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Chip Drago
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The Political Round-Up

Principal confirms school board candidacy;
Keeping up with Jones; Hat in the ring

By Chip Drago
Mobile Bay Times
Dr. William Foster, principal at Hutchens Elementary School in west Mobile, confirmed that he will be a candidate for a seat on the Mobile County Public School Board in elections next
year.

Foster said he will run for
the District 5 position.
School Board President
William S. Meredith is the
incumbent commissioner
for District 5 which
generally encompasses south
and west Mobile County. Meredith has not officially declared his bid for a second
six-year term, but he has
regularly mentioned "unfinished
business" when questioned about
his intentions.

Both men are Republicans.
The Republican primary election
is June 1.

Foster, now 63, came out of
retirement in 1997 to take the
helm at the new 400-pupil
elementary school. He says the
teachers and staff at Hutchens
are the best he has worked with
in a career in education spanning more than 40 years.
 
"I will match the top 25 percent of our students against the top 25 percent of any private or parochial school anywhere," Foster boasts on the Hutchens' website.

Foster plans to retire again at the end of the current school year. He said he would create an inviolable wall between his duties as principal and his political activity.
 
Foster said his first retirement taught him that "he really missed being around children. I still enjoy that most about the job, associating with kids. So that's why I came out of retirement. I discovered I have to have an association with kids and the community. I still enjoy it even now that I'm in my early, mid-60's. It's a little more tiring."

Born and raised in Bayou La Batre, where his father was a shrimper, Foster lives in Mobile with the former Laura Cammack, his wife of "going on 40 years" and the former principal at Hamilton Elementary School.

"The reason I'm running is I think it would be beneficial to have someone (on the school board) who is as thoroughly familiar with the school system as I am," said Foster.

Foster began his career in the Mobile County Public School System in 1972.

"I understand what's needed relative to the local school children, the teachers and the administrators of the local schools," he said. "I've been very immersed in this system. I've seen it in good times and bad times. I have been here when we have lost teachers. I've seen tough times. I realize we have tough times ahead of us. We'll be okay as long as we put the children first and foremost. They are the reason we have schools."

As a school commissioner, Foster said he would not play favorites among the schools in the district.

Furthermore, Foster said he would contribute his salary toward the advancement of students in the district by creating scholarships and field trip funds.

"It has occurred to me over the years what the meaning of service is," said Foster. "The salary is not that much, but I'm not inclined to keep it. I intend to establish scholarships from that salary for students in this district so that students who may need those scholarships can have an opportunity to go to college."

"I understand what the meaning of service is now after all these years," Foster said. "I've already been paid to be a principal so I don't intend to double-dip, so to speak, and be paid for being a board member as well. I may have some minor expenses that would be paid out of my salary, but I guess I'd have about $600 each month to devote to scholarships and field trip funds."

"I'm not in it for the money," Foster chuckled. "It has to do with a commitment to the students, the teachers and the community. I've benefited through the years working with these students and teachers. I've derived significant benefits from having those people in my life. This is an opportunity to give back to them and to repay for the service that was done for me. That's just the way I feel about it."
 
Foster attended St. Margaret's in Bayou la Batre and McGill Institute in Mobile. He attended St. Bernard's College in Cullman. He earned his masters at the University of south Alabama and his doctorate from the University of Alabama.

The Fosters' children -- Leslie Gaston, 37, and Chuck Foster, 34 -- attended public schools in Mobile, as do Leslie's children, the Fosters' grandchildren.

Foster emphasized that all of his political activity would occur in the evening and on weekends.

Keeping up with Jones
There are now three accredited law schools in Alabama with the American Bar Association's approval of Faulkner University's Jones School of Law in Montgomery. According to Jones Law Dean Charles Nelson, the ABA designation will make it easier to recruit out-of-state students as well as qualified faculty members. Jones joins the state's two other previously ABA-accredited law schools at the University of Alabama and Samford University.

Peterson tosses hat in ring
Mobile native Dale Peterson has tossed his hat in the ring for state Commissioner of Agriculture and Industries in elections next year.

The 64-year-old Peterson now resides
in Shelby County with Kathy, his
wife of more than 30 years.

Peterson describes himself as a
"retired, successful businessman who
has never had political aspirations,
but is offering to give back and
break the rotation cycle of the same
ol' state office-hopping and state
committee-hopping politicians."

Peterson moved to Birmingham when he was eight years old. He joined the Marine Corps in 1963 and returned to Birmingham in 1967, becoming a police officer. After earning a degree in Sociology from the University of Alabama, Peterson worked in marketing and production for a national industrial laundry chain.

In 1977 Peterson started Alabama's first pre-washed blue jeans laundry facility in Opp.
After selling the company to
a national blue jeans
manufacturer, Peterson
pitched a plan to the State
of Alabama for out-sourcing
the State's laundry needs.
He won a competitive bid contract and built the largest industrial laundry facility in the Southeast in Tuscaloosa which ultimately he also sold.

One of his objectives in office, said Peterson, would be to attract youth back to the family farm. There are fewer than 50,000 farmers in Alabama now and their average age is 55.
 
Peterson is running as a Republican. Former state Forestry Commissioner John McMillan of Stockton in Baldwin County and Dorman Grace, past president of the Alabama Poultry & Egg Association, are also running for the office as Republicans.

The current Agriculture and Industries Commissioner Ron Sparks is seeking the Democratic nomination for governor of Alabama.
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