Who’s paying whom, who’s getting ‘liked?’

Campaign finance reports, social media indicate support for candidates

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Updated 8-15-20 at 6:15 p.m.

Editor’s note: On Saturday, Michael Sapp contacted The Tribune to say that he is the sole proprietor of My Cullman Television. According to the City of Cullman, the business license on file at Cullman City Hall names Roberts Communications founder Sam Roberts as owner, but Sapp presented tax records to City Clerk Wes Moore Saturday, showing his ownership. The business license indicating Roberts’ ownership is under dispute, and Sapp has been confirmed as the sole owner of My Cullman Television, with no current relationship to Roberts Communications or any claimed subsidiary.
 

CULLMAN, Ala. – In keeping with its commitment to promoting transparency in government, The Tribune took a look at campaign finance records submitted by municipal candidates in the current election cycle, along with the county’s party-affiliated political action committees. The candidates’ reports indicate who has given them money and how they are spending those funds. The reports represent a mix of weekly reports from late July to early August and monthly reports for July, and according to the Cullman County Probate Office, are all of the reports currently available for this election cycle.

“Waiver” in the list below means that the candidate filed a waiver indicating that, during the specified time period, less than $1,000 was raised or spent by the campaign. 

According to the Probate Office, candidates who qualify for waivers do not have to file reports or, necessarily, even file waiver forms. For that reason, several candidates from around the county do not appear in the following list.

The entries also list the number of “likes” and followers each candidate’s campaign page had on Facebook (FB) at the time of writing. 

 

Cullman Mayor

Woody Jacobs – 2,346 likes, 2,382 followers

Aug. 2-8 – $6,900 contributions, $1,400.96 expenditures, $6,871.45 balance

  • Contributions a loan from the candidate to the campaign, and non-itemized contributions
  • Payments to Community Shopper’s Guide, C & C Graphics

July monthly – $3,250 contributions plus $10,000 “receipts from other sources,” $14,249.30 expenditures, $1,372.41 balance

  • Contributions from Action Concrete (Toney, AL), TTL Inc. (Tuscaloosa-based engineering firm), Glenda Williams
  • “Receipts from other sources” a loan from Jacobs to the campaign
  • Payments to The Community Shopper’s Guide, C & C Graphics, Quality Outdoor Advertising, Megga Group, The Cullman Tribune

Mark Bussman – 1,023 likes, 1,048 followers

Aug. 2-8 – no contributions, $2,000 expenditures, $6,634.65 balance

  • Payment to Ascend Agency

July monthly – $13,703.61 contributions, $18,525.90 expenditures, $8,364.65 balance

  • Contributions from Roy Drinkard (Drinkard Development), Tim Compton (Traditions Bank), Mark Bussman
  • Payments to Cullman Shopper’s Guide, Pash Communications (Birmingham), Ascend Agency, Modernistic Printers, City of Cullman, The Cullman Tribune, Axiom Strategies (Kansas City, MO-based political marketing agency), C & C Graphics, The Cullman Times, Emily Trahan, Merchants Bank, The Final Touch

Cullman City Council

Place 1

Andy Page – 358 likes, 359 followers

Aug. 2-8 – $3,300 contributions, $2,942 expenditures, $3,301.61 balance

  • Contributions from Wootten Investment Group, Ronald and Trena N. Pierce, loan from candidate
  • Payments to The Cullman Times, The Cullman Tribune

July monthly – $550 contributions plus $5,000 “receipts from other sources,” $5,871.86 expenditures, $2,943.61 balance

  • Contributions from Lynn Harris, Terry Linton
  • “Receipts from other sources” loan from Page and his wife to the campaign
  • Payments to C & C Graphics, Creative Design, Yosemite Consulting (New York office of a California-based political marketing firm), Modernistic Printing

James Bradley “Brad” Smith – 498 likes, 504 followers

Aug. 2-8 – $750 contributions, $369.09 expenditures, $3,779.79 balance

  • Contributions from Birmingham Fastener (Birmingham, but with a facility in Hanceville), Lonna Yearwood
  • Payments to Facebook, Marvin’s, Em.D. Design, U.S. Postal Service, Initial Impression

