Bronner pulls no punches during speech

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, June 13, 2000

Managing Editor

June 12, 2000 10 PM

David Bronner, president of Retirement Systems of Alabama, is not a man who lets his thoughts go unspoken.

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Monday, the financial wizard behind the pension for all state employees was in Troy speaking to educators and business and community leaders from throughout the state. And his words were frank and to the point.

"Here is my perception of the old Alabama versus the new Alabama," Bronner said. "The old Alabama was built on hate. A hatred for our fellow man. A hatred for the federal government. In some cases, we had a hatred for ourselves and our neighbors."

But as a new Alabama emerges, Bronner hopes to see changes in the way we do things, including how our communities gear up for economic growth.

"We see a return of about a dollar and thirty-three cents on every dollar we send to Washington," he said. "As a Wall Street guy, I’ll make that trade with anybody. I give you a dollar and you give me a dollar and thirty-three cents. We see more come back to us as a state than we send. How our old politicians sold us on hating the federal government, I’ll never understand."

But the new emerging Alabama, Bronner said, is one that is built on being progressive minded and forward thinking. He believes that the choice of Mercedes-Benz to bring a facility to Alabama is one that made others notice what the state has to offer.

"Mercedes is the best thing that ever happened to this state," he said. "I heard from Volvo wanting to know more. They didn’t choose us, but that’s OK. They came and looked because they say what Mercedes had done. That’s progress."

Touting regionalism as an area to recruit business and industry, Bronner said it is important for neighboring communities to work together.

"Auburn and Opelika are the damndest towns I ever saw. I thought Auburn hated (the University of) Alabama, but they love each other compared to Auburn and Opelika. Two communities with different chambers of commerce with different hopes and that were competing can’t do what one unified community can do. Regionalism can accomplish great things here in the Wiregrass."

Though Bronner shows a lack of admiration for politics and for politicians, he says the voters have unreasonable demands of their leaders.

"It takes time to get things done," he said. "Our current governor has targeted a few things he wants to accomplish and I wish him the best. Getting a couple of things done is better than some of the accomplishments by his predecessors."

Bronner’s comments came at a Monday luncheon where he was the keynote speaker for an Economic Development and Education conference at Troy State University.

He used his time to celebrate the accomplishments of the state and to issue challenges to educators and community leaders to keep ideas that serve the state in the public eye.

"Governor George Wallace was a good politician," Bronner said. "He would listen to what the people said and as the movement caught hold, he would run out in front of it two yards and run into the endzone just ahead of it and would say, ‘See where I led you.’ We have to set the stage for our leaders to do that. We have to set the tone by keeping the issues out front and letting them catch on to them and move them forward. It takes time."