State Legislature Dist. 83: Gray, Harris, Jones, Reed

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Jeremy Gray hopes for State Rep. title

By Denise DuBois

Jeremy Gray is one of four Democratic candidates seeking the State Representative District 83 seat. Gray is an Opelika native and played football at Opelika High School then for North Carolina State University before playing professional football for four years. He has a Bachelor’s degree in Sports Management.

Gray founded Elevate Your Grind (EYG), a health and wellness brand, which assists individuals in the Southeast Region in connecting with the strength within to become more productive individuals in their everyday lives. He now seeks state office.

“I’m running for office because I want to be the answers to your questions, the solution to your problems, and the change we have been waiting to see in District 83 – moving from poverty to productivity and from promise to prosperity,” Gray said.

He is campaigning on three “E”s: Envision, Engagement and Entrepreneurship. If elected, he hopes to establish an incubator that connects entrepreneurs to resources, to strengthen programs for the elderly population to live a healthy lifestyle, implement workforce development initiatives, and partner with programs to ensure previously incarcerated citizens are given opportunities to have more favorable outcomes.

“I want to be in this position, I’m at that age where I’m old enough to receive the wisdom from the older generation and young enough to be interactive with your kid or your grandkid where they’ll receive what I’m saying,” Gray said. “We need that. We need that next generation leader to come to the forefront. I felt like it is my calling to do it.”

Gray has served on the advisory board for the Opelika Community of Hope, Opelika High School Career Tech, Lee-Russell Ombudsman, and Opelika Ward 2. In addition to his responsibilities as a board member, Gray is a member of the 100 Black Men of Opelika/Auburn and Greater Peace Missionary Baptist Church where Rev. Clifford E. Jones is the pastor. Gray has been honored with the distinction of being an Opelika Chamber of Commerce’s 20 Under 40 alumnus, Alpha Kappa Alpha Humanitarian Award recipient, recipient of the Golden Rule Lodge Community Involvement Award, and presented small business development and health and wellness lectures to area chambers of commerce, hospital administrations, mental health providers, elderly care service organizations, local school districts, social clubs and athletic teams.


John Andrew Harris eyes State Rep. title

By Denise DuBois

Lee County Commissioner John Andrew Harris is one of three Democratic candidates seeking the State Representative District 83 seat. Harris has been a commissioner since 1994 and served on the Opelika City Council for eight years. He spent 34 years working in the Child Nutrition Program in a school system. He also owned a grocery store for 15 years in Opelika.

“I have a long expanding relationship with elected officials,” Harris said. “I was one of the first black elected officials in Opelika. The infrastructure you see now, we put that in place. I’ve got more experience, I feel like, than any other candidate. I’ve got city and county experience.”

Harris said one of the things he wants to do if he’s elected to serve District 83 is to set up local offices in Opelika and Russell County so people can come in, ask questions of the state government and get help if they need it.

“I believe people need to have a voice,” he said. “I believe elected officials need not be sitting in a position. They need to be workers in the community.”

In addition to having local offices, Harris wants to focus on education, the expansion of health care, jobs, and mental health.

“A lot of times, people overlook mental health,” he said. “You see in society now these mental health problems because no one is looking at them because they cut all the funding. The jail is the holder of mental health patients and that’s no way to treat the mentally ill.”

He also wants to focus on improving infrastructure and making sure police departments and sheriff’s departments have more funding.

“I want people to know I’m still a trailblazer,” Harris said. “A lot of times people give up on government because they don’t see government working for them.”

Harris said he began his political career when he ran for office at the age of 19.

“When you look at how government is operated, the only way I’ll be part of government is to get involved,” he said. “I ran for city commissioner and I did good. I didn’t win, but I came in second. At 19, I felt that was a good start. I kept running until I was successful.”


“Patsy” Jones seeks State Rep. office

By Denise DuBois

Patricia Jones, known as “Patsy,” is one of four Democrats seeking the State Representative District 83 seat. She is a native of Opelika and a 1969 graduate of J.W. Darden High School. She has a Bachelor’s degree and a Master’s degree from Alabama State University. She was a teacher for 24 years and served for 13 years with the Alabama Education Association. Jones was elected in 1995 to the Opelika City Council, and has held that office since then. Now, she hopes to serve her community at the state level.

“When people say they want someone, they are investing in that person to see that things are done,” Jones said of voting for a candidate. “My platform consists of continuing to promote and support education. Education is that item that drives everything, as far as people’s lives. We need to educate people for them to have good jobs. I know firsthand because I work with the mayor to make sure industries come to Opelika. We find that this is one of the first things they want to know: do you have the workforce and what type of education do you have?”

She is also concerned with affordable health care for Alabamians, and having diverse jobs in the community. Jones said agriculture in the school system, especially Russell County, is very important.

“I want to continue to promote and support those things that are good for people,” Jones said.

Jones said she has a solid record for supporting legislation to help people in her district, for promoting economic development and for working to get a new tax passed that was earmarked for Opelika City Schools.

“I know the process in Montgomery,” she said. “I don’t have to learn the process because I’ve been involved in the process. There is an advantage of my being there.”

Jones is active in Relay for Life, serving as a team captain for 16 years. She has been awarded Who’s Who Among America’s Teachers, Most Honorable Teacher, State of Alabama Golden Teacher of the Year, Noble Women of East Alabama, Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Hall of Fame and more. She is active in her church, Ferguson Chapel Christian Methodist Episcopal, and served as District Sunday School Superintendent and a former Sunday School teacher.


Ronnie Reed covets State Rep. seat

By Blenda Copeland

Russell County Commissioner Ronnie Reed has eyes on the late State Rep. George Bandy’s vacant seat — an office he has now campaigned for three times.

Serving his 4th Russell County Commission term (he began in 2004), Reed believes if elected, it would be historic, possibly making him the first Russell County-residing minority candidate elected to the post since Reconstruction.

“I’m the only candidate from Russell County,” he said of his competition. If elected, his first priority besides business, industry and creating jobs, would be to attract a “full-service” hospital to Russell County offering trauma care and baby delivery.

Regarding education, Reed believes “kids should be able to go to college for free” through lottery-funded scholarships. “I wouldn’t want to force anything on anybody,” he said, but, he’s for letting voters decide. Reed would also like to see increased free, recreational program offerings for children in  Lee and Russell counties. “I feel like they shouldn’t have to pay to play,” he said. He also favors a sewer system built in Ft. Mitchell in Russell County and would love to see a subdivision tap into it. Regarding Russell County’s revenue, he believes “more businesses and industries would help our tax base.” He would strive to bring higher-paying jobs to the area to try to retain Lee and Russell County graduates here, and would try to attend all meetings, and go throughout Lee and Russell counties to address constituents’ concerns.

Reed said he’s running for this office because he feels he can accomplish more: “The city and the county don’t have the same kind of resources as the state does,” he said.

At the local level, Reed initiated annual recognitions of the Russell County High School Choir and high-achieving citizens during Black History Month; and also the provision of serving more than 200 families at Christmas time with special benefits for needy children. As a commissioner, he’s seen numerous other projects achieved.

Reed was “born and raised” in Russell County. He’s been a member of the Russell County Democratic Executive Committee for more than 20 years, and is a current local 911 Board member. He completed Auburn University’s mandated 50-hour education program required of Alabama county commissioners in June 2009.