By Jean Cole
A Limestone County businessman and a Limestone County school board member hope to win seats on the Limestone County Commission this year.
Mark Yarbrough, a Republican, will try to unseat current Commission Chairman Stanley Menefee in the June 3 primary election.
James Shannon, a longtime Limestone County Board of Education member, is eyeing the District 1 seat on the commission. The current officeholder, Gary Daly, will not seek re-election. Shannon’s decision to run for commissioner, no matter what the outcome, will leave a seat up for election on the school board because Shannon’s term as a school board member ends in November. Shannon, who had once been a Democrat, is now a Republican candidate.
Both Yarbrough and Shannon filed affidavits Thursday to qualify as candidates for the upcoming primary.
Other local offices up for election this year are sheriff, commission District 3, coroner, and county school board Districts 4 and 5.
Yarbrough said the need for better financial management in Limestone County, more transparency in county government and a stronger voice at the table in economic development issues across the region prompted him to seek the commission chairman seat.
“This election is about leadership for Limestone County,” Yarbrough said. “It’s about our residents having a voice at the table, having responsible leaders that put our county’s best interests in front of their own. Over the past few years, Limestone County has struggled, and we’ve struggled because we haven’t had the leadership we deserve.”
Yarbrough pointed to failed efforts at industrial recruitment, including missed opportunities for high-paying jobs, Limestone County’s $14 million dollars in ATRIP funding versus the nearly $83 million dollars awarded in Madison County, and several questionable real estate purchases by the commission at the chairman’s recommendation.
Yarbrough is a lifelong resident of Limestone County and founder of All Power Construction Inc. As chairman of the Limestone County Water & Sewer Authority from 2007 to 2011, Yarbrough said he helped “lift an organization buried in debt to unprecedented heights.”
Menefee, also a lifelong resident of the county, announced his bid for reelection as chairman Monday. Elected chairman in 2010, he was a veteran commissioner who had previously served on the commission for 14 years, eight of them as chairman. Since leaving office in 2002, Menefee said he stayed active in the Association of County Commissions of Alabama and worked in the private sector consulting on various projects with local governments and private businesses. Menefee said his passion is creating jobs and luring industry to Limestone County. He said Limestone County’s accomplishments under his leadership include Carpenter Technology Corp., making Limestone County its home, creating 250 jobs by 2017, and Advanced Technical Avionics locating in the Ardmore Industrial Park, creating 35 jobs, as well as helping many existing industries to add additional jobs.
Shannon said he had considered running for a commission seat several years ago but enjoyed serving as a school board member too much. Now, he believes the time is right for him to seek a seat on the commission and leave the school board for a “younger person.”
“I was fortunate enough to serve 12 years in the schools and I thought (about a run for County Commission) I’m gonna give it a shot. I’m gonna be active until I die.”
About his decision to change political parties, which many Limestone residents have done over the years, he said, “I didn’t leave the Democratic Party, they left me.” He added, “I have a lot of good friends who are Democrats, so I am not criticizing them.”
Shannon is the only known candidate in Limestone County to have won an election as a write-in candidate, which he did in 2002 for his current school board seat.
Nevertheless, Shannon said he would not worry about party affiliation if elected commissioner.
“I would just serve the people, not worry about the party,” he said. “Whatever I can do for people — if its legal and I have the money to do it, I’ll do it.”
Qualifying opened Monday for Republicans in Limestone. Qualifying for Democratic candidates will begin at 6 p.m. Jan. 23, when the party holds its traditional chili supper at the Limestone County Sheriff’s Rodeo Arena, Party Chairman Ron Gatlin said Thursday. A notary and all of the necessary forms will be available at the event, he said.
Qualifying ends for both major parties Feb. 7.