CAMPAIGN 2018: Cullman GOP hosts 1st in series of town hall meetings


Cullman County Commissioner Garry Marchman greets an attendee at Thursday night’s town hall meeting in Good Hope. (W.C. Mann for The Tribune)


GOOD HOPE – On Thursday evening, the Cullman County Republican Party held the first in a series of town hall meetings, this one at Good Hope City Hall. The next two meetings will be held at Fairview Town Hall (Thursday, April 26) and at West Point Town Hall (Thursday, May 10).

Secretary of State John Merrill, visiting from Montgomery, kicked off the event with a quick review of accomplishments of his office over the last three years, including:

  • 948,101 new Alabama voters registered, for a state total of 3,361,906 registered voters
  • Almost 400,000 ineligible voters (died, left state, or other reasons) removed from voter roles
  • Six convictions and three elections overturned for voter fraud, and Merrill said that number could go up
  • Online voter registration via a smartphone app
  • 25 percent reduction in his office’s staff and payroll while reducing business filing schedules from nine months to same day

The discussions between candidates were not purely off the cuff; county party chairman Waid Harbison told the crowd that some of the questions were repeated from ad videos shot recently by the party. After the candidates made their presentations, members of the audience were allowed to ask questions. Below are highlights of candidate positions.

Good Hope School Board representatives

Jason Speegle (incumbent)

  • Install air conditioning in school gyms, which are increasingly employed as multi-use facilities
  • Continue support for performing arts
  • Expand Good Hope school facilities to avoid use of portable buildings
  • Continue financial programs begun during his first term that created an operating fund surplus of over 30 days
  • Work with Superintendent to make sure all schools have same type and quality of curriculum
  • Supports arming selected and approved teachers who undergo law enforcement-approved training

Jerry Neighbors

  • Plan for growth in Good Hope schools
  • Promote school growth through matching fund projects
  • Examine budget to stop wasteful spending and find the best ways to use available funds
  • Make sure that students are prepared for college
  • Reduce complacency in the system to increase motivation among students
  • Against arming teachers for school security, prefers use of volunteer military veterans

State House of Representatives District 12

Corey Harbison (incumbent)

  • Limit creation of new city school systems by requiring new city system central offices to be funded locally, and not from the state fund, in order to save money.  
  • Invest in vocational education programs
  • Let citizens vote on a state lottery, to avoid new taxes
  • Continue work on House economic development and commerce committees to promote local business and industrial growth

Alex Chaney

  • Examine the education budget to see what needs to be there and what waste can be removed
  • Bring in a state Education Superintendent who can do the job
  • Make schools safer through increased numbers of resource officers or armed teachers
  • Citizens should be allowed to vote on any proposed new tax
  • Opposes state lottery, but would support a statewide vote by citizens
  • Recruit new businesses and industries with incentives, but offer incentives to support existing businesses and industries as well
  • Improve and maintain infrastructure to support industries and businesses

County Commissioner, west

Garry Marchman (incumbent)

  • Develop an organized plan to repair and maintain roads
  • Promote public trust in the county government
  • Eliminate duplication of services between county departments
  • Make sure department heads have proper training and resources to lead
  • As new economic development takes place, make sure to take care of long-term existing businesses
  • Promote farming as a Cullman County industry

Andy Coffee

  • Repair roads from the base up; do the job right the first time
  • Create a spirit of community, cooperation, and friendship between county authorities and new industries
  • Foster communication between county and municipal authorities and businesses/industries

Circuit Judge

Martha Williams (incumbent)

  • Make judicial processes more efficient by organized division of caseload between judges, use of mediation instead of trial whenever possible
  • Avoid legislating from the bench; keep judicial and legislative functions separate
  • Ask legislature for truth-in-sentencing laws; avoid arbitrary sentence reductions just to alleviate overcrowding
  • Work to resolve mental health issues locally; don’t rely on unreliable state help

Melvin Hasting

  • Use a common juror pool to handle both civil and criminal trials during a jury week, to make the best use of jurors’ time and get more cases processed
  • Follow the law and avoid legislating from the bench
  • Make sure people who need to be in prison stay in prison, and work to find alternatives for those who don’t, like the mentally ill
  • Expedite hearings for people locked up in local jails

Probate Judge

Challenger Carol Berry came for the event but had another commitment and had to leave before the Probate candidates were called to make their presentations.

Tammy Brown (incumbent)

  • Spent over two years getting the Probate Court caught up on caseload; wants to continue progress
  • Move forward with mental health services at a local level, not waiting or relying on the state
  • Create a mechanism for long-term outpatient supervision of people with mental health issues

State Senate

Paul Bussman (incumbent)

  • Improve leadership at the State Board of Education and eliminate Common Core curriculum
  • Remove “stupid” items from the education budget, such as the use of K-12 funds to pay for projects at state colleges and universities
  • Don’t create new taxes until current spending is brought under control
  • Get the mentally ill out of prisons and into facilities where they can receive proper help, to improve mental healthcare and to reduce prison overcrowding
  • Support fair and enforceable sentencing guidelines for prisoners
  • Provide infrastructure development and incentives for new industry, and create incentives for expansion of existing industries

Garlan Gudger

  • Address the education system by both “priority spending” on worthwhile projects and “priority cutting” of wasteful spending
  • Emphasize vocational training in community colleges and high schools, and remove “trade school” stigmas to get skilled workers into the workforce as quickly as possible after high school
  • Citizens should vote on any new taxes
  • Create funding for mental health services
  • Take Cullman’s “growth template” for industry and business to Montgomery to create a mechanism for statewide industrial and business growth

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