Public Official Spotlight: Valerie Bradford Davis, Probate Judge, Clarke County

valerie_davis_2011Clarke County is considered “ground zero” for the timber industry in Alabama and thankfully we have a public official there that “gets it.”

Judge Valerie Bradford Davis was appointed as Probate Judge for Clarke County in 2009 by then Governor Bob Riley. She served out her appointed term and then ran successfully for election becoming the first Republican elected to serve as Probate Judge in Clarke County in 100 years.

Judge Davis grew up in Scyrene, a small community 15 miles east of Grove Hill. She is the daughter of Calvin and Terri Bradford, earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of Alabama and graduated with honors from The University of Mobile with a master’s degree in Marriage and Family Therapy. She is married to Tommy Davis, a Semmes, Alabama firefighter and they have two children, Jay and Grace.

So what caught our attention about Judge Davis?

The Clarke County Commission had indicated that they were going to consider adopting a timber logging ordinance during their April 22, 2014 meeting. Becoming aware of this, Judge Davis, the daughter of a logger, recognized the negative impact such an ordinance might have on the local timber industry.

Using her public stature, Judge Davis immediately contacted the Alabama Forestry Association and sought our assistance in preparing and sending a letter to Clarke County timberland owners informing them of the Commission’s activities. Without her involvement and diligence, the Commission may have moved forward with the ordinance.

Because of her leadership efforts, the Commission did not adopt a logging ordinance.

She understands that timber is the primary economic engine for Clarke County. She knows that the citizens of Clarke County will suffer if the timber industry is negatively impacted. Protecting the citizens of Clarke County is part of her job responsibilities and she takes this responsibility seriously. Regardless of political party, regardless of the consequences, she put the citizens first. It is not easy to challenge the power structure, especially when you are in the public spotlight. But this did not stand in her way.

The Clarke County Commission is composed of five commissioners. The chairmanship rotates every nine months. The Commission meets every second and fourth Tuesday at 9:00 am in the Annex Building of the Clarke County Courthouse in the Commissioner’s Courtroom located at 114 Court Street, Grove Hill.

Judge Davis has committed to attend all future meetings of the Commission to ensure that a logging ordinance doesn’t get addressed. We need to help her. We need our members to be organized and to participate in the process as well.

We also need to take a few minutes to call Judge Davis and express our appreciation for her service and attention to our industry. Judge Davis’ office number is 251-275-3251. I am sure that she would appreciate hearing from you.

Senator Pittman was Correct- Stagnant Economic Growth will Challenge Repayment of ETF Rainy Day Fund


June 2015 is now one year away and the clock is ticking. Why is this date important? It’s the date that the Education Rainy Day Fund, housed within the Alabama Trust Fund, by constitutional mandate, must be repaid.

The Federal Reserve, this week, sharply reduced its forecast for U.S. economic growth. This year’s growth forecast is now just above 2%.

Six years ago, Governor Riley drained this account to the tune of $437.4 million in order to lessen the impact of proration on the education budget. Why did he have to do that? Frankly, because of the poor fiscal management of the prior legislative leadership. They knew when they passed that year’s education appropriations bill that there was not going to be sufficient revenue to offset the appropriations.

But they went ahead and did it anyway out of political expediency. They had gotten so used to the Federal Government bailing them out with “stimulus” money, that they couldn’t help themselves.

Thankfully, we replaced that leadership in 2010.  Unfortunately, even with good leadership, the legislature has trouble with fiscal responsibility.

Side note here. We are in the midst of an election cycle this year and the AEA has spent nearly $8 million trying to unseat the new leadership. They want us to go back to leadership that got us into this mess in the first place? At least the new leadership is trying to solve the problem, not ignore it.  Go figure….

So fast forward to today. June 2014. We have repaid $274.8 million but still owe a balance of $162.6 million which must be repaid by June 2015. One short year away.

We are currently in the FY14 fiscal year (it ends September 30, 2014). The FY14 education appropriations bill includes an absolute appropriation of $35 million to repay the fund. It also included a supplemental conditional appropriation of $65 million.

