Bearden worked to improve county

Published 10:33am Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Joel Elwyn Bearden Jr., a Shelby County commissioner since the early 1990s, passed away Nov. 8.

Bearden had just won re-election to the District 5 commission seat and was set to go on serving his beloved Shelby County, as he did until the end of his life.

From when he first came into this world, Bearden knew the meaning of hard work. As County Attorney Ellis said, he and Bearden were both born into “farm families,” and Bearden was raised as a dairy farmer.

He came from a strong family that knew how to make life better for others, as the family proved by donating the land needed to build Pelham High School.

After Bearden graduated from Auburn University in 1952, he returned home to Shelby County to work and serve county citizens.

Bearden served as the president of the Shelby County Farmers Association, but perhaps his biggest contribution to the county was as a county commissioner.

When Bearden came into office, Shelby County was in the midst of tough economic times and deep in financial trouble.

Bearden, along with the other county commissioners, made it a point to adopt responsible financial policies that helped bring the county back from the brink of bankruptcy, according to Ellis.

It’s amazing to think that Shelby County, today a model of fiscal responsibility, was so close to the financial precipice not so long ago. It’s even more amazing that nine commissioners, working together, were able to make the long-term decisions needed for the county to come back from the brink and to set us on the right path.

Since Bearden won re-election to the commission but had not yet been sworn in for the next four years, it’s likely his spot will be filled by governor’s appointment.

We wish Gov. Robert Bentley all the best in making an appointment. While there are many who would do a fine job serving Shelby County, it will be hard to find one who can live up to Joel Bearden’s legacy.

The We Say is the opinion of the Shelby County Reporter editorial board.

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