(WHNT) – The Alabama House District 26 seat is open after three-term incumbent Representative Kerry Rich chose not to seek reelection.

News 19 asked the candidates for Alabama House District 26, Brock Colvin, Annette Holcomb and Todd Mitchem, about the issues facing the district and who is the right choice for votes.

News 19’s questions and the complete answers from the candidates are below:

Question #1: Tell us a bit about your background. How has it shaped you to serve in the office you’re seeking?

BROCK COLVIN: As a fifth-generation Marshall Countian, I have grown up in District 26 and proudly watched the growth of our community.

As the son of a former small business owner and a Snead State professor, I learned the value of hard work and education from a young age. Similarly, I have spent my entire life learning about the challenges members of our community currently face, and I have worked to identify common sense solutions that will benefit all of Marshall County. 

ANNETTE HOLCOMB: I have been a nurse for over 35 years.  I have four daughters and four grandsons. Looking at their future, I am concerned whether or not they will be able to get a quality education, a good job, and be able to provide for their families.  This was one of the motivation factors for me running for this open seat. 

As a nurse, I worked from the bedside to a director of 5 departments.  I took pride in providing quality care to my patients and required my staff to give quality time and care to each patient.  Working in healthcare taught me how to be a servant.  My father was a military veteran and I learned from him about the importance of serving my country.  Now, I want to serve my constituents like I did my patients.

As a manager and director, I hired staff, purchased equipment, and gave raises.  I always stayed under budget.   I worked with other healthcare leaders to cut waste in healthcare.   As the representative for district 26, I will use these measures to help me continue to balance the state’s budget, be frugal with our tax dollars, and cut waste in government.

Todd Mitchem: I grew up watching my parents serve the community. This instilled in me a passion for service as well. From working to attain the rank of Eagle Scout at the age of 17 to serving as an intern with Senator Richard Shelby in the U.S. Senate and with Congressman Tom Bevill in the U.S. House of Representatives while in college, I have sought opportunities to serve.

Now, for the past ten years, I have been very involved in the community working with CASA of Marshall County; I have served on the Board of Directors for almost five years. This organization provides care to the elderly and homebound. I am also an active member of the Board of Directors of the Shephard’s Cove Hospice Foundation. I work to do as much as I can to help the people of Marshall County. I have been able to provide a lot of service through my work with CASA and Hospice. The opportunity to serve more people in an even greater capacity is the reason I decided to enter this race for State Representative.

Question #2: What do you see as key challenges facing your district and the state and what do you propose to do about them?

COLVIN: While there are many issues facing my District and state – education, election security, economic expansion – I believe the most important issue to my District is workforce development. I travel around my District daily and speak with business owners from all industries – poultry, farming, manufacturing, retail, restaurants, finance, healthcare, education – and they all say the same thing, “we need more skilled employees”.

The labor market was crippled during the pandemic, and now more than ever, the state has to put its best foot forward to solve this crisis. Alabama’s businesses are depending on it. It will take a team effort from the state, counties, municipalities, education institutions, and businesses to come together to solve this issue.

I am proud of the effort Snead State Community Community, Marshall County Tech School, and industries in my District are already taking to address this issue.

Once elected, I will ensure Marshall County always has a seat at the decision-making table to continue solving this issue. My background and understanding of financial and economic issues gives me the skills and knowledge to be most effective in this position. 

HOLCOMB: One key issue is Alabama’s ineffective test scores especially in math. Talking with numerous teachers, they comment about being overloaded with agendas, initiatives, and paperwork.  I will work to support the teachers, parents, and local school boards to propose curriculums that meet the diversity of the students.  Teachers want to get back to teaching basic education.  Most teachers do not believe the Numeracy Act will help improve test score when the problem is the need for more teachers not teacher coaches.

Funding for our county school is also a key problem.  Marshall County does not have a county tax.  I believe the county commission has the authority to implement this measure.  This would help to fund the county school system.  Marshall County has 5 school systems.

Mitchem: One of the key challenges in the district is working to prepare for and utilize the population growth that is taking place in the Huntsville metro area. A significant part of that is workforce development. With programs like the ones at Snead State Community College and the Marshall Technical School, we can help individuals prepare for the jobs at the new and growing industries in the area.

Another aspect of that challenge that impacts the state as a whole involves education. We must enhance education. I say enhance because it is not just about the amount of money. We need to focus on improving the results we get for the tax dollars that are spent. We should not accept having schools constantly ranked at or near the bottom. We should study what works in the highest rated schools in the country and around the world. We need to be willing to incorporate the most productive ideas that enhance basic academics as well as STEM (science, technology, engineering and math).

Question #3: What are voters telling you they are concerned about? Can you help?

COLVIN: Over the course of the last six months, I have thoroughly enjoyed knocking on doors and genuinely listening to voters to understand issues that are most important to them.

Inflation and the current workforce crisis are two issues I repeatedly hear about while campaigning in my District. My studies and career in finance gives me an unmatched understanding of the economy that most candidates and politicians do not possess. It is critical Alabama governs with fiscal conservative policies and implements a business-friendly environment that keeps prices and taxes low, and allows businesses and employees a chance to thrive. 

HOLCOMB: Education has been the most talked about issue.  Support our local school systems to implement curriculums that meet the needs of the student diversity.  Families are concerned about inflation.  With the rising cost of gas and groceries, Alabamians need a break.  I support cutting the grocery tax on food.  This bill was considered but failed to pass.  I will work to pass it.

Another problem for our area is skilled workers.  Snead State Community College and Marshall Technical School have implemented various technical programs to train students and workers, skills to improve the workforce.  I am working now with a contractor and a teacher to get skilled framers into the workforce.

