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 The Political Round-Up

McMaken retiring

By Chip Drago
Mobile Bay Times
Mobile County District Judge Mike McMaken will step down Oct. 1, the Mobile Bay Times has learned.

McMaken is the longest serving judge, state or federal, in Mobile County, with more than 25 years on the bench.

McMaken, 65, confirmed the move with MBT late Thursday afternoon.

"It's the right thing to do," he said. "I've been doing this for 25 and a half years. I have a son going off to college in 10 days, a daughter with one more year of high school. I want to try to make use of my time a little better where my family is concerned. But I am going to miss it."

Now a Republican, McMaken won election in 1986 as a Democrat and took the oath of office in January, 1987. He was re-elected in 1992, 1998, 2004 and 2010. In the fall of 1993, McMaken assumed duties as the judge of the Mobile Drug Court, presiding over Drug Court cases in addition to his duties in the District Court since that time.

McMaken said he would like to remain involved in the Drug Court if possible.

"If they want me to, I’ll keep helping a little with drug court," he said. "We're about to have our 100th graduation. 100 classes is pretty impressive. Not everybody benefits. Some fail. Some don't try. But in almost 20 years, how many have benefited is astounding. When it works, there is nothing like it. It’s wonderful. So I would like to help there if possible. I hope to stay busy, maybe in some way with drug court, with mediations and some pro bono work through the bar association."

McMaken has a long list of civic, church, charity and public service accomplishments over the course of his career.

McMaken has battled health issues for several years and has occasionally been sidelined for brief stints while undergoing treatment.

The governor may possibly appoint state Sen. Ben Brooks to the vacancy on the bench if the Tillmans Corner product is one of the three names submitted for the governor's consideration by the Mobile County Judicial Selection Commission. Brooks is unopposed as the Republican nominee for the Mobile County Circuit Court slot held by the retiring Judge Jim Wood. After Brooks is sworn in as circuit judge in January, the governor would again get to fill the district judgeship with an appointee.

In tapping Brooks, the governor might save the state some money by setting a special election to fill the state Senate opening in conjunction with the general election in November. State Rep. Jim Barton has already erected campaign signs. Mobile County Commissioner Mike Dean has said he will run. Others drawing mention include recent county commission contender Nick Matranga, Mobile County District Judge Charlie McKnight and tea party activist Pete Riehm who has come up short in two previous bids for public office, first for county commission and more recently for Congress from the First District.   

However, Riehm sounds more like a campaign manager for Barton than a prospective opponent.

"Jim Barton has distinguished himself has a very effective legislator and a reliable conservative," said Riehm. "I think he will make a great state senator."

Typically, the five-member Mobile County Judicial Selection Commission screens applicants for the bench and sends a list of three prospects to the governor. The governor has 90 days to chose one or the appointing authority transfer to the chief justice of the state's Supreme Court. Presently, presiding Circuit Judge Charlie Graddick and attorneys Danner Frazer and Billy Bedsole are on the judicial selection committee. Two non-lawyers are picked by the county's legislative delegation to serve with the legal community representatives on the committee. Those two slots are open.  

Armistead Mobile bound
State GOP Chairman Bill Armistead will be the special guest at the Mobile County Republican Executive Committee's fall meeting Monday, Oct. 1. A 6:30 p.m. reception will precede a 7 p.m. meeting. The place is to be determined.

Heard of late
Mobile County Commission attorney Jay Ross and his longtime associate Buzz Jordan have broken up their law firm, Ross and Jordan. Ross reportedly will join the law firm of Adams and Reese, a defense firm headquartered in New Orleans with a number of offices in other Southern cities.

Dante's circle
The Mobile County Metro Jail is never the most pleasant place, but the summertime with its scorching temperatures and soaring inmate populations make it a sort of purgatory for all parties who toil or tarry behind its walls.

According to Warden Trey Oliver, the jail population always soars during the summer and this year has been no exception. In fact, he said, a couple of weeks ago  
the jail set an all-time record of 1,806 inmates. Of those, there were 259 women, 18 of them pregnant and three those "high risk" pregnancies. The jail was designed to house a maximum of 1,187 inmates.

Nevertheless, the warden considers himself the lucky one. 

"My job is fun," he said. "Those poor officers in the back, their job is very stressful and difficult on a GOOD day ... the noises, the odors, the slurs, the disrespect, the mental illness, the bad behavior, the thefts, the assaults, the crowded conditions, the homeless, the needy, the bitchy, the dangerous, the suicidal."

