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Hartselle’s mayor’s race shaping up
Former school superintendent could throw his hat in ring

By Deangelo McDaniel
dmcdaniel@decaturdaily.com · 340-2469

HARTSELLE — Mayor Dwight Tankerlsey is aware of history.

He knows that Hartselle hasn’t elected an incumbent mayor since John D. Long served three consecutive terms from 1968 to 1980.

Tankersley is seeking a second term in 2008.

“The history doesn’t bother me,” he said. “I plan to continue to do the best job I can do. If the voters choose to elect me for a second term, I’ll be honored to serve. If they don’t, I’ll be honored to have served one term.”

The municipal elections are almost 10 months away, but some names have surfaced as possible mayoral candidates.

Retired Hartselle school Superintendent Lee Hartsell, former Mayor Scotty Maples and former Councilman Don Hall are rumored as candidates.

“Never know,” Hartsell said, when asked about a campaign for the city’s top elected job.

“This is something I have thought about, but have not made a decision on.”

Hall, who served two terms from 1992 through 2000 after losing an election in 1988, said he’s not considering the mayor’s position “right now.”

As for council, he said: “Have not ruled that out.”

Maples, who was mayor between 1988 and 1992, said he does not have immediate plans to seek his old job.

“But, there are a few months left before I have to really decide,” he said.

Under state law, municipal candidates could start raising funds for a campaign Aug. 26. Qualifying starts July 1.

Talk of candidates here starts long before qualifying.

“That’s just the way things have always been down here,” Council President Kenny Thompson said.

The incumbents, he added, know that history is not on their side.

In the 1996 and 2004 elections, voters swept every incumbent out of office. With the exception of Hall, no incumbent returned to office in 2000.

The last incumbent administration to do well at the ballot box was in 1984 when city voters returned every council member, but elected a new mayor.

Thompson, who is the first council president in Hartselle’s history, was on the council in 1984.

He had two challengers to qualify, but they withdrew their names. Norma Penn, Bobby J. Martin and Hulon Pounders also had no opposition. Wayne Green won the only contested council race in 1984.

Thompson served three terms from 1980 to 1992. He won a fourth tern in 2004, but the retired school administrator said he will not seek another term in 2008.

Thompson said his wife, a schoolteacher, is retiring in May and they plan to spend more time at their beach home at Gulf Shores.

“It wouldn’t be fair for me to run, since I’m going to spend a lot of time at the gulf,” he said.

While Thompson is certain that he will not seek another term, Councilman Bill Smelser said he will run again.

“We’ve got some good things going on, and I want to continue them,” Smelser said.

3 uncertain

Councilmen Mark Mizell, Bill Drake and Samie Wiley have said they are not certain about their political futures.

One thing is certain, Thompson said: Plans for a new Hartselle High and taxes to support it will likely be a hot political issue.

For almost a year, school leaders have tried unsuccessfully to get a property tax increase before the voters.

Drake’s refusal to support a resolution asking Rep. Ronald Grantland, D-Hartselle, and Sen. Arthur Orr, R-Decatur, to introduce local legislation authorizing the vote has stalled the matter.

A second option to fund the $30 million school has failed because a council majority has declined to support a 1-cent sales tax increase.

Hartsell, who built Barkley Bridge and F.E. Burleson elementary schools while superintendent, warned city leaders in 2000 of the need for a new high school.

He also led Hartselle during its biggest buildout since becoming a city school system in the 1970s.

Does this make him the leading candidate for the job?

Not necessarily.

Hall was pro-schools during his two terms on the council.

And Tankersley has opening talked about his support of a tax increase for a new high school. He even went as far as proposing a sales-tax increase to help fund the new school.

If the school system is part of this election, it will not be the first time.

In 1996, Andy Vest ran with plans to give more of the city’s sales tax revenue to the school system. The council didn’t support him.

In the 2000 election, there was the issue of an elected school board. Former Councilman Richard “Dick” Carter won on this platform, but did not receive council support to move the issue forward.

In 2004, the council placed a 7.5-mill property tax increase on the ballot with plans to give 2.5 mills to the school system. Voters overwhelmingly rejected the tax.

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