Davis steps down as county commissioner

By GUY BUSBY
Government Editor
guy@gulfcoastmedia.com
Posted 7/29/22

FAIRHOPE — After a career in public service that included work in the state two-year college systems and on the Daphne City Council, Baldwin County Commissioner Joe Davis took part in his final …

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Davis steps down as county commissioner

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FAIRHOPE — After a career in public service that included work in the state two-year college systems and on the Daphne City Council, Baldwin County Commissioner Joe Davis took part in his final meeting as a county official Wednesday before stepping down at the end of July.

Davis announced earlier this year that he would not run for re-election. He said he decided to retire from the commission at the end of this month. He said he has recommended that Gov. Kay Ivey appoint Matt McKenzie, who won the Republican nomination for the seat and does not have any opponents listed on the November ballot, to serve the remainder of his term.

"With Matt not having a Democratic opponent, I don't believe, or an independent, (Gov. Ivey) could, maybe should and hopefully will appoint him to the interim part," Davis said. "I made him aware of because I had to do it because of financial reasons in terms of the retirement system."

Davis said state regulations for retirement pay would not allow him to draw his full retirement for the year if he continues to serve on the commission.

"Retirement views my pay on the commission as double dipping even though I'm not an employee of Baldwin County," Davis said.

"This way they would pay me through November. So, it's actually economically better off for me and my wife for me to step down at the end of July," Davis added.

Davis said he feels the commission has made major accomplishments during his term.

"I've enjoyed being a part of what I think is a phenomenal time in a county that is busting at the seams," Davis said. "I smile when I say that. There are a lot of people that don't want to change, don't want to get any bigger. I'm not saying they're wrong, but many of those that feel that way are living in houses that were once farmland too. So, you need to be considerate of what the future's going to be."

One factor in dealing with growth is preparing infrastructure, such as roads and bridges, to meet the demands of increasing numbers of residents and visitors.

Davis said one major accomplishment in the last four years has been the effort to move forward with the Interstate 10 bridge over the Mobile River and new elevated highway over Mobile Bay.

His last official meeting was scheduled to be as one of two county commissioners on the Eastern Shore Metropolitan Planning Organization when the MPO votes to put the bridge project on the Transportation Improvement Plan.

"The last meeting I'm going to attend is the MPO on the 27th of this month, dealing with that darn bridge," Davis said. "I mean we're 15 years behind getting that thing moving, but hopefully the two MPOs we've got to go through the procedure and getting it on our TIP list and get that moving. ALDOT says that if we get all that they'll build it in five years. The question is when there's still five years start."

The Mobile MPO was also scheduled to vote on the bridge project on Wednesday.

Davis said another recent county accomplishment was the announcement that Novelis will build an aluminum rolling mill at the county's Megasite industrial park in Bay Minette. He said Lee Lawson, director of the Baldwin County Economic Development Alliance, did an outstanding job in bringing in the company, which plans to employ up to 1,000 people.

Davis said county support, including providing additional office space for the EDA, helped bring Novelis to Baldwin.

"The Megasite is huge," Davis said. "A lot of people have worked on that for a number of years."

Davis worked on economic development projects when he lived in Thomasville, Alabama, before moving to Baldwin County. He said his work as a business manager with the two-year college system helped him understand the need for organizational skills and the importance of working together.

On one occasion, a sewer system lift station at a college broke down on a Sunday afternoon, flooding an area with sewage. Someone called Davis, who was the business manager.

"Well, I called the president and I called a maintenance supervisor, who reported to me, but he was older than my dad and was a lay minister," Davis said. "Well, when he comes by Sunday afternoon, he's in a suit because he'd been doing a funeral or something. And then the president's there. So, if you'd looked at who the organization chart was, you had the president, the business manager and maintenance supervisor, but if you looked at who was standing there, it was pretty obvious who needs to climb down in that stuff."

Davis said he crawled into the station and unclogged the impeller.
He said the county employees, supervisors and organizational system is a major asset for the commission. People have to work together to get things done.

"I've seen how big organizations, small organizations work and to be the boss is not about poking your chest out and saying you've got all the answers," Davis said. "It's about surrounding yourself with qualified people that know things that you don't know. I've taken great pride in the fact that of the four of us commissioners, none of us felt like we had the only answer. So, any topic that would come up we would go through pretty elaborate discussion and research to find out what our best option going forward."

Davis said he has not made specific plans for the future. He said he has been pleased to live in Baldwin County since moving to the area and he and his wife plan to remain in an area he often refers to as paradise.

"It is paradise, I've referred to it as paradise since before I was elected or even moved here," Davis said. "We would leave Thomasville at 4:30 in the morning and drive to Gulf Shores to go to the beach. And that was back in early 60s when there wasn't a whole lot to Gulf Shores, but it was a wonderful place and so many of us have stories about when we found it, our grandparents took us to the beach or served in the military in Pensacola or Brookley, just all kinds of ways that you come to a place and just get a good, warm feeling."

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