July 26-Aug. 1 – $3,200 contributions, $6,973.25 expenditures, $3,398.88 balance

  • Contributions from Brannon Maner (Homewood), Tim Compton, Joyce Eidson (Nashville)
  • Payments to Marvins, REI Coop 196 (Huntsville sporting goods store), Initial Impression, Em.D Design, Facebook, Megga Group, C & C Graphics

Place 2

David Moss – no FB campaign page

Aug. 2-8 – $100 contributions, no expenditures, $1,665.39 balance

  • Contribution from Cherri and William R. Drake

July monthly – $2,700 contributions plus $1,500 “receipts from other sources,” $2,634.61 expenditures, $1,565.39 balance

  • Contributions from Greg Donnelly (Visiting Angels), David Moss, Sr., Wootten Logistics, Josh Canaday
  • “Receipts from other sources” loan from Moss to the campaign
  • Payments to City of Cullman, Creative Design, Modernistic Printers

Tony Townson – 189 likes, 188 followers

The reports supplied to The Tribune by the Probate Office did not include any for Townson.

 

Place 3

John W. “Johnny” Cook – 1,231 likes, 1,441 followers

Aug. 2-8 – $600 contributions, $2,123.52 expenditures, $1,036.93 balance

  • Contribution from Dr. Phillip G. Tankersly
  • Payments to The Community Shopper’s Guide, The Cullman Tribune

July monthly – $2,800 contributions, $2,301.86 expenditures, $2,560.45 balance

  • Contributions from Ronald Pierce, Wootten Investment Group, Musgrove Farms
  • Payments to The Community Shopper’s Guide, Cullman Sign and Banner, C & C Graphics

Gwendolyn “Gwen” Parker – 568 likes, 574 followers

Aug. 2-8 – $829 contributions, $2,996.41 expenditures, 2,321.52 balance

  • Contributions from Johnny Harper, Dale Ball, Dan Stevens, Charlotte Eckland, one “Misc. Donor”
  • Payments to Creative Design, Ascend Agency, Facebook
  • Note: Parker’s report indicated that it was for the week of Aug. 9-15 but, as that week was still in progress when The Tribune received her report, the document had to represent the previous week.

July 26-Aug. 1 – no contributions, $914.36 expenditures, $4,488.93 balance

  • Payments to Facebook, Modernistic Printers, Cullman Sign and Banner, Campaign Victory (Tarpon Springs, FL-based political marketing agency)

July monthly – $6,121 contributions, $3,241.26 expenditures, $5,403 balance

  • Contributions from Ray Prichard, Don Douthit, Karlie Reeling, Annette Parker, J.L. Willibey, Robert Burns, Ronald Apel, Dr. Tom Barnes, 29 $100 donations from “misc. donor” plus one $1,000 “misc. donor” donation that was later amended to name Roy Drinkard as the source. Note: $100 is the maximum amount that a single recipient can give during an election cycle without having to be identified.
  • Payments to Ascend Agency, Creative Design, Superior Screen Printing and Signs, Tractor Supply, Siteground Hosting (Alexandria, VA-based web hosting firm), Standard Outdoor (Austin, TX-based advertising firm), Campaign Victory

Place 4

Clint Hollingsworth – no FB campaign page

Aug. 2-8 – no contributions, no expenditures, $1,916.18 balance

July monthly – $2,400 contributions plus $2,733 “receipts from other sources,” $3,216.82 expenditures, $1,916.18 balance

  • Contributions from Ronald Pierce, Chad Witcher, Wootten Investment Group, Mary Jo York
  • “Receipts from other sources” loans from Hollingsworth to the campaign
  • Payments to C & C Graphics, Creative Design

Steve Cummings – 283 likes, 284 followers

Aug. 2-8 – no contributions, no expenditures, $312.00 balance

July 26-Aug. 1 – no contributions, no expenditures, $312.02 balance

July monthly – no contributions, $224.64 expenditures, $312.02 balance

  • Payments to City of Cullman, Lowe’s

Cullman City School Board

 

