Riley discusses decision to run

Published 8:00 am Thursday, March 1, 2018

VALLEY — Debra Riley didn’t make a snap decision to run for a seat on the county commission this year. She’d been thinking about running for elected office for a long time, she told members of the Kiwanis Club of Valley, on Wednesday.

“I started thinking about it 12 years ago,” she said. “I had retired from education and was getting involved in a new career in nursing. I was busy with work and family at the time and really didn’t have the time to run for office.”

When did she decide to make a run in 2018?

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“I decided to do it last year,” she said. “It’s been a topic in my household for some time.”

She told members of the club that it may have been interesting to have been a fly on the wall when she and husband Leonard Riley had discussions of her running for office.

“We debate things all the time,” she said, making sure everyone understood it was always civil, with no one getting upset. “We have our differences, but we don’t have arguments.”

Riley is seeking the District 6 seat that’s being vacated by long-time incumbent Debbie Wood, who is seeking the District 38 seat in the Alabama House of Representatives.

She has opposition in the June Republican Primary from Bo Colley.

One of the major differences between the Rileys is that her husband always ran as a Democrat in the school superintendent’s race and Debra is running as a Republican. She said there may be something of an urban vs. rural split in that.

“Leonard was raised in a town [Alexander City], and I grew up on a farm,” she said.

Mrs. Riley insists that party label is not a major issue with her. What she wants to get across is that she is passionate about representing the interests of the people in District 6.

“I have a passion for a lot of things going on in our county,” she said. “If we are going to move forward, we will have to do it as a group, with everyone working together.”

She sees herself as a uniter, not a divider. She’s not into pointing fingers at others, but trying to find common ground where they can work together.

“Elected officials need to get along with each other and support each other,” she said. “I will work hard, be honest and be truthful. I will work very hard not to be a negative county commissioner.”

Mrs. Riley said she has learned a lot by attending committee meetings. That’s where the commissioners discuss issues in detail.

Something she does want to see action on is for the county’s audits to be up to date. To be fair with the current commissioners, this is not so much their fault as it is the state’s. The county audits for 2015, 2016 and 2017 are ready for the state to review.

“We are waiting on the state,” she said. “You cannot borrow money or float a bond if your audits aren’t up to date. Every committee meeting I have attended
the subject of getting the audits up to date is discussed.”

One of her favorite quotes is attributed to Teddy Roosevelt: “If you identify a problem but don’t identify a solution, all you are doing is whining.”

“Elected officials represent all of their constituents, and not just those who voted for them,” she added. “I am retired and will be available at all times to discuss issues. I want things to get accomplished.”

Mrs. Riley said that elected officials should not be reluctant to make decisions.

“Any decision that’s made is not the end all,”
she said. “Solutions are always discussed in work sessions. Decision making is in the middle of a process. If you find it wasn’t the best decision that could have been made you can tweak it some to make sure
you’re going in the direction the voters want you to go in.”

Mrs. Riley is a big fan of the Chambers County Development Authority’s branding campaign. She has the Strength Woven In logo on her campaign cards.

“There is strength in people working together, and I am committed to doing that,” she said. “We need to have a vision in heading in the direction we need to go.”

The Greater Valley Area and Chambers County learned a painful lesson, she said, in putting all our eggs in one baskets with textiles.

“Kia is great, but we don’t want to set ourselves up for a fall. We need diversity in our industrial base,” she said. “With diversity, if one company leaves, you won’t be devastated.”

Mrs. Riley said that she wanted to see continued industrial and commercial growth in the local area.

“Industry brings growth and change, and that’s not a bad thing,” she said. “We need that for our community. Most of us want our children and grandchildren to stay here and to have good jobs.”

Mrs. Riley said she has enjoyed being in a campaign, getting out and meeting people and talking about the future with them.