A conversation with State Rep. Mac Gipson

Alabama State House - Photo by Marc Parker
Alabama State House - Photo by Marc Parker

Prattville – A U. S. Army veteran, Republican State Representative H. Mac Gipson is a lifelong resident of Autauga County, Alabama. He and his wife, Mary Lee, have four children; Mary Emerson Lowry, H. M. (Hoot) Gipson, III, Robert A. Gipson, and Jo Ella McIntosh. He is president of Gipson’s Auto Tire, Inc., with three locations in Prattville and Millbrook.

Rep. Gipson is a member of American Legion Post 122, Autauga Cattleman’s Association, past President of the Prattville Area Chamber of Commerce, Alabama Tire Dealers Association, and Vice President of the Children’s First Board. He has served in the Alabama House of Representatives (88th District) for four terms and has recently declared his intention to seek a fifth term.

On Sunday night, Our Prattville spoke with Rep. Gipson:

Why are you seeking a fifth term?

Well, I’m seeking a fifth term because it is a quadrennium, where we re-draw the legislative lines and it is very important, I think, to the two counties I represent (Autauga and Elmore) to try to minimize the number of representatives. In the 2000 census, Autauga was almost the perfect count. In legislative districts they can go plus five percent or minus five percent. They don’t have that way on Congressional. They have to be almost exact.

Historically, the democrats draw minus five, the Republicans are plus five. So, really your one man and your one vote are deluded when you have a fast-growing area. I think we can work around that depending on what kind of shape we’re in when we come back from the quadrennium as far as the makeup of the legislature. I feel good about it.

I don’t know if the Republicans can take over but we can have enough numbers if we can switch over a few conservative Democrats. While they may not change parties they might vote with us. It would be a pleasure to work one time in the majority instead of the minority. So, that’s highly important…the re-districting…we need experience in there to help get that one properly because that sets the tone for the next ten years.

Do you have any specific Bills in mind that you’d like to see passed?

I’m working on my Graduated Driver’s License Bill and Ethics Reform. I carried the Governor’s Bill because I’ve had a strong Ethics Bill for about three years. At least this time with a little push from him I got it out of Committee. So, we want to continue that. We’ve had far too many people who have been charged and convicted of wrongdoing so we desperately need a strong Ethics law in the state of Alabama. My Bill was pretty stringent compared to the rest of them, but if we can get it up and debated…there are going to be amendments, but that’s how the process should work. But, if you don’t ever get it to the floor to debate, you can’t come up with a workable solution.

Rep. Mac Gipson and Mayor Jim Byard at the opening of Publix last year - Photo by Melissa Parker
Rep. Mac Gipson and Mayor Jim Byard at the opening of Publix last year - Photo by Melissa Parker

I’ve had the Graduated Driver’s License Bill for about four years. A senator tried to bring it up out of order and it got knocked down. When they bring in one that’s not on the calendar, one senator objects, and in this case he did that on the last day. We’re losing teenagers annually and that could be reduced by 25-40 percent by strengthening our Graduated Driver’s License law. So, I’m working on issues like that and whatever issues local governments feel like they need.

I think we need to bring the gambling issue to a head. My colleagues from around the nation…when you ask them about Alabama and gambling, they just shake their heads. They say “y’all are in the wild west,” since you don’t have any regulations or a gaming commission…nobody to say how much the payout is going to be. It’s just a terrible mess.

So, you would vote for regulations on gambling?

Well, you’ve got to let the people vote on it. I’ve always thought the people should vote on gambling. But, once you have a constitutional amendment with a referendum on an important issue like gambling, and it gets defeated, it kind of goes away. We haven’t had the lottery back up since it was defeated.

That was several years ago, wasn’t it?

In 1999, I believe, it was on the 2000 ballot. The same thing would happen with casino games, either we want it in Alabama or we don’t want it. When they defeat it, it goes away…where now it comes up every year and takes up valuable time that could be used on something else.

You said that you didn’t think it was fair to receive a raise yourself when the state employees didn’t receive one.

Well, not much of anybody was receiving one.

That was because of the bad economy.


Do you think state employees will receive a raise next year?

I don’t see how. We’ll be in the second year of the stimulus money. I think we can scrap the halfway stringent budget, but I’m worried about the year after that. You talk about a tough one…unless things really turn around. Let’s see, when we go back we’ll be working on the 2010-11 budget. The 2011-12 budget is going to be a dilly for both the education and general fund.

