Meet the candidates: nine run for positions on Hartselle City Council, school board
Hartselle voters will go to the polls Aug. 25 to elect representatives to the Hartselle City Council and Hartselle City Schools Board of Education.
Each candidate shares some personal history and vision for the future with their constituents in this election feature.
Polls will be open from 7 a.m. until 7 p.m. at Sparkman Civic Center and First Baptist Church of Hartselle Aug. 25.
Name: Virginia Alexander
Candidate for: Hartselle City Council, Place 4
Occupation: Ministries director/Caring Place director for Morgan Baptist Association
History in Hartselle: Dedicated and active member of our community for 30 years. My husband Mike and I raised our two daughters here. Both daughters are graduates of Hartselle High School. Active member of First Baptist Church Hartselle.
Experience: Hartselle City Councilwoman. E-911 Board of Director. Chairperson, active member and former chairperson of Morgan County Volunteers Organization Active During a Disaster. Member of the Hartselle Area Chamber of Commerce. Member of the Chamber’s nonprofit organization. I assisted with coordinating Serve Day. Former board member of NARCOG. Past PTO president for Crestline School. Instrumental in recruiting businesses to our area.
As ministries director at Morgan Baptist Association I am responsible for coordinating six ministries, along with directing the Caring Place/food panty and clothes closet and managing Sycamore Bargain Center
Why you are pursuing public office: I am proud of the accomplishments we, the mayor and city council, have made, but there is still much more that needs to be done.
I want to continue improving our infrastructure, create more jobs, recruit more businesses, revitalize downtown, create downtown green space, further growth on Highway 31 and at Highway 36 and the interstate, keep our parks and recreation in the best shape, repave roads, support our public works in upkeep of equipment, support our first responders, fire and police with equipment to protect our city, support the city’s administration, support residential growth and continue to make sure we have the infrastructure we need to recruit families to our area.
I am also in support of schools so they can prepare our students to be the leaders for tomorrow.
What you have learned from your service: Recruiting businesses and industries is an ongoing project. One has to be willing to stick with a project that may take many, many months or even years to develop, always keeping a watchful eye for possible new business. You must be willing to be a good listener to the citizens.
What makes you the right candidate for the job: My experience and willingness to work with others. One of my personal traits is serving others, and as a councilperson, one has to be willing to serve the community.
History in Hartselle: Moved here in November 2019
Experience: None. Political newcomer. Average Joe. Just a family man.
Why you are pursuing public office: I think Hartselle needs someone who represents working class families. Someone who isn’t afraid of losing a dollar or a vote by saying Black Lives Matter. Someone that will put the health and public safety of Hartselle before streams of revenue.
What makes you the right candidate for the job: I don’t like politics. I don’t like politicians. I’m not here to advance myself. I just want to make sure my kids grow up in a community that puts life before property – that puts public health before business as usual.
Name: John S. Griffith
Candidate for: Hartselle City Schools Board of Education, Place 4
Occupation: Exit Bander, Nucor Steel, Decatur
History in Hartselle: My wife Kari and I moved to Hartselle a few months after we married because we knew this is where we wanted to start a family and raise our children. October will mark 16 years that we’ve lived here.
Experience: In 2004 I earned a bachelor’s degree in business management from Athens State University.
I have been employed at Nucor Steel since 2007.
Since 2016 I have volunteered with CASA of North Alabama as a court appointed advocate for abused and neglected children in Hartselle and Morgan County. During this time I have personally worked with parents, family members, foster parents, teachers, social workers, attorneys, judges and many others to ensure that 60 children in our community achieve permanency in safe, loving homes rather than lingering in foster care for years to come.
Since 2017 I have been a member of the Board of Directors of the Mental Health Center of North Central Alabama. Since 2019 I have been a member of that board’s executive committee.
Serving on this board has given me a better understanding of the mental health needs of our community, including many children. This has allowed me to advocate for expanded access to mental health care for adults and children in our area.
From 2018-2020 I served as an officer of the Barkley Bridge Elementary School PTO, working closely with students, parents, teachers and administrators to raise money for classroom technology, music instruments and building improvements to enhance the learning experience for students as well as provide teachers with more tools to use.
Why you are pursuing public office: I have a desire to serve our community and be an advocate for our students and teachers.
