State Director speaks out after being fired, considers run for Governor

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Ron Sparks, pictured here, has lost his job. He headed up the Office of Rural Development, which will be eliminated under the new state administration, WHNT News 19 has learned.

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MONTGOMERY, Ala. - WHNT News 19 was the first to break the news, by executive order Wednesday, Governor Kay Ivey would be eliminating the office of Rural Development.

It turns out, that office's Director Ray Sparks, also got word of his impending unemployment from our story on WHNT.com.

Now, in his first television interview since his surprise firing, Sparks told WHNT News 19, he feels like the Governor's office put politics over helping the people of the State of Alabama.

“I think it showed a lack of professionalism," said Ron Sparks, former Director of the Rural Development Office. “The first time I heard about it, as you know Chris, was when y'all found out about it and you came to my office to interview me and they give me no common courtesy to say 'hey Ron, please tell us about those programs.' They’re good programs.”

Ron told WHNT News 19's Chris Davis on Wednesday, he'd been in politics long enough to know when to start packing. So that's exactly what his staff started doing.

"If you don’t have any respect for Ron Sparks, at least have respect for the lady that works for me and put this program together that put her heart and soul into it every day," he said.

In the days that have followed, disbelief has transitioned into anger.

He still hasn't heard from Governor Ivey's office about the decision, or what will happen to his office's programs.

“I could have helped her in about 30 minutes but they didn’t give that courtesy," said Sparks.

Rural Development oversees the statewide Baby Box program that provides tools and tips to parents to prevent Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, or SIDS.

“Thousands of mothers have signed up for this program to try to bring down infant mortality rates and I would think Governor Ivey would have an interest in doing that," he said.

They also manage the Black Belt Commission, that was originally founded under Gov. Bob Riley's administration. The commission provides assistance to some of the state's poor and rural counties.

Sparks believes closing his office was personal instead of prudent.

"There’s no doubt this was political retribution. It had to have been. Why wouldn’t you sit down and talk to me?" he asked.

Even though this door has closed for Sparks, the 2010 Democratic Nominee for Governor, and former State Ag Commissioner hinted, you may see him on the main stage again.

"Would you rule out running for Governor again?" asked Davis.

"Absolutely not," replied Sparks. "I’d say I’m looking at it and assessing everything. It takes a lot of time and a lot of money to run for Governor in the state of Alabama."

A spokesman for the Baby Box Company tells WHNT News 19, the program will continue under a different state agency, and representatives of the Department of Public Health have indicated, it may fall under their umbrella.

As for the other Rural Development programs, Sparks said he and his team plan to talk to other state agencies about continuing those initiatives as well.

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