How does the supplemental conditional appropriation process work? Well, if revenues exceed absolute appropriated expenditures, and you are below the “cap” of the Rolling Reserve Act (which we are for FY14), then the difference is expended according to the conditional appropriations set forth in the bill.

The FY14 appropriation bill included three tiers of conditional appropriations. Tier One (paid first) was $66 million, which includes $65 million for ETF Rainy Day repayment and $1 million for the Insurance Information and Research Center (whatever that is). Tier Two included 19 joint conditionals that total $31.8 million. The only Tier Three conditional is $150 million for additional repayment to the Rainy Day Fund.

So how much is going to be leftover at the end of FY14? Good question.

The best case scenario, at this point, is that at the close of FY14 (September 30, 2014), we will have repaid an additional $100 million ($35 million absolute and $65 million conditional), which would leave $62 million to go.

During the debate on the FY15 education appropriations bill in the last legislative session, the Legislative Fiscal Office was estimating economic growth numbers of 3.5% and thus they were anticipating a surplus of around $100 million. If that were the case, then there would be adequate funds to pay the $65 million conditional appropriation and thus leave the need for a $62 million absolute appropriation in the FY15 bill.

However, the legislature and the Governor did not agree. They felt that growth would exceed the LFO estimates and that more surplus would be available for repayment. Therefore they only included a $35 million absolute appropriation in the FY15 appropriations bill.

pittmanAmong the 140 legislators, there was one principal voice of reason that opposed the rosy scenario. Senator Trip Pittman (R-Daphne), Chairman of the Senate’s Education Trust Fund Committee adamantly opposed anything but a $62 million absolute appropriation. He fought on the Senate floor as legislator after legislator made the argument of prosperous economic growth. The House had passed their bill with only $27.5 million. The Senate, with Senator Pittman’s prevailing leadership passed their bill with the $62 million.

Unfortunately, in conference, Senator Pittman was just one of six conferees. The result? A $35 million absolute repayment for FY15. So now, without the anticipated economic growth, we will be at least $27 million short and that’s assuming that the Tier One conditional appropriation of $65 million is fully funded. Remember LFO was anticipating a 3.5% growth rate for that to occur.

And now the Fed is projecting a 2% growth rate for the rest of the year.

June 2015. It’s coming fast. Where will the money come from? The estimates for growth within the ETF for FY15 indicate a surplus of nearly $157 million above the anticipated “cap” imposed by the Rolling Reserve Act. This is money that, by statute (Rolling Reserve Act), must be first used to repay the Rainy Day Account and then to build an additional proration prevention account. But this money will not be available until the close of FY15 (September 30, 2015).  So we can’t use that.

The Rainy Day Fund, by constitutional mandate, has to be repaid by June, 2015.

So how are they going to get around that? Most likely they will have to pass a supplemental appropriations bill in the next legislative session to repay the money. In order to do that, they will have to violate the Rolling Reserve Act.

Is this a fiscal crisis?  No.  The problem will ultimately be solved, but it will be a messy solution.

All the more reason to pass a bill to make the Rolling Reserve a constitutional provision. We will be advocating that in this next legislative session.

AFA’s Annual Meeting to include Hancock’s CEO Christensen


We are excited to confirm today that Daniel P. “Dan” Christensen has committed to participate in the AFA Annual Meeting to be held September 7-9th at the Perdido Beach Resort in Orange Beach, Alabama.  Mr. Christensen will be participating in the “State of the Union” panel scheduled for Monday morning, September 8th.  Joining Dan on the panel is John Luke, Chairman of MeadWestVaco.  Other panelists will be announced soon.

In his capacity as CEO of Hancock Natural Resource Group, Dan has overall responsibility for the Hancock Timber Resource Group, Hancock Agricultural Investment Group and Hancock Renewable Energy Group business units.

