But before heralding the depot’s highly trained work force and importance to national security, Shelby thanked the more than 100 Anniston and depot officials and small business leaders across Calhoun County for their many years of support at their polling places.
Shelby was elected to his fifth term in November.
“The first thing I need to do is thank the people in Alabama over and over for the overwhelming vote I got a few months ago, and I appreciate Calhoun County,” he said during his 10-minute speech. “Thanks to you, I have become the senior member of the appropriations committee, which is very, very, very important to you here.”
Shelby was less specific about how his seniority on that committee and in the Senate would help Calhoun County, but depot officials pointed to Shelby’s role in providing funds for some of the largest recent projects at the depot as an example of his past and continued support of the Anniston installation.
Shelby has helped to secure more than $200 million in funding for four ongoing construction projects, including a new transmission facility, a small-arms facility and a new industrial wastewater treatment plant, Nathan Hill, the military liaison for the Calhoun County Chamber of Commerce, told the crowd.
“This installation is here today because of what he has done,” Hill said at the chamber-sponsored luncheon. “He’s one of the few senators who matches the needs of the community with the needs of the nation.”
Amid clapping and cheers, Shelby stressed he would continue to help secure funding for important projects at the depot and for the Anniston area.
After the luncheon, Shelby responded to media questions about whether he thought the depot risked being closed during a possible future round of military base closings.
He said he wasn’t worried about the installment’s future, emphasizing the “efficient and effective” maintenance and repair work the depot does on Strykers and other Army vehicles.
“I think Anniston Army Depot is unique,” he said. “I think the future is good here, and I will do everything I can to keep this going. It’s needed.”
Toward the end of his speech to the local leaders and officials gathered for lunch, Shelby mentioned the Jan. 8 shooting in Tucson, Ariz., that left six dead and U.S. Rep. Gabriella Giffords recovering from a serious head wound.
That tragedy occurred at a public event organized by Giffords to provide her constituents with a chance to meet with her one-on-one. In the aftermath, questions have been raised about the safety of elected officials at public events.
For his part, Shelby said he would not change his plans to meet with constituents in every county of the state.
The luncheon was part of Shelby’s yearly trip across Alabama to meet with constituents in each of the state’s 67 counties.
“Any type of meeting is important to the well-being of this country, so let’s keep doing it,” Shelby declared amidst the echoes of spontaneous applause. “I’m going to keep doing it.”
Star staff writer Cameron Steele: 256-235-3562.