Incumbent Bruce Hamrick, a Democrat, is seeking re-election, while Republican Billy Luster is hoping to oust the four-term chairman.
Hamrick is a Vietnam veteran who served with the Army’s 9th Infantry Division as a rifle team leader. He received numerous awards for valor in combat.
“I’ve always wanted to serve people,” Hamrick said. “That service began with my time serving our country in Vietnam and has continued with my years of serving the people of Walker County as chairman of the commission.”
During his time as chairman of the Walker County Commission, Hamrick said he’s accomplished many things. He listed the relocation of the county’s probate judge office and expansion of the revenue commissioner’s office, the veteran’s assistance office and the district attorney’s office as things he is proud to have played a role in.
Hamrick said during his administration that county employees have been allowed to keep their healthcare coverage once they retire.
“I’ve worked hard to take care of our employees,” he said. “Whether that was expanding offices or keeping the health coverage for retirees, I’ve tried to do what I can for our county employees. They are what make our county great.”
Luster, a long-time business man and pastor, has served as the business manager for S&S Security Services for the past four years.
“Even in a bad economy, we’ve increased our revenue in the last four years,” Luster said. “My background in business is what makes me the right choice for chairman. It’s time for a change.”
Luster said the county is facing “tremendous” debt in the coming years.
“There’s no current plan,” he said. “My plan is to get the economy moving forward by bringing more jobs to the area. Then we can formulate a plan to pay some on the interest. Up to this point, it looks like the current administration is just putting it off.”
Hamrick said the county is “very sound” financially and holds a strong bond rating. He said the current commission has held off a refinancing debt plan that will save millions of dollars.
“We wanted to be transparent for the new commission, so we were waiting on the election to approve a plan,” Hamrick said. “We do have debt like all governments, city and county, and ours is manageable, and we are handling it.”
Hamrick said he has worked throughout his 16 years as chairman to bring jobs to the area.
“We’ve helped to bring many, many jobs to Walker County,” he said. “We’ve worked as a team with area industrial boards, the City of Jasper and the chamber to secure many new businesses in the area.”
Luster also wanted to address rumors that have been circulating in recent weeks about possible changes in the way the county operates if he is elected.
“There have been rumors that we would eliminate the district barns or do away with the civil service board. That is not true,” Luster said. “We’re not looking at cutting back employees. On the contrary, we are looking to add jobs. All that other is just politics and people looking to play on other people’s fears.”