Judge Alford M. Harden Jr. runs for re-election
By Denise DuBois
Alford M. Harden Jr. is seeking re-election as Russell County’s Probate Judge. He is the incumbent and one of three candidates on the Democratic ballot.
Harden was born and raised in Russell County. Before being elected as the probate judge in 2006, he was in banking for more than 30 years. He is seeking re-election because he loves what he gets to do every day.
“I love my job and I love people,” he said. “I love serving people and I’m not ready to put that torch down yet. When I first started banking, you could make a handshake and a piece of paper and do someone a mortgage loan because you knew their character. I enjoyed that part. When you could no longer make those decisions based on their character and help people, it was time for me to move to a field where I could. That’s the wonderful thing about the Probate Office because that’s all we do.”
The Probate Office is the record keeper for the county and has maintained the records since 1835.
“We have the original land records in our office and I’m charged with taking care of those records,” he said.
While the office is responsible for issuing licenses, Harden also holds court. The office handles guardianship, adoption, estate and eminent domain cases. Harden’s personal favorites, though, are the adoption cases.
“When you see the joy that comes to their face and say, ‘from this day forward, this child’s name shall be..,’ they just glow. They’re so ecstatic. They went from not being a legal family to being a whole family and especially when you’ve taken a child from a bad situation and placed them with a family that’s loving and caring.
“I’ll never forget a little boy once told me, ‘Judge, I have my own bedroom.’ He had been a foster child and never had his own bedroom. I’m blessed every day because I get to do what my dad said: ‘We’re born to serve others.’ I get to do it in a manner that touches lives. That’s why I do what I do,” Harden said.
Since he has been in office, Harden has saved the county $251,000 by streamlining some processes, digitizing records and cutting the fat, he said. He hopes to be able to do more electronic processes, however, some of the office’s processes cannot be done online for legal reasons.
“We’re looking now at what we can post on the Web site by law,” he said, but technology and laws are ever changing. He’s looking forward to what the future holds. He has also added a Senior Citizen Advisor who comes to the office three times a month and offers free services to senior citizens.
Harden has been married to his wife Ellen for 33 years and they have two adult children. He is a member of Lakewood Baptist Church, however, they attend First Baptist Church with Harden’s in-laws. Harden has been the president of the Chamber of Commerce, has served on multiple boards, and is a current member of Rotary and the Phenix City Education foundation.
He is also the Vice President and soon-to-be President of the Alabama Probate Judge Association. He has been endorsed by the local Fraternal Order of Police.
Jasponica Florence Moore challenges incumbent
By Denise DuBois
Jasponica Florence Moore is one of three Democratic candidates seeking the Russell County Probate Judge position.
Moore spent 12 years in the Army Reserves and spent the last 25 years working with young people in education.
“I love, love working with young people and our seasoned citizens,” Moore. “I love serving and helping others.”
Moore decided to run for Probate Judge because she wants to be able to help those in need.
“We know this office touches so many lives – really having that personal attachment to people, having some experience that I think I can improve upon – has been why,” she said of wanting to run. “I realize the Probate Judge’s Office meets the needs of people at every aspect, from marriage licenses to those not having a will. I really have been about the community and serving others.”
Her slogan is “VOICE.”
“V,” she said, stands for voter’s rights and protections. Moore wants voters to feel more part of the process and to exercise their choice to vote. “O” stands for being in the office of integrity. She said people coming to the Probate Office are sometimes at their lowest. Maybe they don’t have a will, she said, or have mental challenges.
“At those hours, they’re vulnerable,” she said. “I want to be there to listen as a mediator.”
“I” stands for integrity. “C” stands for change and “E” stands for education.
“I stand for initiating change,” Moore said. “I feel like when people hear ‘change,’ they get startled. “We know it happens and can embrace it.
“It’s so crucial to get us into the 21st (century). If it takes two to four clicks to get to a resource, that’s the limit. We don’t want to have to call or talk to you.”
“You should be able to text us,” Moore said of the technology she hopes to employ if elected. “Just get us a few clicks away. We should be able to click and see that information – who owns this or that property.”
Moore is a Russell County native. She graduated from Central High School in 1989, then served in the Army Reserves, attended college, then returned home. She has a three-year-old and has been a member of Pine Hill Missionary Baptist Church for 25 years.
