Bentley back home for county’s birthday

Bobby Joe Seales chats with Gov. Robert Bentley outside of the Columbiana courthouse during the county's birthday celebration on Feb. 6. (Reporter Photo/Jon Goering)

By BRAD GASKINS / Staff Writer

COLUMBIANA – Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley returned home Sunday afternoon for Shelby County’s 193rd birthday celebration.

Bentley, the only Shelby County native elected governor, attended morning services at First Baptist Church.

At about 1:30 p.m., the governor and First Lady Dianne Bentley, flanked by a small security team, walked from the church to the courthouse, with American flags displayed from every light pole along the way down Main Street.

Bentley arrived at the courthouse as the Shelby County High School band played outside. Bentley thanked them before going inside for the ceremony, presented by the Shelby County Historical Society.

“I love Shelby County. I will always love Shelby County,” Bentley said. “This will always be my home.”

Numerous local and state officials attended the ceremony, which drew a standing room only crowd. Those that couldn’t fit upstairs watched on closed circuit TV in a downstairs room.

Shelby County Sheriff Chris Curry introduced guest speaker Beth Chapman, Alabama’s secretary of state.

Chapman said she asked Bobby Joe Seales, president of the historical society, about the significance of Shelby County’s birthday.

“He said, ‘well Beth, our county is older than the state,’” Chapman said. “I said ‘so is Butch Ellis.’”

The room erupted with laughter at the lighthearted joke aimed at Ellis, the county’s attorney.

“I hope I don’t need an attorney anytime soon,” Chapman joked.

Turning serious, Chapman spoke about Shelby County’s role in the state.

“In Shelby County, we’ve all watched the cow pastures turn into business centers. We’ve watched homes and schools grow by leaps and bounds,” Chapman said. “Being one of the fastest growing counties in the state presents its challenges, which when overcome presents the right of passage to being the greatest county in the state. No doubt, Shelby County has earned that right.”

Chapman said there is a reason Shelby County sits in the geographic center of the state.

“It is a county from which all others revolve,” she said. “Shelby County is not only the center of Alabama, but Shelby County is the heart and soul of Alabama.”

Bentley was then presented with two proclamations and a series of gifts.

Gifts were presented from the Greater Shelby, South Shelby and Montevallo chambers of commerce.

Columbiana Mayor Allan Lowe and Shelby County Commission Chairman Corley Ellis presented Bentley with separate proclamations declaring it Robert Bentley Day in the city and county.

David Nolen presented Bentley with a Pioneer Certificate from the historical society.

Bentley then made his remarks, some lighthearted and some serious.

“I am going to make the people of Shelby County proud,” he added.

Bentley said it’s important for elected officials to remember whom they serve.

“We should have a servant’s attitude,” he said. “Those of us who are elected need to realize that every office belongs to the people, it doesn’t belong to us. We need to always remember that we were placed here because people had confidence in us and feel like that we can do a good job. We need to prove that we can.”

He said times are tough right now in the state.

“We’re going to get through this,” Bentley said. “We’re going to get through it together, we’re going to work together and we’re going to do it the right way, and we’re going to do it so that you will be proud of what we do.”

Bentley has been governor for three weeks but said “it seems like honestly it’s been four years.”

Bentley said he’s made a commitment to visit with the families of every fallen solider from Alabama.

“I’ve already done that twice,” Bentley said to loud applause. “As a veteran myself, and many of you here today are veterans, you understand what I’m talking about. We would not stand here today without the soldiers. We need to honor those soldiers. I’m going to honor those from Alabama.”

Bentley then acknowledged Dianne Bentley, his wife of 45 years.

“After some of the slipups of the tongue that I do sometimes, I told her the other day that I guess my chances of being president are pretty slim,” Bentley said. “She said ‘good.’”

Bentley said he speaks openly and honestly and always answers the questions.

“Sometimes my mouth gets my in trouble,” Bentley said. “But you know what else, it got me elected.”