Place 2

Chris Branham – 86 likes, 86 followers

Aug. 2-8 – no contributions, no expenditures, $0 balance

July 26-Aug. 1 – no contributions, no expenditures, $0 balance

July monthly – no contributions, $2,543.16 expenditures, $0 balance

  • Payments to City of Cullman, CSG Printing, Cullman Sign and Banner, Lowe’s

Jon Nicholas Dumas – 285 likes, 287 followers

Aug 2-8 – no contributions, no expenditures, $0 balance

July 26-Aug. 1 – no contributions, no expenditures, $0 balance

July monthly – $3,129.31 contributions, $3,129.31 expenditures, $0 balance

  • Contributions from Roy Drinkard, Henry Dumas, Jason Kelly, Nick Dumas
  • Payments to Ascend Agency, Creative Design, Print Place (Arlington, TX)

Place 3

Cheryl Harrison – no FB campaign page

Aug. 2-8 – $300 contributions, $173.40 expenditures, $650.03 balance

  • Single contribution labeled “Cash”
  • Payment to Community Shopper’s Guide

July 26-Aug. 1 – no contributions, no expenditures, $523.43 balance

July monthly – $3,748.99 contributions, $3,225.56 expenditures, $523.43 balance

  • Contributions from Kent Gable, Paul Harrison, “cash” (no name)
  • Payments to City of Cullman, Tennessee Valley Sign and Printing, Harbor Freight Tools, Tractor Supply, Vistaprint, My Creative Shop (Fargo, ND)

Stephen Scott Sessions – 764 likes, 776 followers

Aug. 2-8 – $100 contributions, $240 expenditures, $998 balance

  • Contribution from Shann Parson
  • Payment to The Cullman Times

July 26-Aug. 1 – $200 contributions, no expenditures, $1,138 balance

  • Contribution received from Larry Madison, PC (Hartselle)

July monthly – no contributions, $838.23 expenditures, $938 balance

  • Payments to City of Cullman, Creative Design

Place 4

Jason Neal – no FB campaign page

July 26-Aug. 1 – Waiver; no monthly report filed

Nathan Haynes- 501 likes, 505 followers

The reports supplied to The Tribune by the Probate Office did not include any for Haynes.

 

Place 5

Amy Carter – 419 likes, 421 followers

Aug. 2-8 – no contributions, no expenditures, $475.15 balance

July 26-Aug. 1 – no contributions, no expenditures, $474.15 balance

July monthly – $300 contributions, $2,480 expenditures, $475.15 balance

  • Contribution sources not listed
  • Payment to “Amy Carter for School Board”

Notes on Cullman races

Local candidates tended to spend much of their money- some spent all- locally for advertising, marketing, signage, banners, etc. Cullman-area businesses like Cullman Sign and Banner, C & C Graphics, CSG Printing, The Community Shopper’s Guide and others have been busy. Several candidates, though, were willing to reach out across the country, most often to political marketing specialists.

Donors are generally local, as well, though contributions from individuals have come in to certain candidates from the Birmingham area and as far north as Nashville. In a few cases, the largest donor to a campaign was the candidate himself or herself.

An interesting pattern emerged in the Cullman races: three candidates, one challenger for each of the three offices- Bussman for Mayor, Parker for City Council and Dumas for City School Board- are being funded in part by contributions from Roy Drinkard. The three also market themselves through Ascend Agency, a local marketing firm known for its promotion of the #KeepCullmanGreat 1-cent sales tax requested by the Cullman County Board of Education (CCBOE) after the failure of a previous tax enacted through the Cullman County Commission to support multiple CCBOE projects including the Drinkard-backed “Project X” sports complex.

The Tribune submitted requests to the City of Cullman for information on the status of local businesses providing services to the various campaigns. Note that businesses located outside of Cullman do not have to have Cullman city business licenses unless they deliver products to Cullman addresses in their own vehicles. The following statuses are based on reports from the City of Cullman as of the week of Aug. 14.

Advertising/marketing

  • Ascend Agency – not licensed to operate in Cullman. The business has a Cullman P.O. box, and outgoing County Commission Chairman Kenneth Walker, in his campaign finance reporting, listed Ascend’s street address as 1637 Townsquare SW in Cullman. Ascend is claimed as a subsidiary of Roberts Communications, LLC, which also claims ownership of Cullman Daily/Cullman Daily News and a part ownership of My Cullman Television. Roberts Communications was also reported by the City of Cullman as an unlicensed business, and Cullman Daily has held a previous license but does not currently. My Cullman Television is licensed.
  • The Community Shopper’s Guide – licensed 
  • Megga Group – licensed
  • Pash Communications (Birmingham) 
  • Axiom Strategies (Kansas City, MO)
  • Yosemite Consulting (New York office of a California-based firm)
  • Campaign Victory (Tarpon Springs, FL)
  • Siteground Hosting (Alexandria, VA)
  • Standard Outdoor (Austin, TX)

Graphics, signs, cards, shirts, etc.