Dan is a board member of Hancock Natural Resource Group, and a Chairman of its Natural Resource Investment Committee, Chairman and President of John Hancock Timber Resource Corporation, Chairman and CEO of Hancock Forest Management, and Hancock Forest Management New Zealand and Chairman of Hancock Natural Resource Group Australasia. Dan is also Chairman of Hancock Victorian Plantations, Hancock Queensland Plantations, Tiaki Plantations Company, Taumata Plantations Limited, Tasman Bay Forest, Hancock Timberland VII, Hancock Timberland VIII, Hancock Timberland IX, Hancock Timberland X and Hancock Timberland XI, Comox Timber Ltd, and CEO of Red River Timberlands Company. Dan also serves on the Board of National Alliance of Forest Owners (NAFO) and the Board of the Sustainable Forestry Initiative Inc. (SFI).

Hancock Timber Resource Group was founded in 1985 and is based in Boston, Massachusetts, USA, where they develop and manage globally diversified timberland portfolios for public and corporate pension plans, high net-worth individuals, and foundations and endowments. As of December 2013, assets under management totaled $11.5 billion. These assets are located in the United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and Brazil.


They are the world’s largest timberland investment manager for institutional investors, serving both domestic and non-US clients and maintains regional asset management offices in Charlotte, North Carolina; Vancouver, Washington; Sydney, Australia; and Rotorua, New Zealand.
Hancock Natural Resource Group, Inc. is a registered investment adviser and wholly owned subsidiary of Manulife Financial Corporation.

AFA Publishes Additional Endorsements


The Board of Directors of the Alabama Forestry Association’s political action committee, ForestPAC, met Friday, June 13th and voted to endorse several candidates for the runoff election scheduled for Tuesday, July 15th.

Public Service Commission Place 2- Chip Beeker
State Senate District 1- Tim Melson
State Senate District 17- Shay Shelnutt
State Senate District 30- Clyde Chambliss
House of Representatives District 12- Mac Buttram (previously endorsed)
House of Representatives District 43- Arnold Mooney

All of these runoff races are highly contested. If you live in one of these districts, please consider supporting the ForestPAC endorsements. If you would like to volunteer to assist in any of these elections, we would gratefully appreciate it. And as always, if you would like to assist financially, please contact us and we will be glad to facilitate your support.

As we have stated many times before…Elections Have Consequences! One House district could mean the difference between the good guys having the cloture votes necessary to get important legislation passed.

We will be forwarding further information about our endorsed candidates as the election date approaches. Stay informed and get involved!


AFA Member Plays Role in Auburn University Mascot Lore


Alabama Forestry Association member and ForestPAC Piedmont District Director, Dell Hill had occasion to be an unsuspecting participant in what would later become one of the greatest game-day traditions in all of college football. According to to this article, prior to 1960, though the cry of “War Eagle” had become deeply ingrained in Auburn (or API at the time) tradition, no live eagle was ever an Auburn mascot. As you will see from this article from the Auburn Plainsman (reprinted with permission) things were due to change during Dell’s sophomore year in college…..

Meet New Mascot, “War Eagle II”
Golden Eagle Found Near Talladega Soon to Train for Mascot Duty
By Don Phillips
Plainsman Feature Writer
Date- Unknown (Circa 1960)

SOMEWHERE in the Rocky Mountains last spring, a Golden Eagle saw the light of day for the first time. He looked around, decided he didn’t like the mountain country, and headed for the rolling plains of Alabama. Little did he know that he was destined to become War Eagle II, Auburn’s first official mascot since War Eagle I gave one last mighty shriek and toppled dead to the ground as Auburn won its first football game, in 1892.

War Eagle II was first seen November 10, in a cotton field near Curry Station, Alabama, six miles from Talladega, and about 12 miles from Cheaha Mountain. He had come down from the mountains, probably after food and was trapped between two rows of cotton so the he couldn’t spread his wings and fly. Some Negro cotton pickers saw the eagle but were afraid to get near enough to capture him, so one of them went after a shotgun. Luckily he wasn’t a good shot, for he only winged the great bird.

