|Current Position||State Commissioner of Agriculture and Industries|
|Born||October 29th, 1952 – Fort Payne, AL (Dekalb County)|
|Education||Associate Degree from Northeast Alabama Community College|
|Military Experience||Coast Guard: Honor Guard, Search and Rescue|
|Family||Marriage status: divorced. Three children: Misty, Sparky, Luke|
|Private Sector||Limited information, however, apparent involvement in the the “television industry” and a brief stint as a small business owner|
|Entry to Public Sector||Elected Dekalb County commissioner in 1978 at age 24|
|Primary Victory Margin||62% – 38% in Democratic primary, defeated early favorite Congressman Artur Davis|
|Online Presence||Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Sparks2010|
|Key Opponent||Robert Bentley, Republican party nominee|
I think it is safe to say that Ron Sparks is committed to public service. At 24, he was one of the youngest county commissioners ever when he won the position in Dekalb County in 1978. Sparks has been in public service in one way or another pretty much since high school. His first stint was in the Coast Guard, where he earned the Medal of Commendation for Meritorious Service for, according to his website, “saving passengers from an overturned sailboat in turbulent waters.” Between Sparks’ Coast Guard experience and time as Dekalb County commissioner, he completed an associates degree at Northeast Alabama Community College near his native Fort Payne. If elected, Sparks will be the first Alabama governor without a four year degree since H. Guy Hunt was elected in 1987.
Ron Sparks’ laid back, straight speaking country persona likely helped propel him over the early favorite and Harvard educated congressman, Artur Davis. Early on, Davis was expected to dominate the democratic primary, but lost some of the Alabama democratic core when he consistently voted with Republicans on national issues (like the healthcare overhaul, partial birth abortion, and workplace discrimination bills) in the U.S. House. Davis was punished by voters who preferred the straightforward positions, albeit quite liberal for Alabama, of the Agriculture commissioner.
If you haven’t heard, the Commissioner of Agriculture and Industries is in charge of the second largest department in the state, controlling over $5 billion, 423 employees, and a $30 million operating budget. Ron Sparks would definitely bring tremendous executive experience to the governor’s mansion.
His legislative goals are simple: end the debate on gambling in Alabama by allowing, regulating, and taxing it in order to pay for other things. Specifically, Sparks intends to use gambling funds to pay for the state contributed portion of medicare, pre-k and secondary education, and a $1.4 billion infrastructure fund. I’ll get more in depth on both Ron Sparks and Robert Bentley’s positions on all of these issues coming up in the “Alabama 2010” series.
What’s more important now is to address one of the hairiest issues in all of the 2010 Alabama election cycle: the mustache.
So… is he gonna grow it back if he wins? I sure hope so.