"I should be writing a book," he said. "Most folks have no clue what goes on behind these walls."

Boulware HQ grand opening
Daphne mayoral candidate Derek Boulware will host the grand opening of his campaign headquarters Saturday from 11 a.m.-2 p.m. at the Goodwill/Baldwin Eye Clinic Shopping Center on U.S. 98. Food and drinks will be provided by Baumhower's Restaurant. The municipal election is Tuesday, Aug. 28.

Romney reception set
The Club in Birmingham will be the site Wednesday, Aug. 15 of an evening reception for GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney. The time is to be determined.

Various levels of participation in the fundraiser range from $1,000 to $25,000.

For more information contact Kate Anderson at 205-777-3734 or

Reading between the lines 
U.S. Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Norton Schwartz recently made his final flight as an active duty officer, piloting an MC-130E Combat Talon I on a local training sortie from Hurlburt Field, Fla. 

Schwartz, CSAF since August 2008, will retire from the Air Force after a 39-year career, effective Oct. 1. His retirement ceremony is scheduled for Aug. 10 at JB Andrews, Md.

Schwartz made a notable admission, particularly interesting to Mobile area followers of the military refueling tanker competition between Boeing and EADS.

The departing chief of staff admitted that he didn't "apply enough attention" in the acquisition realm during his tenure. He said he hopes that the new Chief of Staff will "lead the uniformed part of the acquisition community in a more direct and material way than, perhaps, I did." 

Schwartz said he probably "under-performed" by deferring too much to "those who have statutory authority in the acquisition realm." Asked what he meant by being too deferential, Schwartz said: "to the service acquisition executive [and] to the Secretary, who ultimately is responsible." 

The next Chief of Staff, said Schwartz, should be more assertive in laying out the "uniformed perspective" with regards to acquisition and take a more direct leadership role in it. 

"Most importantly," he added, the "acquisition professionals in the field . . . need to know" that their Chief is "attentive to their needs and represents their role in maintaining a ready and effective Air Force."

Gen. Mark Welsh, nominated to replace Schwartz, has acquisition experience, which Schwartz did not. For that reason, if the Senate confirms Welsh, "that's one area where Mark will lead, perhaps, better than I did," said Schwartz.

For his July 12 fini flight, Schwartz piloted Combat Talon No. 64-0568, which is assigned to Air Force Reserve Command's 919th Special Operations Wing at Duke Field, Fla.

Upon completing the sortie, Schwartz received the ceremonial hose down from his wife Suzie Schwartz, and friends and colleagues greeted him.

​Hubbard to head regional group
Alabama Speaker of the House Mike Hubbard was the unanimous pick to head the Southern Legislative Conference which met recently in Charleston, WV. The SLC will hold its annual meeting next year in Mobile.

Founded in 1947, the SLC is the largest of four regional legislative groups operating under the Council of State Governments. States represented are Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia and West Virginia.

Young Repubs in Baldwin County
The Young Republicans Federation of Alabama will hold its summer meeting Aug. 10–11 in Fairhope. 

State Sen. Trip Pittman will address the group Aug. 11 on "the positive dynamics of the American free enterprise system and how it has generated the highest standard of living and quality of life for its citizens (and non citizens) of any country in history; and how important the election of Mitt Romney is toward keeping the American dream alive."

The event will be held at Holiday Inn Express Fairhope (Meeting) and the Grand Hotel Marriott (Welcome Reception). Registration Fee is $35 (includes catered meal on Saturday). Reservations must be made by Aug. 3. For more information, contact Jackie Curtiss at

GOP Road Trip
Mobile Republicans are planning a road trip to Washington County for Mobile's northern neighbor Republican Executive Committee’s first ever "Meet and Greet” for GOP candidates. The event, on a date to be determined, will feature a dinner at Jake's Restaurant. Lt. Gov. Kay Ivey will be the special guest. For more information email

Mobile Democrats to meet
The Mobile County Democratic Executive Committee will meet Thursday, Aug. 30 at 6 p.m. at the party headquarters, 918 Government Street in Mobile. Party officials are recruiting volunteers to work in the campaigns of local Democratic nominees Christian Smith who is running for Mobile County Treasurer, and Herndon Inge who is running for State Board of Education.

Young Democrats in Politics
Young Democrats in Politics will meet Tuesday, Aug. 7 from 7-8 p.m. at Homestead Village, 924 Plantation Blvd. in Fairhope. Beth Clayton, a Birmingham native and student at Auburn University, will speak on young Democrats’ involvement in political activities.The program is sponsored by the Eastern Shore Democrats. Admission is free and open to the public. For further information, contact Dr. William Thompson at (251) 423-5306.

