- Cullman, Alabama

November 12, 2012

Graves looks ahead as chairman role comes to end

By Ashley Graves
The Cullman Times

CULLMAN — Retirement is something James Graves isn't ready for just yet.

After all, the Cullman County Commission chairman has tried it twice already, each time finding another job to keep him busy.

So, what's the plan as he prepares to hand over his duties to Kenneth walker Wednesday? Well, he has a few things in mind, including throwing his name into the hat for the executive director position at the North-Central Alabama Regional Council of Governments.

"I've served on the board with NARCOG for four years, so I thought I would give it a small fare-the-well type deal, and if it doesn't work out, I'll give it up and go on home," Graves said.

Currently the position is being held by Lona Johns, who took over for Shane Bailey after he withdrew his name from consideration because of the uncertainty of the organization. According to Graves, Johns is wanting to give up her addition duties as director to focus on her other duties with NARCOG. However, NARCOG board chairman Dale Davis said there has been no discussion of opening a search to replace Johns.

"Right now, we're trying to figure out if we're going to be a two or three county COG," Davis said. "After that decision is made then we'll decide if we're going to  go down that road."

Problems began when Decatur and Morgan County voiced their feelings on the hiring process of Bailey. Decatur later cut its ties from NARCOG months later. Morgan County followed in April, and has since petitioned to join the Top of Alabama Regional Council of Governments (TARCOG). The approval to make the move is still in the hands of Gov. Robert Bentley. There is still no word when a decision may be made.

So what else does Graves have planned if it falls through?

"I serve on three boards, so I'll continue to do that," he said. "Other than that, I'm just going to rest and relax, maybe do some traveling. I'll be 70 in December, so I think I still have a few good years left to give to some organization, but if I'm not picked up, that's OK too."

As Graves looked back on his time in office chairman late week, he admitted things weren't exactly rosy when he first took office in 2008.

In fact, they weren't too pleasant at all, as issues surrounding the County Water Department escalated during his first two years.

But as he prepares to end his term Tuesday, the chairman said he feels good with where the county stands now as he prepares to turn things over to Walker.

"It's been a heck of a four years," Graves said. "I served in Vietnam a long time ago, and I thought that was a little exciting over there and a little tough to get through, but the first two years I was here, I swear, it was like being in a war zone, but, we got through it."

Another moment Graves was proud the county got through was the April, 27, 2011 tornadoes, which did heavy damage to the courthouse. Graves commended the people of the county for their efforts in getting Cullman and the county back.

"I really appreciate everybody," Graves said. "I think our true colors came out during that time, and I'm proud to call everybody a neighbor. I don't think I saw any selfishness on anybody's part during that time frame. I leave office with a lot of satisfaction, and I lay my head down on my pillow every night and give thanks for the opportunity to serve and to the satisfaction of what was accomplished."

* Ashley Graves can be reached by phone at 734-2131, ext. 225, or by email at