Special guest: Lt. Governor Will Ainsworth speaks to Chambers County leaders at Lanett Regional Airport

Published 5:15 pm Monday, April 25, 2022

Lt. Governor Will Ainsworth made a stop Monday at the Lanett Regional Airport to speak to Chambers County leaders.

Ainsworth spent most of his comments highlighting the economic growth in Alabama and Chambers County before officially announcing his endorsement of Senator Randy Price, who is up for re-election in District 13, and then making a surprise endorsement of Rep. Debbie Wood, who is running against Micah Messer in the District 38 primary on May 24.

“She [Wood] doesn’t know that I’m doing this,” Ainsworth said. “But, I want to say this, we need her back also. You know, I am putting my support and endorsement behind her 100%.”

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Ainsworth said Price and Wood were great partners and that he needs that as he travels around recruiting new business to Alabama.

“If we don’t have quality people in Montgomery, [I] can go around the state working as hard as I can to recruit industry and try to make sure we work for people in education, but I need partners, and you’ve got two great partners here.”

Ainsworth is up for re-election this term and is unopposed in both the primary and general elections.

In her opening remarks, Chambers County Development Authority Executive Director Valerie Gray alluded to all the work that has been done in Chambers County during her 24 years with CCDA. But also, there is more to be done.

“There’s still a lot that we want to get done a lot we want to accomplish,” she said. “And it’s not just chasing smokestacks and industrial development. It’s working on our housing developments. It’s working on our schools, most importantly, our public schools, our children, my children. I want them to stay here. I want them to stay here and make a difference in the community.”

With that, Gray introduced Wood, who took the room back to 2009, where she painted the bleak picture that was Chambers County.

“In 2009, we had the highest unemployment ever in the state in this county,” she said. “I watched this community almost die. It took private people; I look over there at Woody. It took people that sat on boards. I looked at Bruce [Emfinger]. It took people who were elected. I look at our mayors, our county commission. And it took the Economic Development Office here to work together to bring us out of that.”

Before bringing up Price, Wood thanked Ainsworth for taking the time to come speak in Chambers County.

Price echoed Wood’s sentiments on how the leadership in Chambers County works tirelessly to ensure the growth of the county as he introduced Ainsworth.

“I tell people, and Valerie [Gray] and I talked about this four years ago — this is the next little gold star on I-85,” Price said. “Because we got leadership in the county commission and our mayor offices that understand that the infrastructure that needs to be put in place is being put in place to where you can bring those industries here.”

Ainsworth began talking about Alabama’s 16% growth in the Education Trust Fund. He said 8% of that growth came from one-time federal funding that the state may never see again.

“Let me say this, probably 8% of that was from federal one time, money we’ll never get again, and so we budgeted conservatively,” he said. “But still 8% growth without the one-time money. You ought to be proud of what’s going on in Alabama. I want to say this, I also looked coming in at y’all’s stats, you know, from the last census your county’s growing. You look at a lot of counties, and I’d say y’all an outlier for what’s going on in rural counties.”

Ainsworth touched on Alabama’s mission to expand broadband saying, “our goal is simple — no matter where you live, to have access to high-speed internet. We put more money in our state’s history in the last four years in the broadband than anyone.”

Broadband expansion has been a hot-button topic specifically for Chambers County, where CCDA deputy director Chris Busby estimates geographically 60-70% of the county is without broadband service and only 55-60% of the county’s population has access.

What Ainsworth said he is most proud of is the work of a bill passed that changes the requirements for unemployment in Alabama.

“We had a real problem during the pandemic of people getting used to getting a check from the federal government,” Ainsworth said. “We passed a bill to make sure that if you’re going to be on unemployment, you have to actually, in the past it was look for a job once a week. So now we’ve got to work within the federal guidelines on this. Now, they got applied three times a week, and also prove the Department of Labor that they’re actually looking and showing up for a job.”

After Ainsworth concluded, he stuck around and spoke with every person in attendance and posed for photos.

Gray thanked everyone for coming out and said she was pleased with the turnout.