St. Clair County Commission Chairman Stan Batemon and longtime Commissioner Paul Manning are “bitter political enemies,” but they’re not enemies in any other arena, Batemon said at Tuesday’s regular commission meeting.
“We love each other as brothers in Christ, and as friends. We’ve been that way a long time,” Batemon said.
“I’ve got two brothers who I can’t stand to be in a room with very long, because we’re going to break out into an argument. I get along with Paul Manning better than two of my brothers.”
It was in that spirit, then, that Batemon introduced Manning as “your next chairman-elect.” A county commissioner since 1977, Manning deposed Batemon in last week’s Republican primary election, with 60 percent of the votes cast in his favor.
He will take office in November, following the general election. There is no Democratic opposition for the chairmanship.
“What a privilege in life I’ve had,” Manning said Tuesday. “It’s been a blessing the whole way. All respect to the chairman of this commission, we’ve seen a lot of good things. It has not been an ‘I’ thing; it’s been a ‘we’ thing. But there’s been a lot of good things, and there are going to be more good things.
“We’re going to work closer than ever, to make sure we complete our journey, make sure that we complete the economic development, make sure that we take care of the taxpayers and people who put us here, and are responsible for giving us their dollars.”
Both Batemon and Manning took time to address employees at the county’s administrative center in Ashville, acknowledging that many of them supported either candidate during the campaign.
“This (political) process is unsettling to some people, and I know what (Manning) thinks about you – he loves you too, and he wants you to all feel like that you’re safe,” Batemon said. “You’re the permanent people in this process; me and now soon-to-be chairman Manning are the temporary people.
“That’s the way this works, and we want to be sure that our company and our program, that our main focus, is taking care of St. Clair County.”
Manning echoed that sentiment.
“I’ve seen people hired; I’ve seen people retire that I have had a part in hiring,” he said. “There is not a person that I’ve served with in recent years that could do anything but the utmost for the citizens of this county.”
The new chairman-elect also addressed his status as both District 3 commissioner and chairman of the Coosa Valley Water Supply District Board of Directors. Manning said he will resign as chairman of the CVWSD board “some time in the near future.”
“It will be left up to this commission to appoint someone to serve on that board,” he said.
His seat in District 3 will also be vacant – since Manning was elected in 2012, the governor’s office will be tasked with appointing a new representative for the district.
“I’m not going to second-guess the governor,” Manning said. “We’ve had many appointments made through the years, and that will be the governor’s call. I’m sure he will listen to the concerned citizens of St. Clair County.
“I look forward to (the appointee) being a person who is interested in our county, and active in a manner that will continue our economic development and growth, so we can create a footprint that will lead to a better future for all.”
District 1 Commissioner Jeff Brown was complimentary of both men on Tuesday.
“It’s an honor for me to serve St. Clair County,” Brown said. “This is an awesome place to be. I can’t say any more than that.”