Mitchem: The concern I hear about the most is traffic on Highway 431. It has been a long term problem that needs to be approached with a long term solution. I believe that if I have the opportunity to serve as State Representative, I can bring business, city and state leaders together to develop a plan. It may take years or decades for the final results to be realized, but we have to start to ever get to the finish line.

Two other concerns I hear almost equally are mental health care and equity in funding for education (between city and county schools). It is good that we are relatively close to the mental health crisis center in Huntsville, but more help is needed. Obviously, the only way to address equity in funding for education is to increase funding for the county schools. Where do we find the money? While there are a variety of options, I believe mental health and equity in funding for education are two areas that should be given priority consideration for any revenue generated by a lottery or other forms of gaming, if voters approve a constitutional amendment to allow a lottery or gaming.

Question #4: What is an accomplishment you’re especially proud of?

COLVIN: I am proud that after applying and interviewing, I was awarded the opportunity to intern in the Alabama Legislature during my time at the University of Alabama.

This experience allowed me a front row seat to the legislative and political process in our state. I was able to learn in-depth how to identify solutions, construct budgets, implement parliamentary procedure, and form relationships that will benefit me on my very first day in office.

While I bring new energy to the legislature to represent Marshall County, I also bring the experience and understanding needed to get the job done.

HOLCOMB: Fulfilling my childhood dream of becoming a nurse.  As a child, I wanted to help people and I believed becoming a nurse would accomplish this goal.  Nursing has been a wonderful career, from working in the intensive care unit, the emergency department and saving lives, to the operating room doing heart and lung transplants, to a director of 5 departments, then finally as a teacher teaching nursing students how to provide quality care to their patients.

Mitchem: I am so proud to be a part of the wonderful group of people involved in CASA of Marshall County. In particular, I have been a part of putting together the golf tournament fundraiser for over 10 years and I have been chairman of that committee for the past three years. This is our largest single fundraiser. For those not familiar with the work we do, here are some 2021 examples. Among the clients served were transportation (538); gas cards (41); wheelchair ramps (9); cards, calls and visits (2,045); safety equipment (8); referrals to other agencies (1,479); food and gift bags (1,041); heaters and air-conditioners (30); emergency food vouchers (163). Last year, CASA delivered 8,916 pounds of fresh vegetables from the CASA garden to each city in the county on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Garden volunteers prepare the soil, keep weeds out, harvest and replant many times.

Question #5: Leaving out elected officials – past and present – tell us about someone you admire and why.

COLVIN: I admire my grandfather, Albert Richey. My grandfather served in the United States Navy for 20 years before retiring back in Alabama. His service also inspired my brother to enlist in the United States Navy, who is now a police officer in my hometown of Albertville. The men and women who serve in these capacities are our country’s real heroes, and we should always show appreciation and support for our military men and women and law enforcement officers. 

HOLCOMB: A dear friend and mentor to me when I started working in the operating room, has left a big impact on my life.  She was kind but firm when it came to teaching me skills in the operating room.  She gave care, respect, and love to patients, families, and other staff members.  She taught me to be strong and confident in my skills as a scrub nurse.   She demanded respect from other members of the team, but not because she was a bully, it was her skills and professional behavior that set her apart. SM was a professional nurse in the operating room and proved it daily in every case. She was a great teacher and mentor to anybody that was new to the OR and always helped her team.

Mitchem: I admire Jill Tate Mitchem, my mother. She has always been there for my sister, brother and I. She provided a wonderful home life and helped us in all of our school, sports and extracurricular activities. I gained my desire to help people watching her and my father serve the community as I was growing up.

Question #6: What distinguishes you from your opponents?

COLVIN: I represent the future. I represent the next generation of conservatives who want to fight for their state and country. I will bring new energy and fresh blood to the Republican Party and state government that is desperately needed.

While I also bring new energy, I bring experience that will allow me to be effective on Day 1 of taking office.

It is time for the next generation of conservatives leaders to get involved and make a difference, and I am proud to lead that charge. I respectfully ask for your vote on May 24th. Vote Brock Colvin for District 26 of the Alabama House of Representatives. 

HOLCOMB: As a leader in healthcare, I have firsthand knowledge of how budgets work, how to collaborate with others, and have had experience in balancing budgets and cutting waste.  I created jobs, promoted continuing education, and recruited physicians and qualified healthcare workers.  As a teacher, I aught nursing students and nurse aide students and understand how important it is for students to have the necessary education and tools to achieve success in their career.  I love Alabama and this country and as a representative will do my part to make it better for all citizens. Experience matters.

Mitchem: I believe the first difference is the way I came to make the decision to seek the office of State Representative. It has not been my lifelong dream to hold elective office. In fact, over the years I have declined requests to run for various positions. However, I have had a lifelong passion for service. In the past 10 years, I have pursued that passion more than ever before and I have been able to provide a lot of service through my work with CASA and Hospice. The opportunity to serve more people in an even greater capacity is the reason I decided to offer myself for this position.

Secondly, I believe I am at an age where I have enough life experience to have acquired some of the wisdom that can only be obtained over time. I can remember the 1970s and can see the economic parallels we face now. I can also remember how Reagan’s policies in the 1980s led to the much better economy of that decade and the 1990s. With that said, I am still young enough to not only stand for but to push for positive change. I am mature enough that I will not be swayed in my core principles. That maturity will also allow me to listen to and be responsive to the constituents of District 26, rather than be controlled by special interest groups and the power players in Montgomery.

Finally, I believe my educational background is especially well suited for this position. I received an Associate Degree in Pre-Law at Snead State Community College. My BA in Political Science, with minors in History and Business, came from Auburn University. I also have two master’s degrees, a MS in Secondary Education from the University of South Alabama and a MA in Liberal Arts with concentrations in Political Science, History and Geography from Jacksonville State University.