I’m on the Southern Regional Education Board. I’ve been sitting on it for probably twelve years. It is very important work, I think, because I like to compare us with the southern region that takes in Virginia and North Carolina…people who have done a good job in education. We need to be striving to do better in education. We’re on the way with the Alabama Reading First Initiative…we have done some things in education that are just now beginning to gel. The only thing we would need to do if we had the money would be to expand the reading initiative at least through middle school.

I’ve heard some “unusual” things can happen on the floor of the legislature. What is the craziest thing you’ve ever seen?

Well, of course, by far the craziest thing, and I wasn’t there when it happened…was the punch! Now, I’ve been down there when it was heated kind of like bandy roosters. But, we’ve got a pretty good security staff and they’re down there to separate them right quick. I’ve never had an inclination to swing, but I’ve sure had the inclination to give them a piece of my mind.

I’ll bet that fight was something to see.

Yeah, but it was quick. They had the cameras in the right position at the right time. And you know, you’ve served on a church board or civics board or something where you’ve got five or seven members or something like that…well, you’ve got to remember we have 140 people and it’s not easy to get a consensus out of that many.

Gipson's Auto Tire - Photo by Marc Parker
Gipson's Auto Tire - Photo by Marc Parker

Do you think this will definitely be your last term?

Oh, I believe so, yes. I will be 74 in November of this year so I’ll be running when I’m 74 and take office prior to being 75. We have a guy who was the Mayor of Decatur for twenty years, Bill Dukes, and we were over there last year and celebrated Bill’s 81st birthday. He’s still going strong. I’m in as good a shape as Bill. And there is a lot to say for experience and maturity, I think. Well, you need a good balance. We have young people who have gotten elected and some older ones who have been around. I think I still have a lot to offer.

What will you be doing in retirement? Do you have grandchildren?

Oh, yes, I have six grandchildren. That keeps me busy there. I’ve got them from 5 to 28. Well, all of my children were five years apart, so the grandchildren are strung out as well. I was up in Marbury Saturday watching the five year old play baseball. I got one that plays football at the Academy. I’ve got one that’s going to high school next year.

Well, just watching sports activities should keep you busy.

Absolutely. I’m going to be in one of those electric mobility carts running around.

What kind of things do you like to do yourself?

Well, all I’ve done all of my life is work. I worked in the retail business, in the tire company, getting it built. I love golf, but I never figured out how to take a half a day off to do it. My boys do it, though. They are quite successful and they get to take half a day off to play golf. I guess I did it the wrong way. I worked harder instead of smarter.

What I’ve been doing today is working in the yard. I don’t have a garden anymore, but I have a patio garden. I enjoy growing tomatoes, bell peppers…things like that. I belong to the Southern Regional Education Board, the National Conference of State Legislators, and the National Tire Dealers Association. I’ve always been a member of that. I think the networking is important and you can also help to avoid mistakes and find out about different practices in other areas. So, I’ve always done that in my business.

I didn’t come up through politics. I came up through the Chamber of Commerce. I was recruited and defeated as an incumbent in 1994 and reluctantly did it because I’ve always been apolitical. I didn’t let folks put signs up at my tire business, but I let them come in and put literature in the waiting room. I let some folks talk me into running the first time. The boys were coming up in the business. It’s an extension of what I’ve always done in the tire business…solving people’s problems. If people have a problem, they come to you and want you to fix it. And serving in the legislature is no different. You spend a lot of your time going to meetings, trying to solve problems, but no one man can do it all.

We have good people in Prattville…we work together. This is a wonderful community. My children are a product of the local education system as well as my grandchildren now, both private and public. It’s a wonderful place. You have to travel a bit to value it even more. I just think we all need to work together and continue managing the growth. I’m excited because they are going to have a public hearing on the 82 Bypass. That has been a project of mine. Then, also widening of McQueen Smith from the 82 Bypass across 31 back to Main.

I was wondering about the widening of Old Farm Lane.

Well, that’s in the works. I think they have done the survey work on it. The mayor was pushing that because that’s another retail corridor.

Yes, that’s one of the entrances to the High Point Town Center.

Well, the retail there is kind of on the down side. I want you to think about something from a tourism standpoint. At the interchange at Cobbs Ford and 65, you have a championship golf course, you have Bass Pro, and you have Lanark, a wildlife federation. Those things are all right off of that one intersection! There is a world of potential still floating around, too. It’s an exciting time and I enjoy participating in it.

Article by Melissa Parker

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