  • C & C Graphics – not currently licensed (previously licensed but not current)
  • Cullman Sign and Banner – licensed
  • Quality Outdoor Advertising – licensed 
  • Modernistic Printers – licensed
  • The Final Touch – licensed
  • Creative Designs (Hanceville)
  • Initial Impression – licensed
  • Em.D. Design (EMD Design LLC) – licensed
  • Superior Screen Printing and Signs (Hanceville)
  • CSG Printing – included in Community Shopper’s Guide
  • Print Place (Arlington, TX) 
  • Tennessee Valley Sign and Printing (Scottsboro)
  • Vistaprint (Netherlands) 
  • My Creative Shop (Fargo, ND)

News media

  • The Cullman Tribune (Humble Roots, LLC) – licensed
  • The Cullman Times – licensed

Other

  • Emily Trahan – campaign worker, no licensure required
  • Merchants Bank – licensed
  • Marvins – licensed
  • REI Coop 196 (Huntsville) 
  • Facebook (Menlo Park, CA)
  • Tractor Supply – licensed
  • Lowe’s – licensed
  • Harbor Freight Tools – licensed

Baileyton

The Probate Office has no reports for any candidate in Baileyton.

 

Berlin

Berlin has no contested races.

 

Colony

Colony’s council seats are uncontested. The Probate Office has no reports for Colony’s mayoral candidates.

 

Dodge City

The Probate Office has no reports for any candidate in Dodge City

 

Fairview

Fairview has no contested races. The Probate Office has no reports for any candidate.

 

Garden City Town Council

Only council seat five is contested.

Oscar Goodwin – no FB campaign page

Aug. 2-8 – Waiver

July 26-Aug. 1 – Waiver; no monthly report filed

Patsy Chafin – no FB campaign page

The Probate Office had no finance report for Chafin.

 

Good Hope City Council

Only council seat two is contested.

Maxie B. Jones – no FB campaign page

Aug. 2-8 – no contributions, no expenditures, $0 balance

July 26-Aug. 1 – no contributions, no expenditures, $0 balance

Eric Phillips – no FB campaign page

Aug. 2-8 – no contributions, no expenditures, $0 balance

  • Note: Phillips’ report indicated that it was for the week of Aug. 9-15 but, as that week was still in progress when The Tribune received her report, the document had to represent the previous week.

July 26-Aug. 1 – no contributions, no expenditures, $0 balance

 

Hanceville Mayor (uncontested)

 

Kenneth Nail

  • Campaign Termination Report – no contributions, no expenditures, $0 balance

Hanceville City Council

Joyce Barnett – no FB campaign page

Aug. 2-8 – Waiver

July 26-Aug. 1 – no contributions, no expenditures, $0 balance

July monthly – Waiver

Patty Nail Dean – no FB campaign page

Aug. 2-8 – Waiver

July 26-Aug. 1 – no contributions, no expenditures, $0 balance

Jimmie Nuss – no FB campaign page

Aug. 2-8 – Waiver

July 26-Aug. 1 – Waiver; no monthly report filed

Charles Wilson – no FB campaign page

Aug. 2-8 – Waiver

July 26-Aug. 1 – Waiver; no monthly report filed

 

Holly Pond

The Probate Office has no reports for any candidate in Holly Pond.

 

South Vinemont Mayor

Radginal “Reggie” Dodson – no FB campaign page

No reports at Probate Office

Shirley Arnett – 64 likes, 64 followers

July monthly – Waiver

 

South Vinemont Town Council

 

JoAnn Howard Oakley – no FB campaign page

Aug. 2-8 – Waiver; no other reports filed

Sonya Copeland – no FB campaign page

July monthly – Waiver

Jerry C. Smith – no FB campaign page

July 26-Aug. 1 – Waiver; no monthly report filed

Chris Thompson – no FB campaign page

July monthly – Waiver

 

West Point Town Council

West Point has no contested races.

