Walker, Clemons in final Q&A before Tuesday vote

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Cullman County Commission Chairman Kenneth Walker, left, will face challenger Jeff “Clem” Clemons, right, in the Tuesday, July 14 Republican Primary Runoff Election. (contributed)

CULLMAN, Ala. – Back on Super Tuesday, Cullman County voters gave Jeff “Clem” Clemons 49.67% of the vote for chairman of the Cullman County Commission, almost double that of runner-up incumbent Chairman Kenneth Walker’s 27.65%. Clemons needed only 50.1% to avoid a runoff, which was originally scheduled for March 31, 2020. Delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Republican Primary Runoff Election will take place Tuesday, July 14.

Ahead of next week’s contest, The Tribune reached out to both men for a final Q&A.

Incumbent Kenneth Walker

What made you decide to run again for chairman of the Cullman County Commission?

I had several of my supporters through the last two terms come ask me if I would be interested in running again. They, undoubtedly, thought the county was in good financial shape. The morale among the employees is high and the departments have strong leadership.

What are your thoughts on the 5-person commission? What do you see as challenges as Cullman County transitions to that system?

I was never in favor of the 5-member commission. I always believed that if there was going to be a 5-member commission, the citizens of Cullman County should be the ones to vote on it. I don’t see the 5-member commission helping because the four commissioners will be part-time and there are certain times we have to make decisions, but if you have commissioners at work and they can’t come in to meet, you would be hurting Cullman County.

What are you bringing to the table that is different than Jeff Clemons?

Seven years of experience of being the chairman of the Cullman County Commission. I’ve been balancing $60 million budgets for seven years.

Do you plan on or would you ever consider passing a tax without a vote by the people of Cullman County?

Absolutely not. I never have and I never will pass a tax unless the citizens of Cullman County have the opportunity to vote on it.

Water rates are an issue that your opponent has often discussed throughout his campaign. As chairman, what role/control does the commission have on the county’s water rates?

We’ve kept the water rates as low as we can keep them. We buy wholesale water from the City of Cullman. The way we get our water rates is whatever it costs the City of Cullman to pump and treat the water and get it out to other water systems, that cost is split on our usage. We are the second largest rural water system in the state of Alabama and we’ve probably got more farmers using Cullman County water than any other water system in the state of Alabama. So, we are going to keep our water rates as low as we can keep them to help the citizens and help the farmers of Cullman County.

Cullman County is second in the state in raw road mileage yet 17th in line for distribution of fuel tax revenues from the State. What would you do differently to address the issue of roads in Cullman County if re-elected? How many miles of road have been repaved while you have been in office?

As chairman, I am not a road commissioner. I am over the finances of Cullman County. In the last seven years, I’ve put more money in the road department that’s ever been put into the road department. That includes your gas tax. We’ve tried to pave about $2 million worth of roads a year, but that’s not a lot when it costs $100,000 a mile to pave, but that’s all the revenue you get off gas taxes to maintain the roads.

What do you consider to be your greatest accomplishment?

When I first ran for office, Cullman County had about a 30-day reserve. I always said if I was ever elected, I would have at least a 90-day reserve. Today, with this pandemic we are in, we have a 120-day reserve. We won’t be paying for the pandemic until all of this is over, so we are going to have to watch our reserves so we are ready for the worst that is still to come.

Beatles or the Rolling Stones? Why?

Rolling Stones! I was able to attend one of their concerts in Birmingham.

What is something interesting or funny that people might not know about you?

I was 7 years old driving to church one Sunday morning in my momma’s Plymouth and I got pulled over by a state trooper.

 

Challenger Jeff “Clem” Clemons

What made you decide to run for chairman of the Cullman County Commission?

I saw the need for change in our county government. As a deputy sheriff for 32 years, I worked every day to solve problems from burglaries, thefts, domestic situations to just common issues deputies handle every day.  

I commit that if elected chairman I will work every day to be accessible to the citizens to solve issues within our county and always be available via community meetings, have my cell phone available as it is now (256-255-5011) or just able to talk at commission meetings. 

What are your thoughts on the 5-person commission? What do you see as challenges as Cullman County transitions to that system?

As I have visited with citizens all across Cullman County many of them have told me they see positive and negatives to the 5-member commission. 

Most of them have told me they would like more accessibility to their chairman and county commissioners, to see the commissioners be part-time so that more citizens are able to serve on the commission. 

If elected I will work every day to be conservative with taxpayer moneybags, NOT grow spending and government.

What are you bringing to the table that is different than Chairman Walker? 

I won’t say anything negative about my opposition. I will just say that I will always be accessible to the public as I stated above. 

I will be transparent with the citizens by being accessible, having our commission meetings available online and cut wasteful spending.  

Do you plan on or would you ever consider passing a tax without a vote by the people of Cullman County?

No. The people should have the right to vote on any tax. 

Throughout your campaign, you have vowed to “cut wasteful spending.” What areas specifically would you target?

If elected I will meet with all department heads within one week of taking office and review the current County budget at that time. 

I have cited a Cullman Tribune article in the past that cited certain areas of wasteful spending that I would look into. 

I believe a major issue is our road system. The commission needs to review and use any wasteful money on our roads so we can fix our crumbling road system. 

https://www.cullmantribune.com/2016/09/08/is-the-cullman-county-commission-misspending-tax-payers-money/

Water rates are another issue that you have often discussed throughout your campaign. If elected chairman, what specifically would you do to lower the county’s water rates?

I have never stated during the campaign that I would lower rates as this question states. I have told the citizens at many meetings and public events I have attended that if elected I will keep water rates as low as possible. Our citizens on fixed incomes and poultry farmers are always the hardest impacted when there are double digit rates increases. 

Cullman County is second in the state in raw road mileage yet 17th in line for distribution of fuel tax revenues from the State. What would you do differently to address the issue of roads in Cullman County?

As I have stated above, we need to review any wasteful spending so we have more money to spend on our roads. I would meet with our engineers and road employees to get their input as well. 

As a former supervisor of deputies, I know how valuable it is to have the input of all employees. 

What do you consider to be your greatest accomplishment?

My family! My wife and my son Justin, who is a criminal investigator at the Cullman County Sheriff’s Office. 

Beatles or the Rolling Stones? Why? 

Honestly…Conway Twitty. 

What is something interesting or funny that people might not know about you?

Being employed at the Cullman County Sheriff’s Office for 32 years I have a ton of humorous stories. I have a few now on the campaign trail, but I will wait and tell those after Tuesday….haha.

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Christy Perry

christy@cullmantribune.com