Both candidates for the District 4 seat on the Baldwin County Commission believe schools will be at the forefront of issues in the county during the next four years. Charles “Skip” Gruber, previously a longtime county employee and lifelong resident, is seeking his fourth term on the commission. He is a resident of Elberta.

His challenger is Orange Beach City Councilman Jerry Johnson, who is in the middle of his second term there. The retired Alabama Power and Southern Company engineer, he is Jefferson County native and has lived in Orange Beach fulltime since 2005.

“We need to continue working with Baldwin County School System to improve school  infrastructures,” Gruber said.

Johnson said the county also needs to focus on school safety.

“The schools must be equipped with technology to prevent the criminal behavior from entering any school,” Johnson said. “I do not support allowing teachers to carry a gun. I recommend a School Resource Officer [SRO] to be at every school and in some cases more than one.”

The county school system will also be affected by the record growth with subdivisions and apartment complexes sprouting in Fairhope, Daphne, Foley, Gulf Shores and Orange Beach. Gruber said that presents other challenges as well.

“Due to the growth we need to look at our planning and zoning regulations, storm water management is a big issue in Baldwin County,” Gruber said. “We need to look at rewriting subdivision regulations and replacing several drainage structures.”

Johnson said limiting the upzoning to increase density of new neighborhoods could help manage some of the growth. He is also a big proponent of protecting the county’s natural beauty which is an important of the economy.

“We should partner with the municipalities and other agencies in Montgomery and Washington to protect our rivers, wetlands, estuaries, nature trails, and beaches to sustain our county for generations,” Johnson said.

Another symptom of the growth are crowded highways especially during the busy tourist season in South Baldwin County. Gruber said he plans to continue to work on those issues as well.

“We need to work on building the Baldwin Beach Express, paving dirt roads and remodeling the courthouses in Bay Minette, Fairhope and Foley,” Gruber said. “I’d like to see a boat launch in Lillian, a boat launch at Live Oak Landing and rebuild the Steadman Lane walkway. And look at adding some more boat launches in the southern part of the county.”

Johnson says his experience serving on various committees with Orange Beach and others around the county will serve him well as a commissioner.

Gruber’s experience includes working for the county as first a laborer and all the way up to managing the highway department and landfill in a 30-year career and has served 10 years on the commission since retiring.