William Steven Link 

July 26-Aug. 1 – Waiver; no monthly report filed

 

Campaign committees dissolved

Mayor Kenneth Nail of Hanceville, Keith Hardmann of Berlin and J.D. Marcum of South Vinemont dissolved their campaign committees. Hardman and Nail claimed no funds, and Marcum donated funds he had raised to a church.

 

County party Political Action Committees financial reports, 2020

Cullman County Democratic Party

  • July – $50 contribution from Karen Johnson, no expenditures, $824.41 balance
  • March through June – no contributions, no expenditures, constant $774.41 balance
  • February – $90 contribution from unknown, $106 expenditure to U.S. Postal Service, $774.41 balance
  • January – no contributions, no expenditures, $790.41 balance
  • All reports but one submitted on time or early; March report submitted three days late

Cullman County Republican Party

July – no contributions, no expenditures, $54,032.15 balance

June – $323 contributions from unknown, $2,244.65 expenditures to Alabama Secretary of State (penalties for late reports), Cullman Elks Lodge, C & C Graphics 

May – no contributions, no expenditures, $55,953.80 balance

April – no contributions, no expenditures, $55,953.80 balance

March – $285 contributions from unknown, $400 non-itemized expenditures, $55,953.80 balance

February – $100 contributions from unknown plus $414 “non-itemized receipts from other sources,” $518.21 non-itemized expenditures, $56,068.80 balance

January – $17,223 contributions ($9673 cash, $7550 in-kind), $5,956.45 expenditures, $56,073.01 balance

  • Cash contributions from Brenda Dew, Garry Marchman, “Arnold for Alabama,” Mitch Smith Chevrolet, “Byrne for Senate,” Thomas Fuller, Scott Stadthagen (campaign account), A-1 Marketing Services, Keno Inc., William Meadows, Parker and Parker PC, Candace Reppond, Kenneth Walker, J.L. Willibey, Curry Wyatt, Martha Drake, Jacqueline Schendel
  • In-kind contributions, all in gifts of food, from Cullman Savings Bank, “Gudger for Senate,” Apel Steel Corporation, “Robert Aderholt for Congress,” James W. Burke, Matt Gentry (campaign account), Mark Persall, Kenneth Phillips, Affordable Automotive Tires and Services, Alex Chaney, Next Home Limitless Realty, Jacqueline Schendel, Phil Sims, Liberty Tax Service
  • Payments to Loft 212, Leldon Maxcy, Jacqueline Schendel, Designs by Grace

July’s report was submitted on time. All other reports, plus November and December 2019, were late, from one day to over three months. After the first five consecutive late reports, the county party paid two fines totaling $1891.59 to the Secretary of State’s Office.

 

Cullman County Republican Women 

This organization does not file monthly or weekly campaign finance reports. 

 

County Commission Chairman candidates

Information on this already-decided race was included, as it fell within the current election cycle.

Kenneth Walker

July monthly – no contributions, no expenditures, -$4.88 balance

June monthly (no monthly report filed; total of all weekly reports) – no contributions, no expenditures, -$4.88 balance

May monthly – no contributions, no expenditures, -$4.88 balance

April monthly – no contributions, no expenditures, -$4.88 balance

March monthly – no contributions, no expenditures, -$4.88 balance

February monthly – $2,392.13 contributions, $3,550 expenditures, -$4.88 balance

  • Contribution from Bill Floyd, Goodwyn, Mills and Cawood (Montgomery-based architecture firm), Simcoe Wood Products, Bill Smith Buick-GMC
  • Expenditure to Ascend Agency, WRJL, The Community Shopper’s Guide

January monthly- $700 contributions, no expenditures, $701 balance

  • Contributions from Bill Floyd, Bill Smith Buick-GMC

Jeff Clemons

July monthly – $4,144.36 , $1,544.36 expenditures, $3,126.12 balance

  • Contributions from Deborah Gillis, Champ Crocker 
  • Payments to The Cullman Tribune, Buffalo Wild Wings, Cullman High School Cheer, Alabama Secretary of State (penalties for violation of the Fair Campaign Practices Act: two weekly reports filed late), Facebook

June monthly – $4,799 contributions, $5,316.38 expenditures

  • Contributions from Curtis Merriman, Austin Hinds Motors, Shannon Dyar, Bradley Williams, Eckenrod Ford, John Spradlin
  • Payments to Facebook, The Community Shopper’s Guide, C & C Graphics, WKUL

