Reviewing Bentley’s first yearPublished 6:16pm Monday, December 26, 2011
As the world turns in Alabama politics another year is fast coming to a close. Dr. Robert Bentley is completing his first year as governor. He inherited a ship of state that was analogous to walking onto the deck of the Titanic.
If the state’s financial crisis was not devastating enough, Bentley was awakened on April 27 with the worst natural disaster in Alabama history. A record number of killer tornadoes ravaged the state. Some of the worst damage occurred in Bentley’s hometown of Tuscaloosa.
Bentley has also seen a series of changes in his original cabinet that looks like a scene of musical chairs. David Perry was Bentley’s initial Finance Director. He changed to become Chief of Staff after that post was vacated by Chuck Malone. Malone was appointed Chief Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court following the resignation of Sue Bell Cobb. Gov. Bentley established a first for the State of Alabama when he named Marquita Davis Finance Director to replace Perry. Davis is a 44 year old Hoover resident. She is the state’s first female finance director and only the second African American to hold this coveted and powerful post. She was a surprising choice not because of her race or gender but because of her lack of experience in finance. She is an educator by training and has served as Commissioner of Children’s Affairs in both Riley’s and Bentley’s cabinet.
The longtime Director of Alabama’s Legislative Fiscal office, Joyce Bigbee, announced her retirement in October to be effective January 1, 2012. Bigbee has been Director of the Legislative Fiscal office for 25 years. Her expertise will be difficult to replace.
State Senator Scott Beason of Gardendale was removed as Chairman of the powerful Senate Rules Committee in November by his Republican colleagues. Senate Majority Leader Jabo Wagoner of Vestavia Hills will replace him. Beason was booted out after numerous controversies embroiled him all year.
Three prominent political figures passed away late this year. Emory Folmar, who served as Mayor of Montgomery from 1977 to 1999 and played a major role in building the modern Alabama Republican Party, died at his home in Montgomery in November. He was 81. Bessemer Circuit Judge Mac Parsons also died in November from a rare form of cancer. Parsons was the ultimate Yellow Dog Democrat. He was a colorful State Senator for two decades prior to going on the Bench. Parsons was 68. Ms. Ethel Hall also passed away in November in Birmingham. She was the first African American female to be elected to the State Board of Education where she served for 25 years.
Have a happy New Year.