Commissioner Carolyn Parker announced Tuesday during the Etowah County Commission’s morning work session that she won’t seek re-election, instead stepping forward as a candidate for mayor of Gadsden.
“I’m looking forward to what the future holds,” said Parker. “It’s nothing personal, I’m just ready to move along.”
Qualifications for city elections start July 3, with elections held Aug. 28 for the mayoral office and seven City Council members, and a runoff on Oct. 9, if needed. The new administration begins Nov. 5.
Parker said a formal announcement of her candidacy is forthcoming.
Probate Judge Bobby Junkins spoke with commissioners about possible updates to voting in Etowah County, requesting that the commission consider purchasing electronic voting pads for this year’s round of county elections. The pads would cut down on poll worker labor and increase efficiency, as well as prevent or reduce errors and crossover voting. Some models, he said, could scan a voter’s driver’s license for easy identification, and the connection to an electronic database would make sifting through the county’s 68,000 voters a simpler process. He estimated the cost at about $100 per year per unit, including maintenance.
“It’s probably one of the most progressive things Etowah County can do since I’ve been here for 29 years,” said Junkins.
Rural Transportation Director Lora Weaver spoke with the commission about the use of the Job Access and Reverse Commute grant provided by the Federal Transit Administration and Alabama Department of Transportation. JARC provides free transportation to low-income families and families transitioning off of welfare assistance to and from work, training or work-related activities, and covers 100 percent of transportation costs. In addition to offering rides to low-income parents, children can get rides to and from daycare.
Weaver, Parker and Circuit Judge David Kimberley worked together to expand the program’s scope to include high school students who work and raise children, and former felons who were released from incarceration and trying to hold down a job.
“It’s in our best interest for these men and women to be able to take care of their children,” said Weaver.
The program currently has four participants, Weaver said, some of whom are shuttled after hours by Love’s Taxi Service, which contracts with the county. Parker said that she believes that the program will bolster the local economy as word gets out that it is available as more people get and keep jobs.
“Some of the staffing agencies, they’re willing to hire these individuals but they need them to be reliable in the transportation department,” she said.
Those interested in applying for JARC transportation are asked to call the Etowah County Department of Human Resources at 256-549-4100 or Community Action of Etowah County at 256-546-9271.