Wallace hopes to bring new ideas to office

Published 8:35 pm Wednesday, October 20, 2010

The Clanton Advertiser interviewed each candidate for political offices with local implications. Below are responses from Kurt Wallace, who is running for the District 42 seat in the state House of Representatives. Candidate passages are presented verbatim but may have been edited for length and clarity. Look for responses from candidates for Chilton County sheriff county superintendent of education later in the week.

Question: Why did you decide to enter politics?

You know, your whole life you hear people complaining about politics. Nobody’s happy. “Politician” has almost become a dirty word. And you say your whole life, why don’t they elect some good Christian people, somebody who’s got some ethics? And people will say, most people won’t run. Why not? Well, you don’t want to have to fight that mess. I retired from Bush Hog back in December, and when I retired, I had a pretty good severance package. We had six months to a year I could take off work. My wife and I figured we could do that and figure out what I wanted to do. We had no plans of what I wanted to do, but we prayed about it and decided we would just do whatever God leads us to do. As the new year turned over, people began to come to me and say, “Kurt, you ought to think about running for office.” So I said, I’ll pray about it. And so we did that, and every devotion I opened up and everything I read said “do it.” So, my wife and I sat down one night and prayed about it, and I got up the next morning and said OK, I’m going to go qualify and run. Several years ago, people in my community came to me. Not that I didn’t like the mayor; I’ve got nothing against W.C. (Hayes), but I just thought I could do things different that might turn out better. It’s the same way here. Not that I dislike Jimmy (Martin) at all. I’ve known his family my whole life. But I think I can do things differently. I think I can bring a whole new set of eyes to the table. Fresh people see things other people don’t see. Plus my business career. I’ve been 26 years in business, sat across the table with millionaires and billionaires who have bought and sold companies. I know what they’re looking for. I know the questions they’re going to ask. I think it puts me in a good position to help bring industry to Chilton County and Shelby County.

If elected, what will your priorities be? What do you specifically hope to accomplish in a first term?

For 26 years, I drove from Maplesville to Selma. My talents weren’t used in my county. There was nothing here for me. There are probably 50-60 people at Bush Hog from Chilton County. These are highly skilled people, but we couldn’t keep them in Chilton County. I hate to see our skills go out of the county. I think they need to be here. I believe there are some things we can offer. There’s a segment of Chilton County who think this is a bedroom community, and that’s really what they want it to be. They want to live here and work over there. But when you do that, your tax dollars go there. You increase your tax base and your income by your sales receipts. Somehow, you’ve got to keep those people here, and I think that’s one of my biggest focuses.

What do you think the major issues will be this next legislative session?

Transparency and the economy are the two things. Our unemployment rates are hovering around 10 percent, and the thing people don’t fully understand (is that) 5 percent is normal. We’re always going to have about five percent in unemployment, but the neat thing about that is it doesn’t really hurt your economy. That 5 percent is not the same people; they rotate in and rotate out all the time. When you go to 10 percent, and the other five percent is actually what you call long-term unemployment—people who have been unemployed for over a year—that’s a dead draw against your tax base. You’ve got to figure out how to fix that. How do you fix that? You create incentives, especially for small businesses. Somehow, you’ve got to create incentives where these guys can get the money they need to operate.

What are your thoughts on gambling in Alabama? Do you support a referendum to allow people to vote on legalizing gambling?

I don’t support gambling at all. When you look at the statistics of gambling, there isn’t a single place that the income derived from the gambling outweighed the crime and corruption that came into an area. Growing up as a child, what did your parents teach you? They taught you to work hard, save your money and invest your money wisely, and you’d be successful in life. Here comes gambling. Your kids hear what you’re saying, and if…mom and dad takes the paycheck and runs down to the casino and try to get rich quick, what are you telling your kids? It just doesn’t work that way. The only people who get rich are the big guys. I can’t even see after what happened to Larry Langford how people can even talk about this. The most important thing for people who don’t have a moral problem with gambling, which I do, is it’s never a stable source of income. There’s nothing about that that’s going to positively affect our community, and I’ll never support that.

Given the recent high profile corruption cases in Birmingham, in the Alabama community college system and now in the Alabama state house, there is understandably a lot of distrust of elected officials among voters. What do elected officials have to do to earn that trust back?

Transparency, pure and simple. That’s the biggest little word that we’ve got this year. There’s a lot of money being passed out this year. Where’s all that coming from? Is that a generous donation, as the paper sometimes writes it, from the politician here, or is that somebody’s grant money? Truly, it’s tax money. It’s money that we all paid in that was given through a process. The truth of the matter is, if every representative went into their areas and built a budget for themselves and said, “These are my priority issues. This is where my money is to go,” then people would see where that money was going. You’re not going to make everybody happy when you do that, but people can see where your money is going. It happens every day in Maplesville. Look at us. This is the last month of the fiscal year. We’ve not borrowed a dime in two years, and this is the worst two years in our economy since the Great Depression, and I promise you (Maplesville is) one of the few towns in America that isn’t borrowing money. How come? We just don’t waste our money. We sure aren’t making any, that’s for sure.