18-year-old set to join Alabama county commission
SLOCOMB, Ala. (AP) — Instead of running from college class to college class, 18-year-old Weston Spivey runs a business and will soon help run a county government.
Spivey defeated Bryan Hatton in the Republican primary for the Geneva County Commission District 1 seat last week. Since no Democrat or independent entered the race, Spivey will join the county commission on Nov. 13 - more than a month before his 19th birthday.
The Association of County Commissions of Alabama does not track the ages of county commissioners statewide, but given the minimum age to qualify for the office is 18, one would be hard-pressed to find someone younger than Spivey in office. In the midst of campaigning for the office, Spivey helped run the family business - a farm-to-fork food distributor named Green Acres Buffalo and Catfish Farms - while also trying to graduate from high school at Ridgecrest Christian School in Dothan.
“That was one of the biggest challenges - trying to graduate and campaign and run the business all at the same time,” he said.
Spivey said he has always expressed interest in politics, which is what inspired the event that triggered his campaign. Shortly after turning 17, several Geneva County businessmen approached him about running for the probate judge/county commission chairman spot.
“I didn’t even know what the requirements were to run for probate judge. I said, ‘That’s a little much, and I don’t even know if I have a career in politics,’” Spivey said. “They said, ‘You present yourself well, and we’d think you’d do well on any level of government because you’d represent business.’”
After some contemplation, Spivey decided to run for commission. He knew the race had its challenges - namely his age.
“I had so many people tell me, ‘Weston, at your age, they’re not going to consider you anyways. These seniors - that’s a vote in the other box. They’re not gonna take you seriously,’” Spivey said.
Hatton - the incumbent - provided another obstacle.
“This guy is a great guy. He’s in his mid-40s. He’s been involved in our community. His wife’s a schoolteacher,” Spivey said. “I’m just a young guy, 18 years old now, and really just involved in the community the past three years. It was a challenge. We ran up against the odds.”
Instead of the challenge overwhelming him, Spivey gained inspiration from it. That stimulus - combined with the help of family, friends and “the good Lord above” - resulted in his 805-731 victory, he said.
“Instead of campaigning from 8 in the morning to 5 p.m., that motivated me to campaign from 8 (a.m.) to 8 (p.m.),” Spivey said. “We got out and knocked on doors, and we gave people the message. That’s the message the people wanted.”
His message primarily focuses on economic development and supporting emergency responders. While some clamor the county needs a four-lane highway for economic progress, Spivey does not believe it is a necessity. Spivey said Geneva County has several marketable qualities that could attract industries, including low tax rates.
“We’ve got to show people our taxes are lower here than most counties, and we’ve got to show people how they can save money by bringing business to our county,” he said.
Spivey, a volunteer firefighter with the Slocomb and Fadette departments, noted the county must also find ways to support all of its first responders.
“Personally, I think our public service departments have got to be prioritized. We’ve got to take care of our citizens,” he said. “When 911 is dialed and someone’s life is on the line, our volunteers have got to have the equipment they need to operate.”
Spivey also noted the county’s infrastructure must improve drastically.
“Our roads are now worse than they have ever been,” he said. “We’ve got 600 miles of dirt roads in Geneva County and a budget that hasn’t been increased in (several) years to service those roads. Something’s badly got to change.”
Spivey noted he has plans to go to college - eventually - but feels his new mission takes precedence.
“I made a commitment to this county when I qualified, and my commitment to this county is going to stay true,” he said. “This county right now has got to have attention. I look forward to furthering my education in college, but right now my time has got to be dedicated to the county. I will go to college, but these four years belong to the people.”
Information from: The Dothan Eagle, http://www.dothaneagle.com