Next day, November 11, Carson Whitson, Talladega postmaster, and some of his hands were working horses on Whitson’s farm, also at Curry Station. As Whitson and one of his workers were driving along in a pickup truck they noticed a disturbance among some cattle. Closer investigation revealed what appeared to be an owl or a vulture crouched on the ground, but they suddenly realized that it was an eagle. With a spirit worthy of Auburn, the big eagle never gave up. Although he couldn’t fly, as the men approached he snapped at them and started running. But they managed to head him off in the truck and pinned his head to the ground with a pitch fork. They then took the eagle to a chicken coop where he stayed the next few days.

NEXT SUNDAY Whitson told Talladega County Agent, O.V. Hill about his dilemma. (At that time the eagle was eating a chicken a day.) Hill, who owns Selwood Turkey Farm in Talladega, was planning to send a load of Thanksgiving turkeys to Auburn that week and offered to give the eagle a ride down. That night Hill called his son Dell, an Auburn student, and asked him to contact school authorities to see if Auburn could use an eagle. Naturally, they were very receptive to the idea.

So it was that on Tuesday, November 15, War Eagle II got his first view of Auburn. He was first taken to the ATO house where he refused a cold chicken leg, but made fast work of a live chicken. Later that afternoon, Dr. Morris Baker, head of the wildlife department, took him to the department’s animal pens.

Dr. Baker’s research has brought to life some interesting facts about War Eagle II. He is not a Bald Eagle, as was first supposed, but a Golden Eagle. The Golden Eagle breeds only in the Rocky Mountains, but almost every winter a few make it to Alabama. Only two others have been reported this year. It is very fitting that War Eagle II be a Golden Eagle, for the western Indians gave the breed the name “war eagle” because they preferred its feathers for their war bonnets.

AT LAST REPORT War Eagle II was doing very well. His wing is completely healed and he is flying around inside his cage. He is a little more tame than he was when first captured, but it is still a good idea not to get too close to the cage. When he is full grown he will have dark brown feathers with a purple gloss, a brownish-yellow head and neck, (thus the name, Golden Eagle) and bright yellow beak and claws. Right now he has quite a bit of white at the tips of his feathers.

According to James E. Foy, Dean of Student Affairs, War Eagle II’s future remains uncertain. General plans are to keep as official mascot and to carry him to all pep rallies, parades and football games. Alpha Phi Omega, national service fraternity, has under consideration a plan to build a portable cage and trailer, but nothing definite has been decided.

The suggestion has been offered, under care of an experienced trainer, the eagle could be domesticated and taught to strike a lure- that is, to fly from his trainer’s shoulder and to attack some object. What a sight it would be for instance, at the Georgia Tech game to see the “war eagle” come screaming down on a large yellow jacket being whirled through the air, and rip it to pieces in mid-air. Of course the eagle would be attached to his trainer by a long nylon string. Dr. Baker says that since the eagle is so young that it would be very possible to train him. All that is needed now is an experienced trainer.

Perhaps someday soon Auburn will see the great “war eagle” fly again. Indeed War Eagle II is destined to become a great part of the spirit he symbolizes.

Further investigation (Wikipedia) indicates that the 1960’s War Eagle II actually was not the second eagle associated with Auburn. Auburn’s first real, live-eagle mascot, War Eagle II, was mentioned in the New York Times, which noted then that “War Eagle” was already established as Auburn’s battle cry. In November 1930 a golden eagle swooped down on a flock of turkeys in Bee Hive, Alabama, southwest of Auburn, Alabama, and became entangled in a mass of pea vines. Fourteen individuals and businesses scraped together $10 and purchased the eagle from the farmer who owned the pea patch. Cheerleaders DeWit Stier and Harry “Happy” Davis (who later became executive secretary of the Auburn Alumni Association) helped care for the new bird. It was put in a strong wire cage and taken to the Auburn football game against the University of South Carolina in Columbus, Georgia on Thanksgiving Day.

Auburn, having not won a Southern Conference game in four seasons, was anticipated to lose. However, Auburn took a 25-7 victory over the Gamecocks. The student body concluded that the luck from the eagle’s presence—which had been absent from their prior losses—was responsible for the victory that day. The eagle was kept in a cage behind Alumni Hall (renamed Ingram Hall), and cared for by members of the “A” Club.

