Don Siegelman stops in Atmore Tuesday

Published 1:42 pm Wednesday, August 24, 2005

By By Adam Prestridge
Former Gov. Don Siegelman is unsure if he'll run for re-election during the 2006 Alabama gubernatorial race.
Despite his indecision, it was obvious that Siegelman is seriously considering reclaiming his seat at the state capitol after visiting Atmore's David's Catfish Tuesday afternoon where no hand was left unshaken.
"I'm trying to make a decision, in fact I have not made a decision, in re-entering the 2006 race for governor," Siegelman said. "I would not be doing this for me or my family because as you know when you enter the political arena it's a full-contact sport. The people I come in contact with are encouraging and I feel like there's an opportunity to make the state an even better place than it is today."
Atmore Mayor Howard Shell introduced Siegelman to the lunch crowd made up of city and county officials and business leaders. In his opening remarks, Shell expressed his appreciation for Siegelman's assistance to Atmore during his tenure.
"We could have filled the place up, but we limited it to a few people that will give him the opportunity to come by and share a few thoughts and ideas with you," Shell said. "He is testing the waters again for state office and he'll be glad to share all those things with you. He was there when we asked for help in trying to acquire the property off Interstate 65 and without his leadership and support we wouldn't be there."
Siegelman followed Shell with a compliment of his own.
"You guys are awfully fortunate that this guy is mayor," Siegelman said. "I can tell you this, you wouldn't have that property if it wasn't for the mayor because I don't know how many times he came up and talked to me about it, but it was like a broken record. He said it enough so that I started paying attention. When you're governor there are lots of people tugging on you."
Siegelman first touched on the issue of industrial recruitment and how important it is to the State of Alabama. While in office, he helped the secure five automobile manufacturing plants in just three in half years.
"I was focused in on bringing in automobile plants," he said.
To assist in the recruitment of business, county commissions throughout the state put pressure on Siegelman to improving bridges in hopes of luring business to the state and making safer travel for its residents. A bridge replacement program was formed to assist in the efforts.
"We had about 1,800 bridges in the state that school buses couldn't cross and if a school bus couldn't cross it, a cement truck couldn't cross it, and you couldn't build an automotive supplier," Siegelman said.
Thirteen bridges in Escambia County were replaced under the program.
"Focusing on economic development and bringing jobs to places like Atmore became important to me after I talked to the mayor," Siegelman said. "And I realized that things aren't always the same in each place, that it takes a different combination and ingredients to make economic development work."
With that said, Siegelman tied all to the city's land acquisition on I-65.
"In the case of Atmore, the mayor sold me on the fact that the transfer of the this property and the willingness of the state to sell the property to Atmore would lead to more and better jobs for the people in this community," Shell said. "That is why it was done, because of this man (Shell). He was a great salesman and has a great vision for this community and cares for this community and wants to make people's lives better. I was fortunate to be in a place to where I could help out."
Siegelman also said that he believes several industrial recruitment opportunities are not being taken full advantage of.
"I respect the current office, but we've got to fight for these jobs," Siegelman said.
Anyone familiar with Siegelman's campaign also knows how focused he was on improving education, children's services, economic development and promoting anticrime initiatives including drunk driving and domestic violence prevention. During his governorship, new schools were built throughout the state and portable classrooms became almost extinct.
Siegelman also touched on the current conditions of the school, the idea of a program to save the state's youth, a rural healthcare plan and agriculture. He also said that if re-elected he wouldn't raise taxes and instead propose another lottery devoted to education.
"I know a lot of people don't support a lottery, but folks we've got people going over to Mississippi everyday by the busload," Siegelman said. "What I want to do is to keep that money in Alabama so we can tell our kids that if they stay in school and stay out of trouble they can go to college."
Siegelman said that he has enjoyed his time out of the public arena.
"I have enjoyed spending this time with my family; my children and wife," he said. "We have had a wonderful opportunity to kind of rebuild our relationship after being on a tear for four years."
He added that if he makes the decision to run for governor once again that he will be doing it for the people of Alabama.
"Believe it or not, most people don't believe it, there are people in public office like your may who are in it for the right reasons," Siegelman said. "The reason of trying to help people."
Governor Siegelman was born in Mobile in 1946. He graduated from the University of Alabama in 1968, Georgetown University School of Law in 1972 and studied International Law at Oxford University in Oxford, England from 1972 to 1973. He and his wife Lori live in Montgomery with their two children, Dana and Joseph.

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