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Election time draws near

Several political &uot;surprises&uot; took center stage in Montgomery this week. The most notable were the governor’s shake-up within his high level staff and the release of the first two major competing legislative reapportionment plans.

The governor reassigned

Chief of Staff Paul Hamrick to his re-election campaign and replaced him with Jim Buckalew, a top assistant to Montgomery mayors since 1989. Jim’s wife, Anna Buckalew, has a key position with the Montgomery Area Chamber of Commerce, a position she has held for several years. Nick Bailey, director of the Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs, the agency which disburses most of the grant money to cities and counties around the state, stepped down, as did Mack Roberts, longtime director of the Department of Transportation.

Bailey was replaced by State Banking Superintendent Norm Davis and Roberts was replaced by Paul Bowlin, a longtime employee of the Transportation Department.

The media has carried several stories related to these developments and each story tends to lead one to believe that these are punitive actions on the part of the Siegelman administration.

I know all of these individuals very well, and I in no way consider the actions taken as being punitive.

Each of these three individuals, Paul Hamrick, Mack Roberts and Nick Bailey, are an integral part of the Siegelman re-election effort and in order to avoid any conflict of interest, they needed to move from their positions as paid public employees to the campaign staff. In my opinion, the changes were to be expected, although I will admit they came a little more quickly than I had anticipated.

Norm Davis has made a good banking superintendent, and I would suspect that he will be a hands-on leader at ADECCA.

This position is very important to me and all other members of the Legislature, so I will be getting in touch with Mr. Davis sometime very soon.

Likewise, Paul Bowlin is a veteran of the Trans-portation Department and should move right in to the job without missing a beat.

Paul is a very conscientious person who should make a good director.

With respect to the Buckalew appointment, &uot;the jury is still out,&uot; to borrow a phrase.

Buckalew is a capable person with an extensive background in city government.

It surprises me a little that he would take an assignment with an administration which will be devoting the next 18 months to re-election.

Jim also has an extensive background in working with Republicans, but as of late, has served Montgomery’s Democratic Mayor Bobby Bright as his chief counselor.

There have been several contract controversies emanating from the Siegelman administration in recent months, and I guess it is natural for some of the media to tie these problems and the leaving of senior staff together.

I would just remind those who insist on such a &uot;tie&uot; that these are three of the most loyal people whom the governor has working for him.

It is a natural fit that they should lead his campaign re-election effort.

Speaking of changes in public assignments, I want to congratulate John Andrews on his appointment as the new district attorney for the Second Judicial Circuit.

I was vacationing with my family in Destin this past week and unable to attend his swearing in ceremony, but I am told it was very nice.

With respect to the reapportionment plans, they are being circulated this week at the state house and should be available for public scrutiny within the next few days.

I will have more to say about this in next week's column.

In the meantime, please remember that &uot;I’ll go with you or I’ll go for you&uot; to help you solve any problem related to state government.