State will miss ‘honest man'
That's not the kind of quote you'd normally read in an obituary about a politician, but it's the kind of man Jack Venable was. Venable, a Democrat who had represented Elmore County in the state legislature since 1974, lost his battle with leukemia last week.
That's exactly how former state Rep. Pete Turnham of Auburn described Venable to the Auburn-Opelika News last week.
Former state representative and current political commentator Steve Flowers said the same thing in a different way.
As chairman of the Rules Committee, he played a major role in deciding what bills would come up for a vote on the House floor. Think about all the news reports you've read or heard about Sen. Lowell Barron, who holds a similar position in the Senate. That Venable led quietly from that position is further testament to the kind of man he was.
In that position, he could have raised millions of dollars from special interests. Instead, he was known for not accepting money. He once returned a check to a lobbyist who sent him a $500 campaign contribution, telling the lobbyist that he never accepted more than $100 from any individual.
Venable was also editor and publisher of the Tallassee Tribune, a weekly newspaper in Elmore County, and was former president of the Alabama Press Association. You might have read about him in his role as a former member of the Auburn University Board of Trustees.
Until he became ill, he rarely missed a legislative meeting. He was mourned on both sides of the aisle.
"We will all miss Jack," said Gov. Bob Riley, a Republican. "Although we were members of different political parties, I considered Jack Venable a friend. He was such a leader on so many issues we agreed upon, including stronger private property protections and limited home rule.”
Even though his illness prevented him from participating in a special session last summer, he was a major voice for passage of measure to prevent local governments from using eminent domain to take private property for commercial development.
An honest man with near-perfect legislative attendance whose goal was to conduct state business in such a way that he could go home and look his constituents in the eye. Venable was indeed a rare bird. His passing is a huge loss to his family, the newspaper industry, and especially to our state.
Michele Gerlach is publisher of The Brewton Standard. She can be reached at email@example.com 04 25.867.4876.