With 2012 being an election year, Athens and Limestone residents had the opportunity to choose new representation on a local, state and national level.
The March 13 Republican primary set the stage for the Nov. 6 elections, with Rick Santorum receiving the most votes of the GOP presidential nominees. After Mitt Romney was nominated at the Republican Convention on Aug. 30, he easily carried Limestone County and Alabama, but lost nationally to President Barack Obama.
Limestone voters also helped re-elect Mo Brooks to a second term as the fifth congressional representative and helped send ousted Chief Justice Roy Moore back to Montgomery.
After winning in the March 13 primary election, circuit court clerk candidate Brad Curnutt, probate judge candidate Charles Woodroof and County Commission candidate Steve Turner all defeated their Democratic counterparts in November.
County Commissioner Bill Daws, the Democratic incumbent, lost to Republican challenger Ben Harrison, while License Commissioner Greg Tucker was the lone Democrat to emerge victorious in November. Tucker defeated Republican challenger Ronnie Coffman, who is also head of the Limestone County Republican Party.
Athens residents also had the opportunity to choose a new mayor and council on Aug. 28. Mayor Ronnie Marks easily won re-election by a 1,900-vote margin.
District 2 Councilman Harold Wales and District 3 Councilman Jimmy Gill faced no opposition in the election, while District 1 Councilwoman Mignon Bowers and District 5 Councilwoman Dr. Milly Caudle chose not to seek re-election.
Winning election to those seats were Chris Seibert in District 1 and Wayne Harper in District 5. District 4 incumbent Jim Hickman was defeated by challenger Joseph Cannon.
Athens chose two of its own this past year to lead its police and fire departments into the future.
Opting for in-house candidates to replace retiring police and fire chiefs, the City Council chose Capt. Floyd Johnson as police chief in February and Fire Prevention Chief Tony Kirk as fire chief in June.
The appointment of Johnson was an easy one for the council. After interviewing him Jan. 25, it was clear each of the five council members intended to look no further.
Johnson had been serving as interim chief since Jan. 1, after longtime Police Chief Wayne Harper retired Dec. 31, 2011. Johnson began working for APD as a dispatcher in 1982, working his way up to captain in 2009, at which point he oversaw the investigative division and served as public information officer.
The department employs 58 full-time personnel, including 47 officers with arrest powers.
The retirement of Fire Chief Danny Southard on Feb. 1 due to health problems prompted an initial in-house search for a new fire chief.
That resulted in three in-house candidates, only two of whom had fire department experience — Kirk and Battalion Chief David Andrews.
After interviewing the in-house candidates, however, the council decided to open the search to outside applicants. Following those interviews, the council decided to stick with its internal candidates. Kirk had been a supervisor for 21 of his nearly 26 years with AFD, becoming fire marshal for the department three years ago.
When Kirk was nominated and the council was about to vote, Councilwoman Caudle said that if the council's mindset was to hire from within then it should have looked at the internal candidates and awarded the job to the best person based on education, experience and other qualifications and not seek outside candidates. She believed Andrews who was only 35 but had an impressive resume and seemed forward thinking was the most qualified in-house candidate. In the end, the council voted 3-0 with Caudle and Bowers, who is a friend of the Andrews family, abstaining. Caudle congratulated Kirk and said she believed he would be a qualified chief.