Wiley Lott challenges students to ‘help folks’

Published 10:45 pm Wednesday, January 15, 2014

When all is said and done, it’s only people and place that really matter.

That’s the message that Wiley Lott brought to the students of the Business and Finance Academy at Pike County High School Wednesday.

Lott is director of external affairs and economic development for the Southeast Alabama Gas District. He is a Brundidge native whose family has been in Pike County for eight generations.

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“I’m just an ol’ country boy,” Lott told the students. “I grew up on a farm and we didn’t have a lot of money but we worked hard. I’d get up at 4:30 in the morning to feed the hogs, the chickens and the cows. When I wasn’t in school, I was in the field. The livestock always had to be fed at night before I ate.

“Farm life was hard but I was laying the foundation for my life and career. I learned the value of hard work and the benefits of making good grades. And it paid off.”

And, it didn’t hurt that Lott also had the benefit of being in the right place at the right.

As the president of the College Republicans at Troy State University, Lott had the opportunity to work with Guy Hunt’s gubernatorial campaign and later to work with Governor Hunt in Montgomery as his assistant director of human affairs.

Lott’s dream of attending the University of Alabama’s School of Law was not realized. So, he took advantage of the opportunity to attend the University of Arkansas. There he earned a degree in law, fell in love and married and went to work for a $50 billion and growing company, Wal-Mart.

“All that time, I knew if I was ever lucky enough, I would get the opportunity to come back home,” Lott said. “I love Alabama and I love home.”

When Wal-Mart was considering Lott as the one to lead the company’s real estate division, they asked if he knew anything about real estate.

“I said ‘I grew up farming. I know dirt,’” Lott said laughing.

In that position, Lott had the opportunity to help the people in Pike County.

Lott was responsible for finding locations for Wal-Mart Distribution Centers and his granny Sara Lott encouraged him to locate one of “those things” in Pike County. “Our people need jobs,” she said.

The Wal-Mart DC became a reality, not just in Pike County, but also in Lott’s hometown Brundidge. The highway to the DC is named in memory of in granny, Sara Lott.

In time, Lott said he realized that he was spending more time away from his wife and two children than with them.

“I want to be there as my children were growing up,” he said. “It was time to go back home.”

He came home to work with Alabama Power and now for the Southeast Alabama Gas District.

“I’m right where I want to be,” he said.

In closing, Lott challenged the students to strive for a PhD – which is achieved by being poor, hungry, driven.

“Each one of us has a purpose and a talent,” he said. “Find your purpose. Use the talent God has given you and be passionate about it. Do what you love and always be prepared for opportunities.”

Lott told the students that they should work for the long term, not the short term.

“And always live beneath your means. Give the Lord 10 percent of what you earn. Save 10 percent and you’ll never be broke. Surround yourself with happy people. Be motivated by love and most of all, help folks.”

He gave the students two rules for a happy and successful life.

“Treat people the way you want to be treated — that’s the Golden Rule – and do what your say you’re going to do,” he said. “Life’s not perfect … but it’s good.”