The bird’s ultimate fate is unknown. Some say it died or was carried away by students of a rival school. Others say it was given to a zoo due to the high cost of upkeep; there is even a rumor that it was stuffed and put in the John Bell Lovelace Athletic Museum.
Originally known simply as “War Eagle” this bird was retroactively named “War Eagle II” with the arrival of War Eagle III.

War Eagle III (the 1960’s version discussed in the Plainsman article) escaped in 1964 prior to the Auburn vs. Tennessee game in Birmingham and was later found shot to death.
War Eagle VI, during the 2000 football season, brought to life the “suggestion” alluded to in the Plainsman article by performing a free flight before a home football game.

AFA Bandwagon Steams the Mobile Delta



The Alabama Forestry Association hosted its Delta District Meeting and Mobile Regional Reception last night at Five Rivers Conference Center.DSC_0585


A rather muggy evening greeted the guests as they arrived (Mobile in June, who would imagine that the humidity would be awful, right?) off the Causeway for an evening of fellowship, good food and lively refreshments.




Tacky Jacks, a local popular restaurant, catered the event and no one left hungry!



Prominent local members gathered to greet our local elected officials, including Representative Elaine Beech, Representative David Sessions, Representative Randy Davis, Representative Alan Baker, Representative James Buskey, Representative Napoleon Bracy and newly elected Representative Chris Pringle.

Our Regional Receptions are designed to accomplish three main objectives. First and foremost, we use them as an opportunity to thank our members and give them an opportunity to have a pleasant social event where they can see old friends, talk about timber issues, catch up on family events and to frankly, just relax and enjoy a special evening.


AFA Board members Joe McNeel and Fred Stimpson enjoying the evening.


Earl Flowers, Jim Heath and Fred Stimpson


Edward Travis and Gray Skipper.


Jett Freeman, Pete Bertucci and Hooper Matthews.

The second objective is to provide a setting where we can invite prospective new members to come check us out. If we are going to grow our influence in state politics, we have to reach out to new folks and expand our capability to get a message out to a large number of people. Potential members, when they look around the room at one of our events, can’t help but be impressed with, not only the quantity of members we have, but especially the quality. All across Alabama, particularly in rural communities, our members compose the local leadership, not just in their timber businesses, but also in their civic and charitable activities. We represent, in Montgomery, not only the voice of forestry, but also the voice of integrity, fiscal responsibility and conservative values. Once folks understand what we are about, they want to join in and participate.


Joe Ellis, David Kensey and Brandon Simpson.

DSC_0558Michael Neel, Mark Shannon and Sam Campbell.

The final objective is to invite our local elected officials and provide them a subtle education on who we are and what is important to us. They too, when they look around the room, see how important our members are to the community. They understand that we want them to be our partners as we try to fulfill the mission of AFA in promoting and nurturing a prosperous Alabama.

DSC_0564Here Chris Isaacson and Representative Alan Baker listen attentively as Representative Elaine Beech gives her thoughts on issues affecting her district.


Representative Napolean Bracy and Ann Bedsole.


Representative David Sessions visits with Earl Flowers.


Representative Randy Davis

So, if you live in the Mobile regional area and missed our meeting last night, I hope you will mark your calendars for when we come back next year (tentatively scheduled for Thursday, July 23, 2015). If you live in other parts of the state, look to see when we are going to be in your area and plan to come join us. We will be there soon!

Next up, Andalusia in August, more details on that to follow soon.

The next event we have in Mobile will be the Annual Pigeon Shoot Fundraiser to be held on November 6th at the Delaney Farm in west Mobile County. This is a great event that provides a lot of entertainment. Please plan to be with us.

Finally, mark your calendars for our Annual Meeting to be held September 7-9 at the Perdido Beach Resort in Orange Beach.  We are putting together a terrific panel of speakers and we want this to be the best attended conference that we have ever had.  We can’t do it without your coming, so set aside the date and get ready to come to the beach in September.

It’s Amazing How Little $7 Million Can Accomplish These Days

electionsThe 2014 primary elections have now concluded and we can take a short moment to catch our breath. This election will probably go down as one of the most interesting in Alabama’s storied political history.