May monthly – $1,261.25 contributions, $20 expenditures, $4,864.30 balance

  • Contributions from Eckenrod Ford
  • Payment to Facebook

April monthly – $1,170 contributions, $8.05 expenditure, $4,884.30 balance

  • Contribution from Eckenrod Ford
  • Payment to Facebook

March monthly – $5,173 contributions, $1,483.02 expenditures, $4,892.35 balance

  • Contributions from Gina Howell, Bradley Williams, Brett Crider, Jack’s Western Wear, Charles Smith, Eckenrod Ford
  • Payments to The Community Shopper’s Guide, Cullman Today, My Cullman Television, Cullman Sign and Banner, Facebook

February monthly (no monthly report filed, combining all weekly reports) – $3,219.35 contributions, $10,193.72 expenditures, $2,475.37 balance

  • Contributions from Justin Pruett, Eckenrod Ford
  • Payments to The Community Shopper’s Guide, U.S. Postal Service, WKUL

January monthly – $7,371.75 contributions, $3,512.24 expenditures, $12,419.09 balance

  • Contributions from Elaine Earwood, David Black, James Eidson Jr., Speegle Contracting Co., Blue & Gray Drugs, Amy Jowers, Bill Rumage, Jr., Bill Smith Buick-GMC, Frank Brown Jr., Scott’s Excavating and Hauling, Pat Dyar, Jeff King, Eckenrod Ford
  • Payments to The Community Shopper’s Guide, WKUL, C & C Graphics

Who’s getting social media “likes?”

Some of the most contentious races in the county are taking place in the city of Cullman. On social media, some folks like posts and follow both candidates in a given race, just to keep up with both sides are saying. Others show their preferences clearly by following/liking one candidate exclusively or almost exclusively. The Tribune looked for prominent local personalities who have been showing their support through clicks on one candidate’s Facebook posts to the general or complete exclusion of the opponent.

This informal and non-exhaustive survey, conducted over the last few weeks, showed:

Mayor Woody Jacobs’ posts are often liked by City Clerk Wes Moore, Cullman County Commission on Aging Director Dusty Baker, developer and Rock the South founder Shane Quick, City Engineer Erica York, former County Engineer John Lang, CPRST Therapeutic Recreation Director Kelly Pulliam, former Cullman High School Principal Elton Bouldin and former Cullman High School Coach Bill Griffin.

Mark Bussman’s posts are often liked by Drinkard Development’s Jason Grimmett, former Chamber of Commerce Director Leah Bolin (who is reported to be Bussman’s social media coordinator) and Cullman County Board of Education Special Projects Coordinator T.J. Franey. The three worked together in 2019 as promoters of the Cullman County Board of Education’s “Project X.” Bussman also enjoys social media support from County Library Director Sharon Townson, former United Way of Cullman County Director Sammie Danford and Cullman High School Principal Kim Hall.

 

Report irregularities: failure to report donor/expenditure recipient addresses, misplaced information, numbers not adding up, etc.

Note: The Campaign Finance Report form includes spaces for addresses on both donor and expenditure recipient pages, and states on both pages, “Address should include street or P.O. box, city, state, and zip.”

Most errors that a candidate or campaign committee make are simple mistakes such as placement of information in the wrong space on a form, and do not necessarily indicate any intent to do something improper.

Gwen Parker 

Dated reports based on the week in which they were turned in, instead of the week they covered.

Aug. 2-8 – reported donor addresses, did not report recipient addresses

July 26-Aug. 1 – no donors listed, did not report recipient addresses

July monthly – one donor address not reported, did not report recipient addresses

 

Chris Branham

July monthly – listed expenditures under “receipts from other sources,” did not report recipient addresses

 

Jeff Clemons

June weekly reports – two reports filed late

 

Cheryl Harrison

Aug. 2-8 – listed non-itemized cash contribution total as an item on itemized contribution form

July monthly – did not report address of one donor, listed non-itemized cash contribution total as an item on itemized contribution form

NOTE: The Tribune will be following up with this week’s reports and a more detailed look at donors from across the campaigns this coming week.

Copyright 2020 Humble Roots, LLC. All Rights Reserved.

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W.C. Mann

craig@cullmantribune.com