By John Mullen
Gov. Kay Ivey hadn’t yet filed paperwork to run for governor in 2018 when she spoke to the Association of County Commissioners of Alabama in Orange Beach on Aug. 23.
But her talk to open the annual convention here was akin to a stump speech. Just two days later, she filed paperwork making her run for the governor’s chair official.
Ivey talked about successes in her four months since taking over for scandal-plagued Robert Bentley, and touted programs she would like to see implemented in an effort to make for a better Alabama.
“When my time as governor comes to an end, whenever that may be, I hope to leave this state in better shape than when I found it,” Ivey said toward the end of her speech. “Because I did not shy away from the challenges that we faced.”
Ivey closed with a rousing flourish that sounded straight from the campaign trail.
“County Commissioners and administrators, know you have a friend in Montgomery,” Ivey said. “And as your governor, I want to give you all the support that is possible.”
Along the way, Ivey pointed out the challenges the state and its new governor faced when she took over in April.
“When I took office, I thought of improving the image of Alabama and to restore Alabama and steady the ship,” she said, using an oft-repeated phrase. “We’ve steadied the ship now and it’s time to steer the ship toward progress and sustainability. All of us here today have the same goal: We want our state of Alabama to become the best it can be.”
Ivey said guiding that ship begins at the grassroots level of government.
“Without strong leadership at the local level, there can’t be strong leadership at the state or even the national level,” she said. “Each of you in this room today, we are leaders. Each of us has important roles to play in our local communities.”
Ivey counts the lowering of the unemployment rate during each of her first four months in office among her successes.
Other programs she wants to implement and support include bringing more third graders up to reading level. She pointed out that children in third grade who are not reading on a third-grade level are four times less likely to graduate high school. Part of her new program — Strong Start, Strong Finish — hopes to raise more third graders to reading level.
Ivey also wants to ensure the state gets an accurate and thorough count in the 2020 Census. Getting as many citizens as possible to provide Census data, Ivey said, is vital to attracting federal funding for Alabama. Every form filled out equates to about $1,600 in federal funds for the state, she said.
Ivey urged county officials to start planning now for a successful Census count in 2020.
Other potential candidates for the 2018 gubernatorial election include Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle, State Sen. Bill Hightower of Mobile and Jefferson County Commissioner David Carrington.