One day after Commissioner Bob James announced his resignation from the Baldwin County Commission, newcomer Chris Elliott, who defeated James in a runoff July 15, was appointed to fill the vacancy by Gov. Robert Bentley.
James, who was elected in 2010, failed to attend a scheduled meeting of the commission July 17 and resigned — two days after he lost the seat to Elliott in a GOP primary runoff.
Elliott won the race with 60 percent of the vote and will run unopposed in the general election Nov. 13, when James’ first term would have officially ended.
However, before skipping the meeting last week, the one-term commissioner announced his resignation via a letter to the governor and his fellow commissioners.
“He didn’t really get into why he chose to, and I haven’t been able to get in touch with him about it,” said Commission President Charles “Skip” Gruber. “I suppose after the election, he just thought it was the best direction to go. He wanted to get to his regular life.”
Gruber has said previously that he wished James would have finished out his original term, which “he was elected to do.”
Attempts to contact James so far have been unsuccessful, but he did outline some of his reasons for resigning in a July 17 email to some of his supporters, which has since been made public.
“I know many people will be disappointed with my resignation, but the decision to do so was made 4 yrs ago (sic),” the email read. “Transition is extremely difficult on the staff and causes poor morale as they try to figure out their loyalties.”
In the email James also said his resignation would give Elliott a chance to participate and make decisions during this year’s budget deliberations, which began earlier this month.
However, Elliott said he had already been asked to sit in on the budget deliberations before James announced his resignation. In fact, that’s where he was when the commission received word that he’d been appointed by the governor last Friday.
“They let me participate in those in anticipation the appointment would come down pretty soon,” Elliott said. “We were going to be included in the budget process either way. Mr. (Tucker) Dorsey and Mr. James were both involved as well when they were newly elected.”
As for his expeditious jump to the commission, Elliott said it only moved the time frame up a little. He did say there was a small speed bump during last week’s deliberation because James had been the chair of the finance committee.
Since Dorsey was serving as vice chair of the committee, Elliott said it was natural he would assume the responsibilities.
“I wasn’t a commissioner yet, so he decided to chair that meeting. As we get up to speed, I’ll take a more active role,” Elliott said. “We just happened to be going over (Baldwin County Probate) Judge (Tim) Russell’s budget so he was there. When the appointment came down we took a quick break, and I was sworn in before lunch time.”
Elliott said he was very pleased with the election result and would do everything in his power to represent the voters of Baldwin County.
He also said last Friday’s budget deliberations were very positive, calling the atmosphere one of the most “collaborative and relaxed” the county has seen in a long time.
In the email mentioned previously, James said he respected the decision of voters to “move in another direction,” and said he wished success for Baldwin County’s future. He also said he was leaving the commission better than he found it.
“I respect Commissioner James and his service to the county,” Elliott said. “I haven’t spoken with him so I don’t know his exact reason, but I would ask everyone to respect his decision to step down early.”