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Chip Drago
Mobile Bay Times

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Retired policeman, fitness executive
plans county commission challenge

By Chip Drago
Mobile Bay Times
The owner of a west Mobile County fitness center plans to launch his campaign for the Mobile County Commission with a kick-off rally from 6:30-8:30 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 22 at Our Savior Catholic Church, 1801 Cody Road S.

John E. Graham, 54, who retired as a lieutenant from the Mobile Police Department, said he would seek the Republican nomination for the District 3 or south and west Mobile County slot on the commission. The seat is currently held by County Commissioner Mike Dean, also a Republican.

"I want to bring energy, experience and education to the county commission," Graham said. "I would be the first county commissioner with a masters degree in public administration. I have the experience because I retired as a police lieutenant. I want to use that experience and education to ensure that taxpayers' money is spent in a fashion that they want."

The Republican primary will be held next June and the general election is scheduled in November.

Graham has operated West Mobile Gym Fitness & Kung Fu at 1121 Dawes Road for 20 years.

"I'm going to run a positive campaign on my qualifications and my history," Graham said. "I'm not gonna run around and talk bad about Dean."

Graham said District 3 needs more engaged leadership.

"We need to pursue 'smart growth' in west Mobile," he said. "We need to fix the roads we have in west Mobile before building new roads. We have potholes and roads that need fixing. We have youth programs that need to be developed. We need to look at our infrastructure and plan for growth. We do not have a strategic plan for rapid, strong growth in south Mobile County and I can bring that to the table."

Graham ran unsuccessfully for sheriff in 2002.

"When you look at west Mobile, it could be the fastest growing part of the whole state," Graham said. "Yet do you see any community meetings on what the citizens want as far as what type of growth, what type of industry? Are we going to look just for factories? The tourist industry? We can hit all of those. We could get a Six Flags. They have that new racetrack out there toward north Mobile. What's happening in south Mobile? What's going on toward the coast? At Bayou la Batre? I've met with the mayor of Bayou la Batre (Stanley Wright) and he feels left out of the loop. Grand Bay, too. Dauphin Island got some (insurance) money, but they don't feel they were done right. I will have (regular) community meetings in different areas of the district. Grand Bay, Bayou la Batre, Dauphin Island, Dauphin Island Parkway. I will find out what the citizens want me to do as their county commissioner.

"I can ask 10 people down here who their county commissioner is and two will know. The rest won't know or don't care. I want to change their view about how they feel about the county commissioner. I want them to say my commissioner is John Graham and he's my advocate for what I want done in this part of the county. When they say 'I don't know who my county commissioner is,' I don't think that's a good thing."

Dean did not immediately return a phone call seeking comment, but his spokesman Jon Gray said the incumbent commissioner looked forward to the campaign and the chance to discuss the achievements of recent years and the challenges still facing the district.

"Commissioner Dean looks forward to the upcoming election as an opportunity to talk with the voters about the hurricane recovery efforts still going strong in south Mobile County, and the thousands of new jobs, new roads and the positive real estate and economic outlook for Mobile County as a result of the commission's work over the last few years," said Gray.

According to Graham, the event on Saturday will feature comedian Killer Beaz, "a dear friend" who will do "a cleaned up set." A jazz ensemble will also entertain the gathering. Alec Naman will cater the affair. Scheduled to speak in addition to Graham and Beaz are A.J. Krause and Joe Rodriguez. Televisions for viewing the Alabama Crimson Tide/Georgia Bulldogs football game will be provided, said Graham.

Graham is married to the former Yvette Grimm. They reside in the west Mobile County community of Dawes Lake and attend church at Mobile Christian Center on Schillinger Road. They have four children: a daughter Kim, 33; and three sons, Jonathan, 31; John Jr., 18; and Zachary, a 17-year-old at Baker High School.

Graham spent seven years in the U.S. Marine Corps. He has an undergraduate degree in criminal justice and a masters in public administration.
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