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Infrastructure, career tech, mental health funding top goals for session

Cullman Times - 1/19/2019

Jan. 19--Cullman County's state legislators got the chance to speak to constituents during the Chamber's first Community Luncheon of 2019.

State Representatives Randall Shedd and Scott Stadthagen were joined by State Sen. Garlan Gudger at the All Steak Restaurant Friday afternoon to share some of their goals and ideas for the coming year. State Rep. Corey Harbison was unable to attend.

Shedd, who won reelection last November, said he is looking forward to continuing to serve with Harbison and to working alongside Stadthagen and Gudger, who were elected to their positions in November.

"I want to tell you how proud I am to be a part of this new legislative delegation," he said. "This group, along with Corey, is a good group that works behind the scenes along with out front to get things done."

Shedd said the state is facing several issues in the coming year that may not have an easy solution, and he and the other legislators will try to find long-term solutions to those problems while still keeping their attention on the issues that affect the people in their districts.

Infrastructure is one of the issues that needs attention all over the state as well as in Cullman County, and the area's leadership has already made a big stride in the right direction by recently securing funding to finish Alabama 157, Shedd said.

"That's the biggest thing that's happened in our area in a long time," he said.

Some of the local infrastructure goals for the near future are additions of turn lanes and passing lanes to Alabama 69, the completion of U.S 278 East and improvements to Interstate 65 to help prepare for increased traffic after the completion of the Toyota-Mazda plant in Madison.

Shedd said he is also planning to introduce several bills in the coming legislative session, including one that would require state agencies to have a written plan to move up in federal rankings, and to have those plans reviewed by the legislature.

"We don't have to stay 46th or 47th," he said. "Our Alabama Pre-K program is ranked number one in the nation, and we need some more number one rankings in things like that."

Stadthagen, who was elected in November to represent Alabama House District 9 is new to the legislature, but said he is looking to show everyone in his district who he is and where he stands through his actions.

"I believe true leadership is shown through example and not words, and that's how I take on this leadership role," he said.

Stadthagen said he's planning a series of community town hall meetings to hear from the people of his district.

His first Cullman County town hall meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, Feb. 5 at 6 p.m. at the Brandin' Iron restaurant in West Point.

"I want to hear where you stand, I want to hear where our district stands, and that's most likely where I'm going to stand," he said. "I'm going to stand with the people I represent."

Gudger, who was elected to Alabama Senate 4 in November after spending the last 14 years as a Cullman City Councilman, said he has a few areas that he is going to focus on, including career tech education.

Gudger said students have been told that they need a four-year education to be successful, but the career technical educations at schools like Wallace State Community College can lead to great jobs in the area.

Industry is growing in Alabama, and companies are moving here to produce planes, cars and other things, and they will be looking here for workers to fill their new factories, he said.

Gudger pointed to his own work and his family's as an example of the good that can come when people are allowed to express themselves with their hands and produce something.

"Using my hands every day has taught me some amazing things," he said.

Mental health is also a major issue, and more funding is needed in that area because many of the concerns around the state can be traced back to that central point, including school safety, law enforcement safety and the safety of the public, Gudger said.

"Those are things that are spurs coming off of that hub of mental health," he said.

He said he already has relationships with the people of Cullman, but his new district includes 150,000 people from Cullman, Lawrence, Marion and Winston Counties, and his job as senator means that he will have to build or expand upon relationships with the people of those communities to make sure bills are passed that help or enhance the daily lives of all of those people.

"I've already started building relationships, not only with the other 34 senators, but with the 105 House members that I'm going to have to take bills down to," he said.

Gudger said it is important to have a network of people in the right positions who will tell the truth and determine the right path.

"Doing what's right is sometimes hard, and doing what's right is something that we have to do," he said. "And we're going to need your help to be able to do that."


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