By Benjamin Bullard
The Cullman Times
Mike Graves of Vinemont will run as a Republican for the Alabama House of Representatives District 11 seat in a special election early next year.
Graves, who works by day as the town of South Vinemont’s public works official, has also served as a member of the Vinemont-Providence volunteer fire department for the past 35 years — the last 23 of those as chief. He has served on the board of the Cullman County Commission for Economic Development for the past four years.
Graves said he views his decision to run for the House seat as a logical extension of his long history in public service.
“I’ve always been a servant, working with the fire department for all these years,” said Graves. “And I think this is another opportunity to serve people — just in a different capacity. I feel like Cullman County, as well as the other areas that lie inside this legislative district, have a lot of good things to offer economically, and I would like to be a part of keeping that going. I also feel I’m qualified for this position through the years of service I’ve had in my current position at South Vinemont.”
District 11 presently serves residents in east Cullman and east Cullman County, as well as portions of northwest Blount County and southeast Morgan County.
If elected, Graves said he intends to tackle a number of statewide issues that directly affect his constituents’ quality of life — particularly in the arenas of education, public safety, economic growth and public policy.
“Well, first, I’m a proponent of education in our state, and how it can best serve our residents,” he said. “I believe that is going to happen by focusing more and more on careers and skilled labor. We are becoming an industrialized state now, and that means career training is only going to become more important. Local education, through career centers and technical schools, is going to be more in demand the future, and it’s something we need to prepare for now.
“There are a number of issues we have now that deal with public safety and enforcement services on both a statewide and local level,” he added. “I am a big proponent of emergency services: law enforcement, fire protection and emergency medical response. It’s a needed asset to our communities, and I will be a strong supporter of all the issues in the legislature that affect those services.”
Graves said bolstering a deficient state budget, while simultaneously keeping the Cullman area’s economic engine running at full steam, are both top legislative priorities.
“I think our state’s facing some hard financial times, and I feel I have ideas that can help,” he said. “I feel like the legislature should pass some rules and regulations that would prevent us from being put in the position we’re in now, with some of the things coming down from the federal government. With Medicare and Medicaid, we should already have been in the game ourselves, as some other states have done. We’re going to have to put the state in a stronger position.
“At the same time, I’m really strong on the economic growth we have in Cullman County; bringing growth to cities and towns here and in District 11. Locally, I feel we’re on a path we need to stay on, because the growth is coming and we need to make sure it goes forward.”
Helping towns and smaller cities operate with more self-determination and fewer bureaucratic restrictions from the state is also a priority Graves said the legislature should address.
“Sometimes we face a lot of rules and regulations; sometimes we’re over-regulated,” he said. “We have to jump through so many hoops to accomplish things as towns, cities and counties. I think it can be lessened, and it will help us grow.”
Graves pledged to partner with other members of the local legislative delegation to maintain a working relationship that ensures the Cullman area’s interests in Montgomery are strongly represented.
“I feel I can work together with Representative [Ed] Henry, [Mac] Buttram and Senator [Paul] Bussman,” said Graves. “I believe they’re taking the right path for our citizens — not only in Cullman County and District 11, but in the State of Alabama.”
The party primary election for the District 11 House seat will be held on Feb. 12. Barring a runoff, the general election will follow on March 26.
Benjamin Bullard can be reached by e-mail at email@example.com or by telephone at 734-2131 ext. 270.