As a parent of two current HCS students, I know our children receive a quality education because of top-notch teachers and staff and support from the community. I want to work to ensure that our students continue to receive a first-class education for years to come. I want to be a voice for parents across our entire community when it comes to decisions that affect our children.
What makes you the right candidate for the job: My education and years of service to our community have allowed me to obtain an understanding of the needs of students in Hartselle from many diverse backgrounds. It’s also allowed me to partner with many of the different stakeholders in our community who work to help our students succeed.
As a PTO officer and school volunteer, I have witnessed how hard our teachers work to help our students succeed. I’ve also seen the struggles they face and the obstacles they must regularly overcome.
As a parent of two current HCS students, the decisions I make from day one and throughout a four-year term will directly affect my family.
I believe my experience will allow me to be an asset to the parents, teachers, students and stakeholders of Hartselle City Schools while serving on the school board and being their voice.
Name: Kenneth (Ken) L. Doss
Candidate for: Hartselle City Council, Place 5
Occupation: Retired accountant/CPA. I have more than 40 years of experience in business. I retired after 32 years with SONOCO Products Company. I was part of the Reels Division in Hartselle. I was director of finance and administration when I retired.
History in Hartselle: My family and I have lived in Hartselle for 38 years. My wife, Wanda Cox Doss, retired as the director of federal programs for Morgan County Board of Education, and prior to that she was an assistant principal and a teacher at several schools.
We raised a son and daughter in Hartselle and its school system. Today, both are college graduates and working in their chosen careers.
My wife and I are members of First Bible Church in Decatur. Hartselle is our home.
Experience: I have degrees in accounting, economics and finance and a master’s in business administration and was a certified public accountant – combine this with my 40 years business experience. I have been on the Hartselle City Board of Zoning Adjustment, and I have been on the Hartselle Personnel Board. I have been on and continue to serve on the Hartselle Planning Commission, a total of over 13 years. I am a past president of the Hartselle Chamber of Commerce (1997) and served as a director for eight years. I’m also a U.S. Navy veteran.
Why you are pursuing public office: I’m retired, with plenty of time to devote to my community that has been so good to me and my family.
I have a lifetime of experience/training/qualifications to offer. We find ourself in a unique time, dealing with this pandemic. The city might have to make financial decisions that I think I’m qualified to help with. I want to have a positive impact on business and life in my community.
What you have learned from your service: I’m not an incumbent; however, I was a councilman from 2012-2016. I learned a great deal about the workings of our city.
I was able help make some positive changes during a time when the budget was very tight. The changes lowered our cost of government by about $200,000 during this time when we were trying to find enough resources to give our city workers a raise in pay.
I am proud of what we accomplished during that term.
What makes you the right candidate for the job: I have lived in Hartselle 38 years. I am invested in Hartselle since I have lived, worked and raised my family here.
I have much more training and experience than either of my opponents – that includes life and government. To my knowledge, neither has served on a municipal board or commission.
I am retired and, therefore, able to devote much of my time representing the Citizens of Hartselle.
Name: Daxton Maze
Candidate for: Hartselle City Schools Board of Education, Place 4
Occupation: Engineering services manager for Hartselle Utilities
History in Hartselle: I am a life-long resident of Hartselle and a 2006 graduate of Hartselle High School. After completing my undergraduate degree in civil engineering at the University of Alabama, I moved back to Hartselle to begin my career and become an involved member of our wonderful city.
My wife Olivia and I are very fortunate to be able to live in the same city as my parents, grandparents and in-laws. Family is important to me and one of the main reasons I chose to come back to Hartselle after college.
Experience: I currently serve as an elected member of the Hartselle City Schools Board of Education. I completed a rotational year as board president. I’ve completed four years of state-mandated board member training. I’ve been an active member of the board engaged in decision processes at every level of the board activity.
Additionally, from the age of 22, I have served on boards and committees and volunteered for other organizations that touch many areas in Hartselle. I have served as board member and chairman of the board for Hartselle Utilities, board member for the Hartselle Area Chamber of Commerce and board member for The Burleson Center and have served as member and club president of the Hartselle Rotary Club. Whether it be an elected role, appointed role or volunteer role, my heart is focused on serving our city, and I am passionate about the well-being of the residents of Hartselle.”
Why you are pursuing public office: For me, I have a personal and vested interest in our school system. It is the school system that educated my parents, that educated me and that will educate my children – Collins, 2, and Max, 5 months, in the future. The school system is the foundation of our community and the reason people choose to live in Hartselle.