The Alabama Education Association’s political action committee, Alabama Voice of Teachers for Education (“AVOTE”) has invested over $7.6 million so far in the election cycle with the objective of changing the leadership and supermajorities that the Republicans enjoy in both houses of the Legislature.

How did they do? Not so hot.

In the Republican primary for the Senate, they participated in nine races and failed to win a single seat. In the Republican primary for the House, they lost eight races, won five and have one candidate in a runoff. They also backed Stan Cooke against Kay Ivey in the Lieutenant Governor’s race and lost that one as well.

Their financial impact will not be truly known until after the General Election in November, but so far, there is little evidence to indicate that a change in the  balance of power is in the cards. In a future article, we will evaluate that possibility with greater depth.

By way of comparison, ForestPAC’s endorsements were much better. We supported Kay Ivey. She won convincingly. We backed ten candidates in the Republican primary for the Senate and won nine. We backed 22 candidates in the Republican primary for the House and won 14, with two races going to runoffs. Overall, 76% of ForestPAC endorsed candidates prevailed, with that number potentially higher after the runoff.

Here are the results of the ForestPAC endorsements with the amount of support AEA provided to their opponents (through the reporting period ending June 2nd).

• U.S. House District 3- Mike Rogers –win
• U.S. House District 5- Mo Brooks- win
• U.S. House District 7- Terri Sewell- win

Statewide Races
• Governor- Robert Bentley- win
• Lt. Governor- Kay Ivey- win

Alabama Senate
• District 2- Bill Holtzclaw- win ($100,000)
• District 4- Paul Bussman- win ($25,590)
• District 7- Paul Sanford- win
• District 8- Steve Livingston- win ($203,068)
• District 11- Jerry Fielding- loss
• District 12- Del Marsh- win ($198,000)
• District 13- Gerald Dial- win ($146,836)
• District 21- Gerald Allen- win
• District 27- Tom Whatley- win ($143,550)
• District 31- Jimmy Holley- win ($350,000)

Alabama House of Representatives
• District 5- Dan Williams- win ($27,413)
• District 9- Ed Henry- win ($46,303)
• District 12- Mac Buttram- runoff ($74,298)
• District 13- Bill Roberts- loss ($62,074)
• District 14- Richard Baughn- loss ($60,088)
• District 16- Kyle South- win
• District 26- Kerry Rich- win ($36,683)
• District 30- Mack Butler- win ($74,445)
• District 35- Steve Dean- loss
• District 38- Randy Price- loss ($89,097)
• District 42- Kurt Wallace- loss
• District 46- Steve French- runoff
• District 47- Jack Williams- win
• District 61- Alan Harper- win ($27,945)
• District 64- Harry Shiver- win
• District 71- Artis (A.J.) McCampbell- win
• District 79- Mike Hubbard- win ($228,200)
• District 80- Lesley Vance- win
• District 90- Charles Newton- loss
• District 91- Barry Moore- win ($45,000)
• District 99- James Buskey- win
• District 101- Chris Pringle- win
• District 102- Jack Williams- win

The runoff election is set for Tuesday, July 15th and there are currently 11 runoff races on the Republican side of the aisle and one runoff race on the Democrat side. ForestPAC will be meeting in the next few days to determine what, if any, additional endorsements will be forthcoming for these races, so stay tuned.

In the meanwhile, two runoffs currently include ForestPAC endorsed candidates. Mac Buttram (HD12) took 44% of the vote and he will be facing AEA funded Corey Harbison who had 41%. Steve French (HD46) trailed David Faulkner by 45% to 26% in the primary, so we have a good bit of work to do in this race. To learn more about Steve,
click here.

The one common denominator throughout this election was the poor turnout. Somehow, we have to address voter apathy. As we have noted often, Elections Have Consequences. We cannot allow big government forces to regain control of the State. We have made great strides in the last four years, but we have a long way to go. Difficult, at best, with the current leadership in place and the cards they are dealing with, but impossible if we return to the way things were.

Stay tuned….