Dale Strong, Wayne Parker Battle It Out In Debate

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A standing room only crowd watched Madison County Chairman candidates Wayne Parker and Dale Strong battle it out Thursday night, with the fireworks coming in the final minutes of the debate.

Strong has been a Madison County Commissioner since 1996, while Parker has unsuccessfully run for Congress three separate times. Both candidates are Republicans, and spent the first part of the debate stressing the importance of jobs and economic development.

“The ambassador of the county must be a part of that [economic development], making it easy for companies to do business,” said Parker. “We have to understand what motivates companies to come here, why they want to come, why they want to invest, so they can make a good profit and have a good place for their employees to live.”

“You can’t bring jobs if you don’t have your education system where it needs to be,” said Strong. “You can’t bring jobs if you don’t have your transportation where it needs to be. We’ve already started economic development, we’ve got to take it further.¬† Growing small business in Madison County is where we’ve got to start it.”

Also getting a lot of attention is a proposal to overhaul the way Madison County does its payroll. Strong vowed to implement an electronic time card system that would cut down on payroll abuse and error. Parker responded by saying he was not ready to commit to such a system, saying the issue needed more time to be studied due to the diverse nature of county departments. Last year county commissioners voted down the e-system proposal on a 4-3 party line vote.

“When they come in there, they put their finger there, and it eliminates buddy popping,” said Strong. “It will save this county hundreds of thousands of dollars. It was blocked by Democrats. All Republicans voted for it.”

“You’ve got department heads doing one thing, other departments doing what they do, the sheriff doing something else,” said Parker. “The departments are very different in their functions, so we have to have a system that works well with such an organization like that.”

There was also an unexpected twist, with both candidates promising to reinstitute regular prayer before the start of every commission meeting. But the biggest audience reaction of the night came in the final minutes, when the candidates were given an opportunity to question each other. Parker opened the dialogue by referring to one of Strong’s recent commercials.

“In the commercial, you [Strong] state that you’re not a career politician,” Parker said. “My son did the math, and 70 percent of your adult life you’ve been a county commissioner. How does that work?”

“I’ve ran one campaign, and have done such a good job since that no one has ever run against me,” responded Strong. “You [Parker] have run three [campaigns], and spent $7 million running for Congress of the United States of America. The people of Madison County have told you that they didn’t want you, and I believe that answers the question. I’m happy to have served the people of Madison County.”

Thursday’s debate was sponsored by the Madison County Young Republicans.

The Democratic Party did not field a candidate for Madison County Commission Chairman, meaning the winner of the GOP primary is all but assured of the job. Primary day in Alabama is March 13th.

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