I understand the importance of having quality leaders in our elected positions, and I am committed to ensuring that Hartselle City Schools continues to provide the excellent level of education our students deserve.
Serving in public office is not about an agenda; it is about being a support for the stakeholders in the organization, which include our educators, students and families.
What you have learned from your service: Serving on the school board for the past four years has been a wonderful yet eye-opening experience. The operations of a school system are complex and multifaceted.
I have learned and seen firsthand how important collaboration and communication within the organization are. With a workforce of more than 400 and a student population of nearly 3,500, the school system leadership must be fluid to address many circumstances and keep a handle on all the activities that are going on.
The most important thing I have learned is how passionate and committed our administration and teachers are and how smart and talented our students are. That is what makes Hartselle City Schools what they are and something I am proud to be associated with.
What makes you the right candidate for the job: As we start the school year in an unprecedented time, I cannot emphasize enough the fact that experience is going to play a key role in the near and distant future.
This is no time for a learning curve on board operations or a time to learn the process of school governance. Our administration needs leadership and guidance from experienced board members, and I can deliver that in this crucial time.
Words generally fall short when I try to express my love and passion for our city and school system, and I want to continue to use that passion to serve our students, educators and families as the Place 4 member for the Board of Education.
Name: Brandon McMurry
Candidate for: Hartselle City Council, Place 5
Occupation: Production technician at ULA
History in Hartselle: My wife Emily and I made a decision to move to Hartselle almost four years ago.
We were looking for a better place to raise our children. We debated between Madison and Hartselle for a while and ultimately decided on Hartselle. We love the small-town community, the values and sense of pride the people who live here display, the amazing schools and the overall atmosphere.
We found a wonderful church that we got plugged into, and my wife is a teacher at Burleson. We are so happy we chose to make Hartselle our home.
Experience: While I have never held an elected position, I have been involved in politics my entire life. I have had many family members hold elected offices and have watched and learned from them. My wife and I love to be involved in our community, from volunteering to shopping local and attending ballgames. Over my career in retail and government work, I have held many leadership roles. I have experience working with budgets and customer service and working in different team environments.
Why you are pursuing public office: First and foremost, I love this community. I believe to hold a position like this, you have to be willing to give your time and effort to your community. I am at a place in my life and career where I can dedicate that time to my community and the people in it.
My goal is for Hartselle to continue to thrive and be successful. The people of Hartselle are passionate about their community, and I feel like I can be a voice for us.
From aiding law enforcement, fire and city workers to helping support existing small businesses and bringing in new, I feel like I can help Hartselle continue to be the best small town in Alabama!
What makes you think you’re the right candidate for the job: In a position like this, you have to have thick skin. I know I will not always please everyone, but I can promise this: I will always do my best to make the very best decision for Hartselle and the people of this community. I will work hard for this community. I will be an ear to listen and will give a voice to the concerns of its citizens.
And remember this Hartselle: My door is always open!
Name: Amy Pace
Candidate for: Hartselle City Schools Board of Education, Place 1
Occupation: Senior engineering leader at United Launch Alliance
History in Hartselle: I have lived in Hartselle since June 1998. I immediately fell in love with the small town and all that it had to offer.
When the time came to grow my family, there was never a doubt in my mind that Hartselle was where I wanted to do that. My daughters, Maggie and Mary Claire, have grown up in the HCS, and I am so thankful for the wonderful education and experiences that they have been allotted during their time. Maggie is a 2019 graduate of HHS, and Mary Claire is an upcoming junior.
I am proud of the education they have both received and the opportunities they were given during that time.
Experience: I have served on the Hartselle City Schools BOE since October 2016, and I have always had a passion for helping our schools.
Why you are pursuing public office: I have a passion for helping others, in particular our children. I want every child to know they have a path forward – whether that be furthering their education, pursuing an immediate career after graduation, joining the military or learning a specific trade.
Regardless of the choice, I want our school system to provide an opportunity for every child to excel and to try different areas that align with their interests.
What you have learned from your service: There is a lot of hard work and a lot of people that are involved in making Hartselle City Schools what they are today. I believe each of the current board members brings a unique and different perspective that is appreciated and respected by the other team members. It truly takes a village, and I am very proud and thankful to be part of this wonderful team!
