Shelby County’s real public servants

Published 3:22 pm Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Locally elected officials, in many ways, are much like you and me. We all have jobs we do, families to care for and bills to pay. We attend the same churches, send our children to the same schools, drive the same roads and share the same worries.

But late last week, I was reminded of one difference between at least four elected officials and the rest of the citizens of Shelby County. That reminder came as four Shelby County state representatives —Cam Ward, R-Alabaster, Mike Hill, R-Columbiana, Mary Sue McClurkin, R-Indian Springs, and Jim McClendon, R-St. Clair Springs — and one state senator, Hank Erwin, R-Montevallo, turned down their annual cost of living raise. In fact, Erwin has refused the original 62 percent pay increase since it was enacted.

Many of us, myself included, might have a difficult time turning down a pay raise in times when our family’s needs are so great. But their decision was the right one and they should be commended for making it.

Others in the legislature should consider doing likewise when acquiring a raise is so difficult, if not impossible, for the rest of us.

You may recall in March 2007, our legislature voted to override a veto by Gov. Bob Riley of a bill which granted a 62 percent pay and expense account increase for legislators; an annual cost of living increase was also a part of the legislation.

Ward, Hill, McClurkin and Erwin recognized the change in our economic fortunes.

The easiest thing for these elected officials to have done would have been to simply accept the pay increase, as most of their colleagues in the legislature have apparently done, and go on about their business.

That’s when we see the difference between being elected to an office and being a public servant. These three public servants put our interest ahead of their own in forgoing this pay raise and they deserve our thanks for doing so.