By John Mullen
There will be at least one new face on the Baldwin County Commission after the 2018 elections and three incumbents are seeking to retain their seats.
District 1’s Frank Burt and District 4’s Skip Gruber are seeking to retain their seats, as is District 3’s Tucker Dorsey.
District 2’s Chris Elliott has announced he is running for the Alabama Senate seat Trip Pittman will voluntarily leave next year.
Baldwin County’s primaries aren’t until June 5, with runoffs set for July 17 and the general election Nov. 6. All of the declared candidates are Republicans; no Democratic candidates have decided to run.
Each of the four commission seats has at least two candidates, with three vying for the southernmost District 4. In that district, Christopher Callaghan and Orange Beach Councilman Jerry Johnson are seeking to beat three-term incumbent Skip Gruber.
Gruber says the county faces several infrastructure challenges in roads and in the county school system and he wants to stay on to help find solutions to those issues.
“The citizens voted down the toll authority for the county, which would have helped us a lot finishing up the beach express from I-10 to I-65,” Gruber said. “We could’ve been moving along with that project a lot better. Tax dollars are just not there to do a $200 million project. We need to look at alternatives.”
Callaghan — a lawyer who sits on the Orange Beach Planning Commission — said his decision is an exciting, serious step.
“I believe that my skill set makes me uniquely qualified for this opportunity,” he said.
Johnson is in his second term on the Orange Beach City Council and says leadership is a key to the commission seat.
“Leadership is not about the leader; it is about the people they serve,” Johnson said. “I espouse servant leadership, which means I will work to help the county employees and the residents.”
In District 1, longtime commissioner Frank Burt is seeking re-election to his ninth term on the commission, having served every term since the 1988 election. Burt has served on countless boards and panels during his 29 years of service.
Running against him is Jeb Ball, program director for Baldwin Substance Abuse Services Inc. in Bay Minette. He has served in the Baldwin County District Attorney’s office from 1998-2007. Ball founded Baldwin Substance Abuse Services Inc., a company certified by the Administrative Office of Courts to provide court-ordered Level 1, Level 2 and educational classes involving drug- or alcohol-related crimes.
In District 2, a sitting Daphne councilman and former Daphne councilman are vying to fill Chris Elliott’s seat.
Joe Davis, who was appointed to the council in 2013, said he knows how important continued economic development and job growth are for the county, and wants to continue his focus on those key areas. John Lake was on the Daphne City Council for 24 years before running for mayor in 2016 when he lost to incumbent Dane Haygood.
Meanwhile in District 3, Tucker Dorsey is a real estate developer who has served, and continues to serve, on several boards and commissions throughout Baldwin County. Running against him are Billie Jo Underwood and Will McDaniel.
Underwood is a certified public accountant from Summerdale, where she has served on the city’s planning commission.
In June, the Alabama Legislature passed a bill to award pay raises to Baldwin County commissioners, from their previous salary of $33,600 per year to the county’s median family income, $50,240. The new salary goes into effect in November 2018 and will be reviewed every four years.