Lee County Commission Dist. 5: Billingslea, Burton, Dowdell, LaGrand
Kami Billingslea vies for Dist. 5 seat
By Denise DuBois
Kami Billingslea is one of four Democratic candidates seeking the District 5 Lee County Commission seat. She is a nine-year resident of Lee County and works at Smiths Station High School. She has a Bachelor’s degree in Business Management from the University of Phoenix and is almost finished with her Master’s degree in Career and Technical Education from Athens State University.
“Our current commissioner has been there for 24 years,” Billingslea said. “Even though he’s not running for re-election, I’ve felt it’s time for change in our district. I want to represent my side of the district a lot. Opelika and Auburn are well represented. Rural parts need more representation.” Billingslea lives in the unincorporated portion of Lee County near Phenix City and Smiths Station. “When you love where you live, you’re obligated to serve,” she said.
If she is elected to the seat, Billingslea wants to focus her efforts on making sure schools are safer places with more School Resource Officers. “We need more school security and to recruit more SROs,” she said. “We need one at every school.”
Billingslea also hopes the county can develop a career technical center for students who want to find a technical job or get certifications to be electricians, plumbers and work in the HVAC industry.
“These are things our manufacturers need,” she said. “If we could incorporate that in Lee County, that would be awesome.”
Billingslea would also like to see term limits for local offices, and match resources in answer to citizens’ questions or concerns.
“I absolutely love jumping in to help people,” she said. “I feel that God has led me to serve with a happy heart for my entire life and this journey is just an extension of that lifestyle. I love the momentum that Lee County has gained and I hope that I can build on the work of our current commissioners to help promote Lee County as the best county in Alabama.”
Billingslea has been married to husband Scott for 18 years, and they have three children: Jake, 17; Troy, 13; and Eva, 11. All attend Smiths Station schools. They attend Church of the Highlands and are involved in veteran organizations.
Elizabeth Burton set for Dist. 5 seat
Lifelong Lee County resident Elizabeth “Liz” Burton is seeking to represent District 5 on the Lee County Commission, saying she can and will make a difference in the county.
“I will work hard to make sure that the citizens of Lee County’s needs are met by working with Judge English and the entire commission to get the job done,” said Burton, who is pursuing the seat currently held by John Andrew Harris. Harris is not seeking re-election on the commission, instead pursuing an office at the state level.
Burton listed paving roads, repairing and replacing bridges, and increasing law enforcement presence on county roads and at bus stops as some issues she cares about.
“Recently, I had the opportunity to accompany Commissioner Harris to the Lee County Sheriff’s Office, to entertain ideas regarding helping inmates and to offer my services to assist with inmate/detainee ministry, so that each inmate becomes familiar with the services Lee County has to offer,” she explained. “I (…) believe in equality for all people. As a result, I will work diligently to assist in this area, too.”
Burton also sees a need for the county to apply for more grants, adding she has experience to assist with obtaining those grants. She also hopes to sponsor conferences and training that would include working with other counties and cities to discuss best practices “to help organizations achieve goals, to promote education, and to make sure each child has adequate supplies to obtain his/her education.”
Ensuring water systems in the county are maintained is another top priority for Burton, who said her former home was flooded with raw sewage in 2015.
Finally, Burton wants to work on programs that would assist senior citizens in the community with having adequate heat in the winter and cool air in the summer. She also hopes to partner with community agencies to initiate recreational activities for all residents.
“I love everyone,” she said. “It does not matter what race, gender, origin or creed they are. I have morals, dignity, and self-respect, and I love God and I love others. I will always put God first in my life. It is my desire that everyone be blessed, and I promise that my goals will be accomplished, and they will be done to perfection.”
Story from the Opelika Auburn News by writer Kara Coleman.
Arthur Dowdell ready for Dist. 5 seat
By Blenda Copeland
“Bishop” Arthur L. Dowdell Sr. has his eyes set on the Lee County Commission District 5 seat – the seat being vacated by Commissioner John Andrew Harris, who is seeking another office.
Dowdell is one of four Democrats seeking the position.
He said he’s been involved in politics since he was in his early 20s. In 1994, he ran for Auburn City Council and served there for 16 years (1994-2002 and 2006-2014).
He’s passionate about being a voice in the communities of Auburn and Lee County. He said he’s well-known for his advocacy in Lee County and believes he’s the most qualified candidate because he’s advocated for others’ rights for more than 30 years.
“I feel like my record will prove itself,” he said.
Dowdell said he wants to “change the county commission once and for all.”
Regarding his platform, he said the first action he would seek is to “eradicate the probate judge’s chairmanship of the county commission.”
He’d also like to see all the roads in the county get paved and that the money to do so is spread in every district equally.
Dowdell also would like to look at the county jail and ensure the Lee County Sheriff’s Office has enough money for various program needs, such as for drug treatment and ensuring that inmates can earn their GED while incarcerated.
Dowdell has been married 16 years to his wife and has 12 children. He’s an Auburn High graduate, previously served honorably in the military and later entered into the ministry. He said he received his Bachelor’s degree of theology from the International Bible Institute in Florida and his Doctorate of Divinity degree from the Tennessee School of Religion.
If elected, “I’m gonna be a people’s county commissioner,” he said.
Richard LaGrand eyes Dist. 5 seat
By Blenda Copeland
Richard LaGrand is ready to slip into the Lee County Commission District 5 seat.
This is the first time he’s run for public office, “But I have always taken an interest in the political climate in Lee County and its impact on our citizens,” he said.
“I have been the morning show host and involved in radio for the past 30 years on WZMG, which has given me the opportunity to meet and greet a diverse set of many people in Lee County. I am a product of a Lee County high school and have watched this community and the changes it has experienced since a young age.
“As a former Chairman of the Board for East Alabama Services for the Elderly, I played an integral part in securing a $3.5 million refinance for the Ease House building.”
If elected, “I will make it my goal to see the establishment of more education programs regarding Elder Abuse and to ensure the public understands the depth of this issue and how it impacts our families, friends and our community as a whole, right here in Lee County,” LaGrand said.
“I will also seek more opportunities to work with the school system in Lee County to address the devastating impact of bullying and promote the creation of more programs that focus on diversity and inclusion. Our children are our future and we should continue to work to provide them with a healthy, secure path leading to a prosperous future.”
On accessibility, “As a candidate for Lee County Commission, District 5, I have already implemented a plan for an open-door policy for the population of my district,” LaGrand said. “In March, I established an office in downtown Opelika and will maintain that space once elected, ensuring the citizens can visit to discuss concerns, issues and offer suggestions. It is of the utmost importance to me that there is an open line of communication between myself and the citizens of Lee County and to have everyone realize that I am here to ensure they have a voice in the future of our community.”