Work on Water Tower scheduled in fall
Mobile Area Water and Sewer System (MAWSS) plans to paint the raised water storage tank on McGregor Ave. this fall.  

According to MAWSS officials, the aesthetics of a new paint job, while significant, are only a side benefit. The process will involve several steps that help ensure a safe and adequate water supply.

First, the two million gallon tower will be taken out of service and emptied so it can be inspected. During this time, the other water storage facilities in the MAWSS system will substitute for the Spring Hill Tank so residents will see no change in water pressure or supply.

An enclosure will drape the tank during the process to contain materials used in the repainting effort. The tank will be blasted both inside and out to remove the old paint as well as any rust or corrosion. All the blasting material is captured on site. Painting will involve multiple coats applied during ideal conditions to provide the longest possible lifespan.

During an Aug. 14 District 7 Community meeting, MAWSS will also discuss these plans and the future of the Spring Hill Reservoir and make residents aware of recent activity around the 10 million gallon in ground storage facility.

District 7 community meeting

Mobile City Councilwoman Gina Gregory at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 14 in the Museum of Art will host a community meeting as a follow-up to a similar meetings earlier in the year in which the "revolving door" at Metro Jail was the discussion topic. Mobile Police Chief Micheal T. Williams, Mobile County Sheriff Sam Cochran and District Attorney Ashley Rich have been invited to address the assembly. The Museum of Art is at 4850 Museum Drive.

For more information contact the City of Mobile Council office at 208-7441.

Mobile Area Education Foundation granted $150,300 
The Toyota USA Foundation has awarded the Mobile Area Education Foundation (MAEF) with a $150,300 grant to support the EYE on STEM Leadership Academy.

The Engaging Youth through Engineering (EYE) on Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) Leadership Academy will develop STEM leaders comprised of teachers, administrators, teacher educators, and business/industry leaders who will expand on the implementation of STEM curriculum to middle schools in the Mobile County Public School System and rural counties in southwest Alabama region.

"Toyota believes in supporting programs with long-term sustainable results. The Mobile Area Education Foundation has a successful history of providing educators and administrators with key resources in the areas of science, technology, engineering and mathematics," said Patricia Salas Pineda, group vice president of national philanthropy and the Toyota USA Foundation. "Given Toyota's manufacturing presence in Alabama and our commitment to this great community, we are incredibly proud to support this important program."

MAEF will host a STEM for ALL Leadership Conference for 140 STEM leaders from throughout the region Aug. 6. The STEM for ALL Leadership Conference will offer a variety of speakers, lunch panelists and breakout session leaders representing national, state, and local perspectives on STEM in K-12 classrooms including Keynote Speaker Elizabeth Parry-Chair, K-12 Division, American Society of Engineering Educators (ASEE). The conference is the first of many sessions scheduled for the EYE on STEM Leadership Academy.

Vigor students to host
Prichard mayoral candidate forum
A group of teens from C.F. Vigor High School (VHS) will host a mayoral candidate forum Tuesday, Aug. 14, from 5:30-7:30 p.m., at the Vigor High School Auditorium, 913 Wilson Ave N, Prichard, AL.

About 15 students have been studying local government and preparing for the forum under the direction of the League of Women Voters of Mobile (LWVM), which has partnered with Jessica Norwood of Emerging ChangeMakers Network, an organization she founded that "pairs emerging leaders with allied supporters committed to making change happen in communities that have been historically disenfranchised."

This group’s aspirations go far beyond the election event. Troubled by the common perception that in order to survive Prichard, one must get out of Prichard, these high school seniors, juniors and sophomores endeavor to improve their city so that residents will want to stay and raise their families there.

“We can't blame the politicians for all of Prichard’s problems. Sooner or later the community has to take responsibility for its part,” said Shamaica Lewis, who is entering her junior year at Vigor.

The event is open to the public.

The VHS Civic Engagement Project aims to: 

Issues of particular interest to the students include crime rates and police response time, blighted property, bad roads, and a lack of parks and recreational areas. The group dreams of making Prichard a desirable community where people want to live again.

“I feel excited because these young adults are connecting to their community, to what matters to them, and they are discovering that they can make a difference. They recognize that voting is one way to have an impact, even though most of them are still too young to vote,” said Mary McGinnis, special projects director for the LWVM. Training and funding for this project was provided in part by NeighborWorks America.
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