Rep. Corey Harbison speaks on the recently filed HB622 bill

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Rep. Corey Harbison (Cullman Tribune Files)

MONTGOMERY, Ala. – Rep. Corey Harbison, R-Good Hope on Tuesday afternoon filed HB622, a bill that, if passed, would allow Cullman County voters to decide on a state constitutional amendment that would make the role of Cullman County Schools superintendent an elected, instead of appointed, position.

“At the end of the day, I have nothing against (Cullman County Schools Superintendent Dr.) Shane (Barnette). I have nothing against anybody. I’m simply following through with promises I made when running for office,” said Harbison. “Myself, and I know other legislators, have been in meetings and promised they would support a vote. Whether it passes or not is up to the people. I’m not pushing for or against. I’m just trying to follow through with what I promised I would do.”

He continued, “I could argue for and I could argue against it. I see the goods and bads. I promised to give people the choice when I was running the first time and the last time. I promised people I would support the vote, and last year we had a meeting at Jones Chapel before the (legislative) session. As I was talking to the crowd of people, one of the attendees called Senator (Garlan) Gudger (,R-Cullman) and got him on the phone. He promised everybody in there that he would also support it. So, that night, we made the promise that we would support this election, and I feel like we have to follow through on what we promise people.”

Harbison said he has spoken to Barnette about the bill.

“He is obviously against it,” he said, stressing, “For it to even pass down here (Montgomery), every member of the House has to pretty much be in agreement, and the senator has to sign off on it as well. Me filing it doesn’t mean it will even pass down here. We filed the same bill before Shane was even the superintendent. We filed when Paul Bussman (,R-Cullman) was a senator and he just killed it in the Senate. Shane was not anywhere in the picture as superintendent at the time. It literally had nothing to do with him at all.”

Harbison explained how the vote would work.

“This is just a simple vote of the people to ask the people what they would prefer, an elected or an appointed (superintendent). If they choose (that) they want it appointed, everything stays the same. I am not promising it again. They had a vote and that’s what I promised, and I’m done with it,” he said. “If they vote to change it, then there will not be a special election. The superintendent would be on a ballot in 2024. I thought that was important to do because I did not want to do anything that would cost the taxpayers for a special election, or anything that would cause the school board to have to pay a buyout for the current superintendent. We staggered this bill so it’s not going to cause buyouts or special elections.”

Harbison reiterated his reason for introducing the bill, saying, “A lot of people get elected and they forget promises they made to get elected, and I don’t want to be that guy.”

Cullman County School Superintendent Dr. Shane Barnette responded, “I understand when he was running for the position that he’s in that it was a campaign promise that he had made to pursue that, and I understand that. I think if you look at the data of what our school system’s achieving right now compared to when we had elected superintendents, the data doesn’t lie. There’s great things that are going on now, as they were in the past, but great things are going on. 

“If people still want to have input into the selection of a superintendent, they elect their board members to make those decisions for them. And that’s the way people still have control of the situation.

“But the entire state is working toward appointed superintendents, really across the entire nation, and I hate to see us take a step backwards, but I understand why he’s doing what he’s doing.”

 

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Christy Perry

christy@cullmantribune.com