Community Luncheon welcomes speakers from the Cullman Legislative Delegation Thursday

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Sen. Gudger addresses the crowd (Janet Chandler for The Cullman Tribune)

CULLMAN, Ala. – The Chamber of Commerce Community Luncheon kicked off Thursday, July 15 at Stone Bridge Farms with Interim President Peggy Smith recognizing the Small Businesses of the Month from the past six months. The local businesses chosen were Monograms Plus for January, the All Steak for February, Chick-Fil-A of Cullman for March, Dental Arts for April, Southern Eats for May, and Eva Bank for June. 

The Cullman Legislative Delegation were present with Senator Garlan Gudger speaking first. After thanking the Chamber for the opportunity to speak and those responsible for the luncheon, he began by posing the question, “What makes Cullman successful in Montgomery?” He said, “What makes Cullman successful in Montgomery is the quality of the people that are involved in the community. There are two ways that people judge us on how we as the Cullman Legislative Board are successful and that is bringing money back home and the different bills that we pass.” 

Senator Gudger continued, “If you judged us on the bills that we have passed, I will just state a few. This year, we have House Bill 391 by Scott Stadthagen, that allowed biological males to have to play male sports grades K-12. If you are a biological female, you play female sports. There was a lady that had her skull crushed in the north United States because she was going against a biological male that said that he was female. K-12, your bodies change so dramatically. I have a freshman boy going into Cullman High School and I have a senior. I cannot imagine my senior that has muscles and is growing big and strong and actually having to push back, going against a tenth-grade girl just because my oldest son said he was a female. We are trying to protect female athletes and both being collegiate sports, we realize the importance in that.” 

He went on to share about the Vaping Bill. “The growing group in America that is going to vape is 13-16 years old. They are coming off of cigarettes which is good, but they are going straight into vaping. And if you go into a vape store, which I did this past week just to see what it is like, you have snow cone, strawberry, blueberry –things they are marketing to kids, and I would like to stop that.” 

He posed one more question, “What can we do as a team to ensure that we are going to be successful?” to which he stated, “Do exactly what you are doing today. By being here and being engaged. By contacting your state delegation if there is a problem you have or if there is an issue that you have because if you know it, but we do not then we cannot help you, but if you tell us about it, we will help you.” 

Rep. Corey Harbison spoke next, saying, “We always come to terms and try to negotiate, and I believe that we work well together as a delegation, and I am proud of some of the things that we have accomplished. Each legislature has their own thing that they are passionate about and me, I have worked in law enforcement and local government, so local issues are big for me. You hear them say ‘All politics are local.’ And I think there is a lot of truth in that. It is good to have good leaders at home with the mayors, commissioners, judges and everybody else to call us and inform us of the things that they need and the things that will help them better serve.” He continued, “At the end of the day, we as a delegation are going to fight for whatever the people at home want us to do, and I think that is what we need to do. And we will do that for any of the officials here.” 

Following Rep. Harbison to speak was Rep. Scott Stadthagen. After addressing the difficulty Alabama has faced during the COVID-19 pandemic, he said, “We rolled our sleeves up and did what we had to do. We had a really good year, considering the circumstances. The ETF and general fund are record numbers. Think about that for a second–record numbers this year. And you know why? Because your super majority in Montgomery is conservative Republicans. We saved for a rainy day and last year was a rainy day. Other states cannot say the same. They are borrowing money right now to pay for their teachers. Not in the state of Alabama.” 

Rep. Stadthagen concluded, “Thank you guys for allowing me to serve and be a part of Cullman County. I had a couple people ask me about what my thoughts were about redistricting and Cullman County, and I do not want them to change. I like the people of Cullman County. I like this delegation. We work good as a team. Corey alluded earlier that we do not always get along and that is true. But we carry ourselves in a professional manner and we conduct business as we should. And we will always do what is for the better good of Cullman County.” 

When Rep. Randall Shedd was invited to the stage, he began,saying, “The very first thing that I want to say today is to the Chamber of Commerce. I want to say thank you from the bottom of my heart for the Marie Eddleman Citizenship Award. I have never been more surprised or more humbled or more thankful. I do not know what the process is, but it was really very touching, and I thank you.”  

No disrespect to Zoom, but it sure is good to see y’all’s faces. I believe this. The best way to make our country better, our state better, our county better, is one community at a time being better. One city and county at a time being better. I think the way we do that is through improving the infrastructure and improving the quality of life for the people that live in our communities, our counties, towns and cities.” 

He continued, “One thing is that my district has suffered a lot of tragedy in recent years, not just in Cullman County, but in Blount and Marshall and Morgan County. And that is in the area of mental health. Representative Nathaniel Ledbetter and Governor Ivey came together to, and saw, that this group right here had been focused on mental health for a while because of those tragedies that we were seeing.” He then introduced Jeremy Blair with Wellstone to speak on the subject of the positive effects of new mental health legislature in Alabama.  

Blair began, “We have been working on crisis care for really the past five years and we know that that is a gap in our state health system. So, representing Wellstone Communal Health Center serves both Cullman County and Madison County. We were very aggressive in making sure that we brought those resources here. This delegation was instrumental in bringing both a local crisis team for the Cullman County area and one of the state’s first crisis conversion centers to the Huntsville area.” 

There are three crisis conversion centers in the state currently and the fourth may go online next year. They allow local crisis teams to go to crisis situations and can help deescalate and assist the struggling individual without police or hospital involvement. There are hopes to eventually have 18-20 crisis conversion centers across Alabama. 

The luncheon was concluded with the Chamber of Commerce presenting the delegation with the cookbook, “Between Friends” that was published by Cullman native Judy Phillips Townsend. 

The next Community Luncheon is scheduled for August 20, 2021. A location has yet to be confirmed. 

 (Janet Chandler for The Cullman Tribune) 

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