Politics prevail at ground-breaking ceremony

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, April 17, 2002

BNI Newswire

HOPE HULL ­ Election-year politics were just another part of the package Tuesday as Alabama welcomed Hyundai to Hope Hull.

From campaign signs adorning the grass near the official welcome sign, Korean officials seemed to get a taste of politics, Alabama style.

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And U.S. Rep. Bob Riley, who represents Alabama’s third district, and Lt. Gov. Steve Windom – both candidates for the GOP nomination for governor – found themselves without a shovel during the official ground-breaking ceremony.

It came as little surprise that Riley and Windom, one of whom is likely to face Gov. Don Siegelman in the November general election, did not speak during the ceremony. In fact, neither Windom nor Riley, nor Riley’s congressional colleague Terry Everett, R-Ala., was officially recognized by emcee John Knight until the end of the ceremony.

But Siegelman press secretary Carrie Kurlander said politics were not intended to be part of the event.

"This was not a day to be playing politics," she said, noting that the governor did not answer political questions from reporters following the ceremony.

U.S. Rep. Earl Hilliard had earlier given credit to Riley and Everett, earning a vocal "thank you" from Everett.

Riley took it in stride.

"There is enough credit to go around," he said. "We had three or four congressmen go to Korea. This has been a cooperative effort."

Riley, who has been even in the polls with Windom for the GOP nod, quoted former President Ronald Reagan: "If you don’t care who gets the credit, it’s amazing what you can accomplish," he said.

As far as other politicians, only Selma Mayor James Perkins Jr. was among the regional leaders who spoke during the ceremony. Selma and Dallas County, combined, contributed $1 million to the incentive package Alabama offered Hyundai.

But so, too, did the City of Prattville, whose mayor Jim Byard was part of the standing-room only crowd just outside the tent on Tuesday. Prattville has pledged $900,000 over the next three years to the package.

Several cities and counties in the region pledged money toward the incentive package.

Kurlander said Perkins’ inclusion recognized the importance of the entire Black Belt region in terms of the benefits from Hyundai.