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Huntsville City Council President moonlights as a football official

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HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WHNT) - Mark Russell is best known for his role as the president of the Huntsville City Council.

He has served on the council for 12 years moderating public hearings and council members alike. But that's just his day job.

At night, he goes from suit and tie to stripes and a whistle as a referee for countless football games across the Tennessee Valley.

"I like being around kids," said Russell. "Football teaches just so many great lessons about hard work and team."

Russell has roamed the sidelines of local football games for more than 20 years officiating at every level from Pee Wee to high school.

His varsity resume includes four state championships, more than 40 playoff games and two all-star games.

"It's a tough job," said Russell. "There's not a lot of 'atta boys' for the officials. Mainly we just hope to get out and nobody complain."

The Huntsville High graduate also served as a baseball umpire for a few years, but he says he preferred the anonymity of football.

"Football officiating is much more of a team game. There's at least five officials out there, sometimes six, seven, eight, and so the people don't notice you individually as much."

As Russell points out, you also need a thick skin for both of his professions.

"Officiating was the best training I could ever hope for for city council. There's some people that don't like officials no matter what you do. There's some people that don't like city councilmen no matter what you do. You have to make a lot of decisions. You don't always make everybody happy, but you have to continue on doing it."

Russell encourages everyone to try officiating to learn a greater appreciation for the game.

If you would like to learn more about how to become an official, click here.