By BILL CRIST - Publisher

Published 8:05 am Thursday, January 30, 2003

By Staff
Great rewards lie with challenges
Courthouses around Alabama, as well as the state's capitol building, have been the scene of numerous inaugurations and swearing in ceremonies over the past week. While those held locally were certainly important, and everyone who placed one hand on the Bible while raising the other to take the oath office in Escambia County will shape our area's future, perhaps no ceremony has been more scrutinized than the governor's.
Although short on specifics about his plans for the next four years, Gov. Bob Riley did call on all Alabamians to embrace the "Spirit of Alabama."
He went on to talk about the contributions of several Alabama natives, from the fields of Afghanistan to the cover of Sports Illustrated, and said that he would be introducing a new medal, the Spirit of Alabama medal. The new award will be presented yearly by this state's governor to someone who has made contributions that, "change the nation and the world."
Shortly after invoking the audience's pride, the new governor went on to say that there are many challenges facing our state in the next four years. He said that he would need the help of the citizens of the state and of those elected to the legislature.
Accomplishing that, though, is going to take more than a medal, or references to past football success. There are deep-rooted problems with the state's tax system that have us teetering on the edge of a financial disaster. Our schools don't have enough money to operate in the manner our children deserve. Our prisons are dangerously overcrowded. Bridges and highways are in need of repair, and the money to finish those projects cannot be found.
One of Riley's campaign pledges was to work to "un-earmark" money within the system. That may help move money from a department that doesn't have critical needs to one that does, but fails to fix the problem. In fact, in many ways it is little more than the "temporary fix" that Riley said we needed to move beyond. In his inaugural speech he called for fundamental change and reform, rather than patchwork solutions.
The next four years will indeed be interesting. But more importantly, it is a time that will be critical to Brewton's continued growth. Making sure that our new governor understands the importance of better access between Brewton and Interstate 65 is going to be vital to economic development. Help from the state to attract new retailers and industry to the area is going to be another key to Brewton's continued growth. As has been discussed at a pair of town hall meetings, fixing the school funding issue our county and city schools face is another challenge for the new administration.
Brewton is filled with leaders and citizens who exemplify what Riley calls "The Spirit of Alabama." None of them may ever have the honor of winning a medal stating as much, but that spirit is here. It also runs through our community as a whole. When faced with a challenge, we usually pull together and work toward our common goal. It is going to take that kind of focused effort to draw continued support for the many projects already underway and those that are planned for the future.
Riley said that as a state, we need to match the successes of the individuals here. In many ways, Brewton has done that. Governor Riley, we stand ready to serve as an example for other communities, and the state as a whole. The next four years will be challenging, but great rewards lie on the horizon.
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