“I brag about Phenix City all the time,” she said. She said she wants to be part of the community’s future and its growth.
“I’ve served in so many capacities that I know service is who I am,” Moore said. “I’m willing to say that no one can outserve me. It’s an important part of who I am. When you are blessed, you have to be a blessing to others in return.
“It’s not about me, it’s about what I can give. I worked on other people’s campaigns, and realized that the timing is mine, so I’m putting forth my best effort.”
Moore is part of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and American Legion Post 135. She also is a chamber ambassador and helps with the Phenix City Mayor’s scholarship ball.
Kelvin B. “Kelbo” Smith vies against two others
By Blenda Copeland
The office of Russell County Probate Judge is the position that Kelvin B. “Kelbo” Smith has his heart set on.
Smith is one of three Democratic candidates vying for the office.
A lifelong resident of Russell County, he went to school at St. Joseph’s, Mt. Olive and graduated from Pacelli High School in Columbus. He holds his bachelor’s degree from Alabama State University and his Master’s degree in Administration and Leadership from Troy University.
He has been married 20 years to his wife Maketa, with whom he has six children, the youngest three of whom are triplets.
Regarding his platform, Smith advocates for most, if not all, eligible people in the county to be registered to vote. He also believes voters should be educated and informed about the topics so they may make sound decisions about different bills on the ballot. He supports the idea of inviting lawyers, judges, and other such people to help decode for the average voter what the complex wording of various bills really says.
Last, he believes voters should be mobilized: they should have the opportunity to get to the polls to vote; barriers should be eliminated. He supports the idea of churches and civic organizations being involved in increasing transportation access to the polls.
He refers to himself as being “Of the people, for the people and by the people.” By that he means he’s “one of you – just ‘regular folk.’” He said the only way he can be “by the people” is if the people elect him to office.
If elected, he’d like to help citizens resolve their issues. If he can’t help, he’ll find someone who can, he said.
As for changes he’d like to see implemented if elected, he’d like to make the Probate Office more “mobile,” meaning he’d like to see if satellite offices could open in other parts of the county in a central location that would be more convenient to those who must travel about a half hour to currently to do business at the Probate Judge’s Office.
He said perhaps the county Tag Office’s services could also be offered at the satellite offices, too, although that would not fall under the auspices of the Probate Judge’s services. He thinks the idea would work, noting that people who live in areas like Dixie, Hurtsboro, Glenville, Cottonton, etc., are not only far away from the courthouse, but many also operate on Central Time, whereas the courthouse operates on Eastern Time, because it is located in Phenix City. “Those people are on Central Standard Time,” Smith said, which means they’re still at work when the courthouse closes, or they’re getting ready to go to work when the courthouse opens.
Smith is a deacon at Mt. Olive Baptist Church in Ft. Mitchell, president of the Lamda Mu Nu Chapter of the Omega Psi Phi Fraternity Inc. and helped start an organization at Ridgecrest Elementary School called Fathers Being Involved (FBI).
“I’m a committed man,” he said. “I’m a man of great character. I’m a man of integrity.”
He also said he’s genuine with people: what you see is what you get. “I’m not one that can fake anything; I’ll be the first to tell you,” he said.
Smith said he knows what it’s like to follow and also to lead, through servant leadership. He uses the adjectives “caring, patient and approachable” to describe himself and said he’s a strong believer in respect. “I can talk to anybody – from the president of the United States to the ditch digger in the street – because it all starts with respect.”
Smith is the son of Shirley Smith, a retired Russell County educator who he said has been a poll watcher all his life. He wants to be a voice for the community, and be one of the people in the 35- to 50-year-old age group who makes a difference. He wants to leave an honorable legacy for his children, too, and for this county.
“My character speaks for itself,” he said.
In the community, Smith has served in various roles, including coaching in Little League baseball and the Phenix City baseball league as well as the football league; and also umpired during the late, former City Councilman Max Wilkes’ era.
“I’m a fair person of sound mind able to be neutral on whatever’s presented,” Smith said, noting he’d bring those values into his role in dealing with duties of the office, some of which include adoption placements and handling mental health cases, for example.