We have two men who were elected to statewide constitutional offices last year, who seem to be doing a good job. They are both working quietly and diligently in their new posts.
Rick Pate was sworn in as the state’s Agriculture Commissioner in January. He followed John McMillan, who served eight years as Agriculture Commissioner. McMillan took a nonpolitical, hardworking, business-like approach. Pate seems to have taken a page from his friend McMillan and appears to have the same non-flamboyant, business-like approach to the job.
Rick Pate is a lifetime farmer who seems to have been perfectly scripted for the role of Agriculture Commissioner of Alabama. My observation of Alabama politics is that Alabamians have a way of ascertaining who the real farmer is in the Ag Commission race. Even urban voters tend to select the man who is an agri-business man.
Rick Pate fits that bill as an agri-business man. He wants to do a good job as Commissioner of Agriculture and not appear to have his eye on a higher office or in other words, use the job as a stepping stone. He will more than likely serve two four-year terms managing this large and important department and retire to the farm.
Rick Pate was born 62 years ago, and grew up working on his family’s cattle and poultry operations in Lowndes County. With his roots in agriculture, it was a natural choice for him to attend Auburn University. He received his Bachelor’s Degree in Ag and Horticulture from Auburn in 1978.
Pate started and ran a successful landscape company in Montgomery for 36 years. However, he never left his beloved home in Lowndes County. In addition to landscaping, he has a purebred Charolais cattle operation. Rick was mayor of Lowndesboro for 14 years before being elected Agriculture Commissioner. He was on the Town Council for eight years prior to becoming mayor. He has been active in the state Republican Party for decades.
Having grown up on a farm, running a business and serving as mayor of a small town, has given Pate a unique perspective to the office of Agriculture Commissioner. He has a genuine concern for the future of agriculture and the people of Alabama.
Lt. Governor Will Ainsworth is a man with a different mission. Unlike Pate, he wants to and will seek higher office. In fact, if Kay Ivey does not run for reelection in 2022, young Will Ainsworth will be a candidate for governor of Alabama, and my suggestion would be do not bet against him being elected governor.
Ainsworth is young. At 38 years old, he is one of the youngest Lt. Governors in state history. He was born and raised in Albertville in picturesque Marshall County, to parents who were self-made financially successful folks. He attended Marshall County public schools and then went on to Auburn University. He graduated from Auburn with a degree in marketing. He owns and operates the Tennessee Valley Hunting and Fishing Expo which draws more than 20,000 attendees each year.
Prior to entering public service, he worked as a youth pastor at Albertville’s Grace Baptist Church and was a co-founder of Dream Ranch, one of the premier hunting and fishing lodges in the United States. At age 33, he was elected to the Alabama House of Representatives where he served for one term from 2014 to 2018, prior to his election as Lt. Governor in November 2018.
After a close Republican Primary victory, he won overwhelmingly in the General Election. He actually received the most votes of any candidate for constitutional office on the General Election ballot.
Ainsworth has won the respect and admiration of many of the veteran state senators for his quick grasp of the intricate senate rules. He presides effectively and fairly. State Senator Jabo Waggoner, (R-Vestavia), who has been observing lieutenant governors for over three decades, recently said, “Will Ainsworth has learned the rules and presided better than any lieutenant governor I can remember.” These same sentiments were echoed by other veteran state senators.
Will Ainsworth has a bright future in Alabama politics. It also does not hurt that he hails from the vote rich and growth centered Tennessee Valley Huntsville metro area of the state.
Troy University Chancellor Jack Hawkins, Jr. has recently celebrated 30 years as presiding officer of the Troy University System. He has done a yeoman’s job over those three decades. He has left an indelible legacy in Alabama higher education history. He is the longest serving chancellor of a major university in not only Alabama but the entire nation.
Steve Flowers is Alabama’s leading political columnist. His weekly column appears in over 60 Alabama newspapers. He served 16 years in the state legislature. Steve may be reached at www.steveflowers.us.