzardi for many years and I will campaign for him and then vote for him in the GOP Primary (March 13, 2012 – only 8 months away!).  I’ve met Chris Messervy a couple of times and like him and would support him except that he’s running against Rizzardi.

Strong may run for Commission Chair

County Commissioner Dale Strong (R) announced this morning that he is thinking about running for Chair of the Madison County Commission, currently held by Mike Gillespie (D).

Strong made the announcement at this morning’s Madison County GOP breakfast, which featured speeches by the three Republican County Commissioners (Strong, Faye Dyer, and Phil Riddick).

Commissioner Riddick spoke first, saying that a FEMA official told him that Madison County was the most organized area in the wake of a disaster that FEMA had ever visited.  Riddick also said that the County was exploring options to improve the delivery of water in the County (two companies are vying to take over the system).

Commissioner Faye Dyer spoke next, detailing the County GOP agenda:  going to a unit system instead of the district system (currently each Commissioner has a budget to spend how they want, as opposed to a unit system where spending decisions are made at the County level) and implementing a time management system for employees.  These initiatives have been blocked by the Democratic majority on the County Commission.  Dyer noted that Phil Riddick has already saved the County a couple of hundred thousand dollars by reviewing some contracts.

Dale Strong spoke to strong applause – Strong showed tremendous leadership following the tornadoes – Strong spoke about the 15 years he and Dyer and former-Commissioner now-Congressman Mo Brooks have worked to keep taxes as low as possible, spend public money appropriately and effectively, and improve services for the people of Madison County.  Strong spoke about the hard work that neighbors and churches and companies performed after the tornado outbreak:  helping people, clearing debris, feeding people, and providing services.  Strong noted that the warden and prisoners at Limestone Prison helped early on by looking for people in the debris.  Strong told how some guy asked him how he could help, and within an hour Gator Technologies had set up satellite communications.

Strong got a standing ovation with his closing remark: “we sucked it up and got it done”.


Plenty of officials were on hand, however I’d like to commend Sheriff Blake Dorning for his leadership during the tornadoes (crime went down that week).  Deputy Mayor Rex Reynolds was at the breakfast – Reynolds and Mayor Tommy Battle showed great leadership during the crisis.

It is an unfortunate fact of life that a crisis is the crucible through which leadership is recognized.   Some people rise to the challenge, some people don’t, and some people display bad judgment.  Let’s remember that at the polls.  Elections have consequences.

MCGOP – 15 January 2011

Me and a couple of hundred fellow travellers attended the Madison County Republican Club breakfast Saturday morning.  The speakers were area State House Representatives who gave (very) short speeches announcing their committee assignments.  Here’s an even shorter summary of their remarks:

Wayne Johnson (22) is on the Judiciary and Public Safety committees – “right down the line of work I’ve been doing most of my life”.  “We passed ethics laws – I’m proud to be a Republican”.

Jim Patterson (21) is on the Industrial Recruitment and Tourism committees, as well as the Health Board – after “29 years as a pharmaceutical representative” he’ll work for “better care and hold costs down”.  “We’ve got a bright future”.

Phil Williams (6) is on the new Research and Technology committee, plus the Education Policy and Appropriations (Higher Education) committees. “Things are going to get better”.

Mac McCutcheon (25) is on the Transportation and Ways and Means General Fund committees.  “I’ve been beat up, shot at, and had two children, but passing ethics reform was probably the toughest thing in my life”.

Howard Sanderford (20) is on the Boards and Committees committee, where he can “straighten out some State agencies”.  “There’s a new day in Montgomery”.

In addition to the speakers, many elected officials attended the breakfast – eager to discuss issues with their constituents, including  State Senator Clay Scofield, Judge Dick Richardson, newly-appointed County Commissioner Phil Riddick, County Clerk Jane Smith, and County School Board member David Vess.  Non-partisan attendees included Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle, Deputy Mayor Rex Reynolds, and School Board member David Blair.  Future Judges (IMO) Assistant District Attorney Don Rizzardi and Sam Givhan attended.  Former Congressman Parker Griffith is a regular attendee at the meetings – it will be interesting to see what role he develops for himself in local GOP politics. 

I’ve seen Alabama A&M’s Wendy Kobler (VP for Marketing) at several GOP events, usually with other AAMU leaders.  IMO getting to know local officials is a smart move by AAMU. 

Congratulations to Clinton Carter, who accepted a position with the Bentley administration.  Carter led the Huntsville Governors Forum effort last Spring and is (soon-to-be was) the President of the Young Republicans.


After speaking with School Board member David Blair I’m reassured that Huntsville City Schools will emerge from the current crisis stronger than they are now.  Blair plans to cut staff before cutting teachers, develop “objective” merit-based policies for keeping teachers (using student testing performance trends, credentials, &c), and look at creative ways to reduce personnel costs (like using inmates to cut grass).

