The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

November 12, 2012

Steve Turner sworn in, Barksdale says goodbye

By Adam Smith

— Steve Turner’s late father wasn’t there on Friday when Steve was sworn into his new role as District 2 County Commissioner, but David Turner was there in spirit.

Steve’s mother, Barbara Turner, held the Bible her son placed his hand upon while repeating the oath of office from Circuit Court Judge Bob Baker. Inside the Bible, which belonged to David Turner, was a picture of him.

“It was a great honor (to hold the Bible),” said an emotional Barbara Turner after the ceremony. “(Steve’s) a good man and I’m so proud of him.”

Also watching Turner take the oath were about two-dozen friends, family members and fellow county officials. County Commissioner Bill Latimer and District 4 County Commissioner-elect Ben Harrison were there, as well as outgoing District 2 Commissioner Gerald Barksdale, who was first elected to the commission in 1985.

Barksdale’s last official day as a county commissioner will be Tuesday. Turner will step into the role at Wednesday’s commission work session.

“He told me he would either be my biggest critic or best adviser,” Turner said of Barksdale’s advice.

Other advice Barksdale offered? “Operate within the confines of the law,” Turner said.

Turner said he’s looking forward to getting started and learning the process. One of his first duties will be to hire a clerk to replace an outgoing foreman at the District 2 shed.

Other important matters on the commission’s plate include the renovation of the former L&S shopping center property and if the county will switch to a unit system of road management. Turner said he’s researched the unit system proposal, including what other counties have done.

“With a change like that, we’ve got to look at how it will affect everybody,” he said. “I think it should require a vote of the people.”

The non-contested election of Turner and Harrison’s victory on Tuesday means the commission is now evenly divided between Republicans and Democrats. County Commission Chairman Stanley Menefee, who is also a Republican, can only cast a tie-breaking vote.

“I sure hope we can work together,” Turner said. “I won’t disagree or agree with (the other commissioners) every time, but the majority of my decisions will be based on how my district will be affected.”

Shortly after Turner was sworn in, dozens of people gathered at the commission offices on Washington Street to bid farewell to Barksdale.

“At least no one’s complaining today,” he said with a laugh, between handshakes and hugs from supporters and county officials.

When asked if she was looking forward to her husband’s retirement, Mary Barksdale answered that she was.

“He’s been a good commissioner,” she said. “But then again, I’m partial.”

Gerald Barksdale said he enjoyed being a commissioner, but was anxious to get started on some home projects and some general “piddling.”

“I look forward to being free and being at liberty to do some things (around the house),” he said.