Gov. Robert Bentley on Oct. 11 selected Wilson to fill a Calhoun County Commission seat left vacant in August when long-time Calhoun County Commissioner James “Pappy” Dunn died. Wilson learned of the governor’s decision Monday and on Tuesday the new commissioner began settling into his office to learn the rudimentary aspects of his new job.
“I’m here today to get acclimated,” Wilson said. “I was very blessed to be selected.”
His desk was bare but for a landline phone, a box of tissues, a note pad and a woven newsboy’s cap. The nameplate next to the door was blank and the walls were bare. His smart phone rang with congratulatory calls and the commission’s
administrative assistant, Janice Howard, began ordering new letterhead and business cards and planning for his swearing- in ceremony Friday.
“He came in all grins,” Howard said.
Wilson still has much more work to do to adjust to his new job. In December he plans attend an orientation for new commissioners provided by the Association of County Commissions of Alabama.
“It’s always a challenge to learn the ends and outs of county government,” said Calhoun County Commission Chairman J.D. Hess. “You want to help everybody and find ways to say yes and find ways not to say no and sometimes that can be a challenge.”
Wilson, though, is already working to meet the challenge. He comes to the commission as a member of the Regional Medical Center Board and a two-time retiree.
Wilson ended a career as an educator in Clay County and as a member of the National Guard before stepping into part-time work at the administration building. There he worked under Calhoun County License Commissioner Barry Robertson, who helped Wilson navigate the appointment process.
“He is going to do this for the right reasons and he’s doing this for the right reasons,” Robertson said.
Wilson said community leaders had asked him to consider running for elected offices in the past, but he declined. Robertson said he asked Wilson to consider a bid for the District 1 commission seat after it was vacated.
This time, he accepted the challenge, preparing his resume and seeking recommendation letters which were submitted to the governor’s office.
“I know people. I can work with people, so I had the feeling I could be a good commissioner,” Wilson said.
Wilson said he knew and spoke regularly with the late Dunn. The two men were members of the same graduate chapter of the fraternity Alpha Phi Alpha, Wilson said.
Dunn was known for being an effective leader.
“I hope to be like him in a lot of ways in how he got a long with people,” Wilson said. “I hope I can mimic his ways of doing things.”
He will complete two years on the commission before the term expires in 2014, then he’ll have the opportunity to run for the seat.
And he said he might do so, if his health is good and he feels like he will be able to be an effective elected official.
“That’s something I’m thinking about,” Wilson said.
Wilson learned by a letter from the governor’s office that he had been selected. The letter was delivered from his home by his daughter to the license commissioner’s office where Wilson was working. His fellow commissioners learned at about 4 p.m. that Wilson would be coming on board.
Commissioner Eli Henderson said he believes the transition will be a smooth one.
“I think he will fall right in without a problem,” Henderson said. “I don’t think they could have picked any better.”
Staff writer Laura Johnson: 256-235-3544. On Twitter @LJohnson_Star.