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Chip Drago
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The Political Round-Up

Redneck women, fire on the bayou, 'Savile Sam',
an ex-sheriff takes up his pen, RSA backs off

By Chip Drago
Mobile Bay Times
Is Mobile ready for a redneck woman?

Ready or not, here she comes, according to sources close to Mobile’s BayFest music festival, set this year for Oct. 6-8 on a variety of stages in downtown Mobile.

Nashville’s Gretchen Wilson – “Redneck Woman,” “Here For The Party,“ All Jacked Up,” “When I Think About Cheatin’,” “California Girls” – is one of the top touring country acts in the U.S.

Tickets to her concerts typically sell in the $50-80 range. BayFest weekend passes are $35, less than $12 per day for all the shows.

The BayFest budget tops $2 million this year, perhaps exceeding $2.2 million if various cash, in-kind and city services are factored in.

American Idol winner Taylor Hicks reportedly has been invited to drop in and perform. His commitments with American Idol Inc. through next year prevent any other formal bookings.

Wiggins poised to lead Bayou la Batre Fire Department

Mobile firefighters union president John Wiggins is poised to take over as fire chief in Bayou La Batre.

The Bayou La Batre City Council is expected to act on Wiggins’ hiring Monday night. Wiggins would become the first full time professional firefighter to head the volunteer fire department in the south Mobile County fishing and boat building hamlet.

Wiggins, 56, retired from the Mobile Fire Department two years ago as a lieutenant driver after 34 years with MFD. A Mobile native, Wiggins grew up in Crichton and later moved to Forest Hills.

Wiggins is expected to sign a one-year contract with Bayou La Batre. Terms of the agreement have not yet been finalized.

Wiggins said an immediate goal for the fire department in Bayou La Batre would be the hiring of three certified drivers, one for each shift.

If hired, Wiggins would succeed Gary Johnson who resigned the position.

Book 'em, Jack
Former Mobile County Sheriff Jack Tillman who stepped down under fire about three months ago after almost 12 years as the county’s leading law enforcement figure is hard at work on a book. Tillman said the as yet untitled work will cover his 20-year career as a resource officer in the Mobile County Public School System. Tillman recounts stories of various investigations within the school system from streaking to steroids. The onetime professional boxer promised the book would be a bestseller.

RSA real and imagined
Another week another RSA rumor.

The Retirement Systems of Alabama has no interest in acquiring the AmSouth Building and its parking facilities downtown, reports a spokesperson for RSA chief Dr. David Bronner.

Bronner "has not talked to anybody about buying the AmSouth building and said he sees no reason to talk to anyone about it," the RSA director replied to an inquiry through a spokesperson.

According to MBT sources, however, RSA representatives did in fact examine the building a year or so ago with an eye toward its possible acquisition, but asbestos remediation among other concerns sent them on their way. RSA reportedly considered the possibility of converting some of the AmSouth space into condominiums, freeing up parking space which would in turn prove valuable to RSA's new tower property as well as its nearby hotel holdings. 

Mayor traveling light
On an economic development mission to London, Paris and Madrid with other area officials, Mayor Sam Jones found himself traveling light when he made it to London but his luggage didn't. Presumably when Jones next appears in City Hall, his attire will include something from Savile Row.

Politics never sleeps
One election is not over before planning for the next is underway.

GOP lieutenant governor nominee Luther Strange has not won his first political office. Yet his stock is soaring based on his success in defeating George Wallace Jr. to carry the Republican banner in the fall. Strange will face Democratic nominee Jim Folsom Jr. Folsom, too, carries a legendary Alabama political name.

With the state's Republican Party sailing ahead of favorable winds, some party loyalists were taking for granted the re-election in November of Gov. Bob Riley and the triumph of Birmingham lawyer/lobbyist Strange. Such events would place Strange at the forefront of the GOP gubernatorial field in 2010. Among others mentioned as possible successors to Riley in leading the state's GOP fortunes was Baldwin County state Sen. Bradley Byrne

"That's interesting," said Byrne of the speculation. "I'm a Luther supporter and he's my friend. I don't think you'll see us run against one another. As to which one of us does what, there is plenty of time to sort all that out. Who knows?"

Beckerle set to speak
Democratic congressional nominee Vivian Beckerle is a scheduled speaker at a Citizens Statewide Universal Healthcare Forum Saturday,  July 22  from 11 a.m.-2:30 p.m. at Trinity Lutheran Church, 2668 Berkley Ave. in Mobile. Several local and state officials are expected to attend.