What makes you the right candidate for the job: Currently I am the only board member who has children in the school system today, so the perspective I bring to the table is one of a parent and a working member of the community.
I am very much an advocate of “specialized education” and of the trades that are needed in the workforce today. I want every child to know that everyone is different, and everyone has gifts. Tapping into those gifts and growing those gifts is what it is all about.
A child who is interested in pursuing a job as a welder should be just as proud of that decision as one who has decided to further their education with a two-year degree, four-year degree or more.
I also want the children of Hartselle to “find their way back” to Hartselle – the opportunities and jobs in north Alabama continue to grow every year, no matter where your interest lies.
I want to be a part of educating our children and to continue being a part of Hartselle City Schools!
Name: Travis Smith
Candidate for: Hartselle City Council Place 4
Occupation: Local business owner
History in Hartselle: I have lived in the Hartselle area over half my life and own several businesses here in town. My wife Angela and I own and operate Bentleys at the Outhouse along with my construction company, TRN LLC, and our rental company, TRN Properties.
Experience: I have no political experience but find myself engaged in the politics of town through the businesses that we operate.
Why you are pursuing public office: While I can agree that Hartselle is in a good place, I believe in the premise that there is always room for improvement. I believe it’s time for a fresh new face and new ideas to help us continue on a path to greater prosperity as a community – ideas that will not only benefit us now but also for the future generations coming after us.
We are engulfed in unprecedented times, and some out-of-the-box thinking can be beneficial. I believe I’m such a person for the task.
What makes you the right candidate for the job: I’m not a politician, but I know what it takes to roll up my sleeves and make something happen when many others said it couldn’t. If you’re ready for something a little different and ready for a new face that honestly wants what’s best for our town, vote for Travis Smith Aug. 25 for Place 4.
Name: Monty Vest
Candidate for: Hartselle City Schools Board of Education, Place 1
Occupation: Director of marketing and communications for SAIC
History in Hartselle: I’m a life-long resident of Hartselle, and my husband Andy and I are both fortunate to be graduates of Hartselle City Schools. Our daughter, Eleanor, is a freshman at Hartselle High School. We are members of Hartselle First United Methodist Church.
Experience: I am honored to have served for five years on the Hartselle school board. I was first appointed to the board by the Hartselle City Council in 2010 and then elected to the board in the city’s first school board election in 2012.
During my tenure on the Board, we began and completed the construction of the new Hartselle High School, hired a new superintendent, developed a strategic plan for the system and upgraded technology for all schools.
I have served as both president and vice president of the board and have completed multiple Alabama Association of School Board training events and conferences.
Why you are pursuing public office: Hartselle is a special place, and our school system is its shining star. We have a long legacy of ensuring our children are well prepared for careers and continued education following graduation. I have personally benefited from the dedication and commitment from previous leaders always pursuing what is in the best interest of our students.
I’m driven to do my part to continue to build on this strong legacy of leadership so that the opportunities that I benefited from continue for future generations.
Our system deserves strong leaders that view problems as possibilities. Serving our schools, community and, most importantly, our students is a high calling.
What you have learned from your previous service: I have three key takeaways from my previous experience on the school board:
First, we must do everything we can to support our administrators, teachers and staff. They are the “front line” in preparing our students for their future education and career goals. This has never been more important than today as our teachers, staff and administration face the tremendous challenge of doing their jobs in these unique and uncertain circumstances. I am amazed and encouraged by their leadership, determination and commitment to our students.
Second, strong collaboration and consistent communication with our city’s mayor and council are vital in ensuring that we are one team, all working together for our children and community.
Finally, it’s fundamental to seek public input on key decisions that impact the system. The board position I am pursuing is a public service position, and it’s crucial to seek counsel and ensure transparency in decisions that are made on the system’s behalf.
What makes you the right candidate for the job: I’m passionate about public education. Andy and I have chosen to live and raise our daughter in Hartselle, although our jobs are located in Huntsville.
Critical decisions for our education system will be needed in the coming months and years, not only to address the current pandemic but to look to the future and the needs resulting from growth that our region is experiencing as a result of industry and business expansion. We must be prepared to leverage this opportunity once the current crisis is behind us.
My previous leadership background and understanding serving in this role coupled with my professional experience will serve as an asset for our system. I will work to ensure that our schools are resilient and prepared to prosperity.