Bentley keeps a promise

Governor-elect Dr. Robert Bentley partially fulfilled part of the Gas Tax Pledge by appointing John Cooper as Director of the Alabama Department of Transportation.  The Gas Tax Pledge promised to keep at least 80% of Madison County / Huntsville / Madison gas taxes in this area – plus – appoint an ALDOT Director from North Alabama.  Cooper lives near Guntersville, but worked as CEO of Avocent and CFO of Adtran in Huntsville.

Shelly Haskins of The Huntsville Times wrote “Gov.-elect Robert Bentley names retired Huntsville business executive John R. Cooper transportation director”:

“A first-class transportation system is a critical part of my plan for economic growth and bringing good-paying jobs to our citizens,” Bentley said in a news release. “John Cooper has the managerial experience and leadership qualities to ensure that Alabama has the right transportation infrastructure we need to succeed.”

Thanks Dr. Bentley – I hope this is the first of many posts saying “Bentley keeps a promise”!

Madison County Commission and Coroner-elect

Madison County Commissioner Bob Harrison beclowned himself this morning at the Madison County Commission meeting, saying that “there are funeral homes that won’t handle African American bodies”.  I couldn’t believe that statement to be true, so I called all ten funeral homes in Madison County to be sure (it’s not true).  The representative at Nelms Memorial Funeral Home summed it up best: “I know that all of the funeral homes in the county handle everyone”.   It won’t surprise anyone to know that Bob Harrison misspoke while insulting funeral home operators in Madison County.


I attended the Madison County Commission meeting this morning since Coroner-elect Craig Whisenant was on the agenda.  After County Attorney Julian Butler reviewed the applicable laws for Coroner (legislative action is necessary for more than a vehicle and the existing salary / expenses),  Whisenant said he is “absolutely, positively ready to take office, there will be no disruption in service”.  Whisenant also said that he is “trying to make the Coroner’s office a legitimate office”.

Whisenant has a copy of his Report to the Madison County Commission presented December 6, 2010 available on PDF:

While it is evident that the Madison County Coroner’s Office is severely underfunded based on the operating expenses of neighboring counties, I cannot accurately determine budgetary needs until I receive the outgoing coroner’s books and have the results of an audit.  The outgoing coroner is on record stating that he does not know how much it costs to operate the Maadison County Coroner’s Office. 

Whisenant said that he will attend the continuing education course (as required by law); he plans to develop a mutual aid agreement with neighboring counties in case of a mass casualty disaster; and he will implement the State Department of Public Health information / automation system.

Whisenant asked for a vehicle to transport human remains and asked for “prior approval” of three Deputy Coroners.


Former Madison County Coroner and Spry Funeral Home owner Sam Spry rose to support Whisenant, as did John Purdy of Laughlin Service Funeral Home.  Spry began with remembrances of how ambulance services used to be run out of funeral homes and then noted to the Commission that he “never asked for anything except space to bury indigents”.

Spry said “when Berryhill says he takes money out of his pocket [to fund the Coroner's office], he is well compensated”.  Spry said “I know that there are families he [Berryhill] has solicited” and “don’t think for a minute that his presence doesn’t have an influence on people [making funeral decisions]“.

Spry said “Whisenant is trying to do this ethically… There is an advantage to this office for those who run funeral homes… For twenty years Berryhill hasn’t transported a body to Spry”.

County Attorney Butler asked Spry to stop discussing Berryhill, under the rationale that Berryhill wasn’t there to respond.


The Huntsville Times reported on the first couple of minutes of the Coroner’s office discussion in their article “Coroner must go to Legislature, not Madison County Commission for more money”.  I’m certain that they’ll report about Harrison’s race-baiting and Spry’s comments later…

Jane Smith joins GOP

Madison County Circuit Clerk Jane Smith announced today that “I am officially joining the Republican Party… For those of you who know me, this is no surprise… I will be proud of the stand I take here today… We must join together as conservatives and Republicans… Standing on the sidelines is not an option… [we need] change from the Courthouse to the Statehouse to the White House.”

Brian and I attended the Madison County Republican breakfast this morning, along with a couple of hundred officials, members, and fellow travelers.

State Representative Howard Sanderford (R-20) announced that five Democratic Representatives will be joining the GOP, further confirming the rumors that have been floating around since Phil Williams (R-6) mentioned the gains earlier this week.  Sanderford noted that there are just a few white Democrats left in the State Legislature, and not that many more black Democrats.

I think that the national Republican conservative / Democratic liberal realignment rolled into Alabama state politics this year, completing a process that has been building for years.    I think that we will see a GOP realignment at the County level and it won’t take long to realize those gains.  The dam burst in the November elections here in Madison County with every Democrat at the county level being defeated.  There are one or two more local Democrats I’d like to see come over.

