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Chip Drago
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The Political Round-Up

Youse guys and y'all come; GOP knocks on Wood;
Cooper shows muscle; Pelham gets complex;
Stirring up Semmes; Not this Monday, but next Monday
By Chip Drago
Mobile Bay Times
Brooklynite seeks Southern exposure, cash, votes, ultimately White House.  

GOP presidential prospect and former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani will open a string of appearances in Alabama Tuesday, April 10 with a $1,000 per couple coffee at the Theodore home of longtime Republican stalwarts Jerry and Terry Lathan, the Giuliani campaign confirmed.

If time permits following the 8:30-9:30 a.m. breakfast, Giuliani hopes to visit Alabama coastal communities hit by Hurricane Katrina. He will then travel upstate for campaign events set tentatively in Montgomery, Birmingham and Huntsville.

GOP knocks on Wood
Mobile County Revenue Commissioner Marilyn Wood Monday morning will announce her switch from the Democratic Party to the GOP during a press conference at Government Plaza.

Wood was appointed as revenue commissioner in 2001 after longtime Revenue Commissioner Freda Roberts retired. Wood won election to the office in November, 2002. Her six-year term ends next year.

Wood is expected to speak to local GOP officials at Westminster Presbyterian Church Monday evening.

Democratic officials had sought a conference with Wood to discuss her re-election bid, but she did not respond, according to Mobile County Democratic Party Chairman Brad Warren.

"We tried many times to discuss with her where she stood for the next election," said Warren. "She never returned our phone calls."

The party may hit rock bottom before it begins its ascent in Mobile County, Warren conceded.

"The Democratic Party is so weak in Mobile, I fear more defections before we can get this ship turned around," he said.

Not terribly long ago, the Republicans were in worse shape here than the Democrats are presently, Warren noted.

National policies have taken a toll on Democrats throughout the South, perhaps few areas more so than Mobile and Baldwin counties.

"It is going to take time to sell our message locally," said Warren.

Warren chose to be optimistic, pointing out that locally Democrats have no where to go but up and conversely the GOP is poised for a tumble.

"I do think the Repubs are doing as well as they are going to," Warren said. "It is their's to lose and ours to win across the board. I frankly would rather be in my position than Mark's (his GOP counterpart, Mark Erwin)."

In the race for revenue commissioner next year, Erwin will apparently field the incumbent while Warren promised that a Democrat would oppose the ex-Democrat.

"I can assure you that I will do everything I can to make sure Ms. Wood faces a formidable challenge," said Warren. 

Cooper showing muscle in Magic City mayoral bid
Birmingham attorney and political rookie Patrick Cooper, son of Mobile civic leaders Gary and Beverly Cooper, is showing early muscle in his bid to become mayor of Birmingham, according to recent surveys and polling.

Pelham promoted
Marc Pelham was recently promoted to the newly-created position of director of the Brookley Complex for the Mobile Airport Authority.

Formerly director of marketing for MAA, Pelham, 50, will have responsibility for real estate and economic development at the Brookley Complex while retaining overall marketing duties for MAA.

"This change, my assuming these additional responsibilities, reflects an increased emphasis at the airport authority in implementing the strategic plan we prepared and updated last year," Pelham said. "It is an aggressive program of restoring, rehabilitating, demolishing and rebuilding."

According to Pelham, the 1,700 acre complex presently features almost 5 million square feet and 4,000 employees. The next 15 years should bring dramatic growth, said Pelham.

"Our target is 9,000 employees," he said. "It could take 15 years. All the best stuff is happening right now. Mobile is just as hot as it can be. What a great time to get a job like this."

For oldtimers who were around in the mid-1960's after the Air Force base shut down and witnessed Brookley as a virtual ghost town, the boom is especially heartening, Pelham said.

"Brookley has come a long way from a closed Air Force base with almost nothing to where we are today with so many million square feet (occupied) and so many companies," Pelham said.

"Now is the time to enter our new phase," he said. "If I do my job right, you are not going to recognize this place in the next five to 10 years. Of course, it depends on the economy and how well we can get funding for what we're trying to do."

Plans call for an investment of $40-50 million over the next 10-20 years, he said.

"We'll generate some (monies) internally, some we'll borrow and some we'll explore through grants that might be available," said Pelham.

Current signs are all positive for Brookley to play a leading role in stoking Mobile's economic engine.

"We're having companies contact us, saying they want to get a location at Brookley before they are all gone," Pelham said. "That's not a phone call I'm used to getting. It's not just Brookley. The Choctaw Point intermodal yard is obviously a critical component to all we're trying to do."

"For me personally, it's amazing and I'm just incredibly lucky," he said. "I'm excited that some great MAA people and I have an opportunity to use new industry as a catalyst to convert incredible potential into incredible reality. We may see things transformed, completely transformed."

Semmes stirred up    
Plans to redistrict some Semmes Middle School students to a new middle school that was formerly Shaw High School are not going over well in the west Mobile bedroom community, as reflected in a letter from Mobile County Commissioner Stephen Nodine to School Commissioner Ken Megginson.

The issue will be aired at 5:30 p.m. Monday during a community meeting at Mary G. Montgomery High School.

Not this Monday, but next Monday
A Mobile City Council District 7 community meeting originally set for Monday, April 2 has been rescheduled for Monday, April 9 at 6:30 p.m. in the Mobile Museum of Art Auditorium, 4850 Museum Drive.

City Councilwoman Gina Gregory said various city representatives, including police, fire-rescue, urban development, public works, Keep Mobile Beautiful and environmental court, will be present. Alabama Department of Transportation and the county commission were also invited to send representatives.

Saraland looks back on 50 years
The City of Saraland is compiling a 50th Anniversary Booket as part of its celebration of the occasion May 12. Prospective contributors to the booklet are asked to visit the Saraland Public Library with their historical photos, news clippings, or other nostalgic items relating to Saraland. The items will be scanned and considered for inclusion in the booklet.  

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