Response to Bolton commentary

Published 12:00 am Sunday, September 9, 2007

To the Editor:

Early on, the mayor indicated that he did not want to respond to public attacks and negative comments and so I do not expect him to say one word about this and other recent attacks. But, I found the letter from Tom Bolton, president of Cooper Brothers Construction Company, Inc., very interesting for many reasons.

Before I give my opinion, let me state for the record my qualifications. I am a licensed contractor. I serve on the Craig Industrial Board where Mr. Bolton has done several large projects.

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As for Mr. Bolton, he admitted that he has never had to leave Selma and Dallas County to compete for business until about two years ago. I was really surprised to hear him admit that fact for I have heard for a very long time that many contractors from inside and outside the community believe they were shut out of the local construction market for many years. I have come to believe that under the old political system, only one or two businesses were allowed to do any work in Selma.

I can only surmise that the reason he has to move beyond the local market is that the “new and bold leadership” that he speaks negative about has tried to open the “old closed market” to everyone.

Admittedly, the old guard is not taking this open business philosophy lying down and there is a fight to hold on to what seemed to be an “old system of favoritism.”

He admitted that Team Selma, consisting of George Alford, Probate Judge Kim Ballard, Menzo Driscoll, Mayor James Perkins Jr., Sen. Hank Sanders, Wayne Vardaman and its recent new member as chairman of the Craig Industrial Board, Dr. James Mitchell, is the best economic development organization in the state.

When he admitted that fact, I thought he would go on to deliver the positive and good news about the economic growth in Selma. After reading further, I was disappointed.

He admitted that he was willing to invest in a community other than his own because the mayor and city council were getting along in that community just north of us. I am trying to figure out if he is asleep or just chooses to ignore the fact that the mayor of Selma is not arguing and fighting with the city council. And though he did not actually say that the mayor has a “me first” attitude, it is outright dishonest to even imply that to be so. If he decided to be completely honest with himself and others, he would admit who starts most of the public arguments on the city council.

Mr. Bolton stated, “no company in their right mind” would invest in Selma. Well, so much for the work of Team Selma.

With that one statement, you, sir, just flushed all that great work of which you had previously praised down the toilet. By making that statement, you are saying that the executives of all the businesses that have come into our community and those that are staying and investing heavily into our community as a result of Team Selma’s great work, are crazy people.

Mr. Bolton has said that Selma has it all, all pieces and parts. We just do not have the leadership that is bold enough and at the same time humble enough to stand up and say that the politics of the past are no longer acceptable and we are going to go down a different road.

Mayor Perkins has done that very thing.

I do agree with Mr. Bolton that the time of finger-pointing is over. I agree that “A rising tide lifts all boats.” I agree that we need a rising tide of maturity, civility and reasonableness in this community to lift all of our boats.

Frank Smith