To take Sanderford’s point to the next level, I think that we’ll see a realignment in the black community.  The GOP has some work to do to make that happen, but blacks are more conservative than liberal and aren’t being served by corrupt Democrats and liberals.  Some people might be surprised when this happens here in Alabama – but I think black folks will come home to the GOP.

Coroner-elect Craig Whisenant spoke to the crowd for a minute, saying that his plan to reform the Coroner’s office is coming together.  Once he takes office (note that the Democrats and The Times are complaining about him before he’s even been sworn in), I think we’ll see some positive changes in the office.  I chatted with Whisenant after the meeting (first time to talk in real life) and he said that he will send us details of the plan soon.

Coroner-elect Craig Whisenant

Here are some bits from an email conversation (used with permission) with Madison County Coroner-elect Craig Whisenant.  Y’all are going to be happy we elected Whisenant:

As the newly elected Coroner here in Madison County, I see it as absolutely vital that we remove the Coroner’s office from any private business.
Please consider the following scenario:  The county Coroner is transporting human remains from a crime scene to the Department of Forensic Science for an autopsy.  He is using his personal automobile (van/suv/etc) as a transport vehicle.  What happens if the Coroner has an automobile accident?
Secondly, human bodies that are in the care of the coroner should be kept in a secure, neutral location – not a private place of business.  By keeping human remains in a private place of business, the door is open for accusations that evidence has been tampered with.  From a legal perspective, it is only prudent for the county to handle county business.  Private businesses should not have to subsidize the Coroner’s office – or any other government office for that matter.  We can’t expect local funeral homes to provide for our county government.
Therefore, I believe that we must remove the Coroner’s office from any private business and use county resources to handle the responsibilities of the county in regard to facilities and automobiles.  Providing a proper facility and an automobile would fall to the County Commission.  I believe this could be a possible reality at no additional expense to the county.


The Coroner’s office here in Madison County does have a small 10k budget that can be used at the coroner’s discretion.  We believe that there is space designated for the coroner’s use at the Madison County Courthouse but that it hasn’t been used in many years since the Coroner has officed out of local funeral homes for most of the last hundred years.  I talked to one of our county commissioners tonight and the options for office space are being looked into.  Also, the county does have a fleet and we believe that there may possibly be an older, used vehicle that would be suitable for the Coroner’s use.  

By the way, the Limestone County Coroner has both a van for transporting remains as well as a sedan that he normally drives. I also know that the Morgan and Colbert County Coroners both have county vehicles that they are able to use.   The Madison County Coroner’s caseload far exceeds that of any of our surrounding counties, yet it appears we have the smallest budget by far.  I hope to increase the efficiency and responsiveness of the office without placing any further financial demands on the county commission.  Unfortunately, I won’t know exactly what I’m walking into until I take office.   I do know that one of the county commissioners told me that the coroner’s office has not been discussed in a commission meeting since he’s been on the commission (10 years).
Lastly, I am already working with experienced coroners in surrounding counties and with the Alabama Coroner’s Association to make sure that we’re going to be on the cutting edge here in Madison County.  I have the guidance and support of Sam Spry, long-time Madison County Coroner, as well as a deputy coroner who served under the current coroner.   I will do my best to give you updates about our progress as time goes by and we have an opportunity to make some things happen.
Thanks to Craig Whisenant for sharing his thoughts with us.

Why do we elect the Coroner?

I was asked that question recently.

The Code of Alabama establishes a standardized system of County Governance, including the office of Coroner in Title 11: Counties and Municipal Corporations; Coroner’s description at Section 11-5-1.   The Coroner “holds inquests” and “shall have the authority to certify any death…” which are duties that you would expect.  But another duty of the Coroner is to provide a check and balance to the Sheriff (the Coroner is like a replacement Sheriff):

Section 11-5-5 – When to discharge duties of sheriff generally.
The coroner must discharge the duties of the sheriff:
(1) When the office of sheriff is vacant and until his successor is qualified;
(2) When the sheriff is incompetent to act;
(3) When the sheriff is imprisoned;
(4) In cases to which the sheriff is a party; and
(5) In such cases as he is directed by the judge of probate.

Section 11-5-6 – When to act as keeper of jail.
The coroner shall be keeper of the jail when the sheriff is imprisoned.

I’m voting for Craig Whisenant for Madison County Coroner.  As I said in my post “136 Years is Long Enough”, Whisenant will bring fresh ideas to the Coroner’s office: 

Alabama law states that a county coroner is not a medical or forensic professional – but our county deserves a self-sufficient Coroner’s office that is operated outside of any funeral home or other private business.

Vote for Craig Whisenant for Madison County Coroner!