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State Sen. Arthur Orr, R-Decatur, Athens Mayor Dan Williams and State Sen. Tom Butler, D-Madison wait to greet the president at the airport.
Daily photo by Gary Lloyd
State Sen. Arthur Orr, R-Decatur, Athens Mayor Dan Williams and State Sen. Tom Butler, D-Madison wait to greet the president at the airport.

Greeting the leader of the free world
Local legislators, Athens mayor in welcoming party at Huntsville International

By Tiffeny Hurtado
thurtado@decaturdaily.com · 340-2440

It takes a lot to impress a politician.

But, just mention “president of the United States,” and even politicians see stars.

There was a palpable sense of star power and expectation among local officials who waited on the Tarmac at Huntsville International Airport for the president Thursday.

Athens’ mayor and Limestone County’s two state senators were among people chosen to greet the president. They were eager to shake hands with the leader of the free world after he deplaned.

Athens Mayor, Dan Williams said the event was better than going to the fair when he was a child.

Williams was anxious to greet Bush and was heard shortly before his arrival saying to Don Clark of Huntsville, recipient of the President’s Volunteer Service Award, “We’re ready for the president!”

“In the few seconds I got to talk with him, he seemed to be a very personable person,” Williams said. “Someone I’d like to sit down and have lunch with.”

Williams also invited him back to go fishing.

“I said, ‘You know, Mr. President, the Bass Masters tournament is coming back next year. Would you like to go bass fishing?’ ”

“He said, ‘Right on, buddy!’ ”

Other officials seemed as awestruck.

“It was such an honor and privilege just to get selected to greet him when he landed,” said Sen. Tom Butler, a Democrat.

Thanks for support

“I welcomed him to North Alabama and thanked him for his support of the Marshall Space Flight Center and of TVA,” Butler said.

“His visit is an endorsement of nuclear energy for the future, and energy is key to expanding economic opportunity ventures in this area.”

Sen. Arthur Orr, R-Decatur, was among the dignitaries who got up close and personal with the president.

“The exchange we had was brief, but warm,” Orr said.

“I told him we were praying for him, and he said, ‘I feel it, and it helps.’ ”

Orr said that Bush’s visit to the Valley is a clear sign of support for the growth the area has been experiencing.

“I believe President Bush being here shows support for North Alabama being a contributor to safe nuclear power,” he said. “We have a wealth of energy to provide the Valley and people could look to us for power.

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