The day after my birthday, I became aware of an announcement made the previous day, April 15th. This was an announcement from the Governor of Alabama stating that 15 of the state’s beloved parks would be closed due to budget shortfalls. Buck’s Pocket State Park and Lake Guntersville State Park were among those listed for closure, if certain tax increases were not passed.
If you’ve read my autobiography, “Telling Hands,” you already know my connection to said parks in North Alabama. My childhood is full of wonderful memories of these parks and I have always had a connection to the land, forest, mountains, creeks, and the lake. I love that area so much I have recently tapped into my entrepreneurial side and have been working to renovate the only gas station in Grove Oak, the town in which Buck’s Pocket is located. The Grove Oak store is set to open this July after a grueling few months of renovation and paperwork.
After informing myself of the issue, I stumbled upon an article stating the governor would hold a meeting at Lake Guntersville State Park to discuss it’s closing with state, local and business leaders. I am nothing if not some sort of leader, so I included myself in this meeting, invitation or not. Luckily though, the next couple days the information that it would be a public meeting was also announced. I am glad I didn’t have to stand outside the door banging on it to be included.
After listening, somewhat politely, to his speech I was surprised when he opened the floor for questions from the audience. I was determined to say something to someone; be it reporters or whomever. I didn’t expect though, to have the governor’s ear. Not being one to back down, or one to take threats lightly, I made the decision to speak up. Several others went before me, mostly asking budgetary questions of policy and procedure. I hadn’t given any thought to what I would say; I find unscripted speech to be the most effective.
Everyone before me remained sitting while they asked their question. When it came my turn, the governor called on me, and I stood. My little hands were shaking, and I know my voice must have been wavering. The ballroom was packed with over 400 people. As I stood there, somehow I began to speak. I opened my mouth and gave a testimony of how the park’s closure would affect me. I gave them what their press conference was lacking; a personal story.
I stood only a few feet from the governor and told him God’s honest truth. I do believe he knew my sincerity. The governor thanked me and he complimented my hard work. He called small business owners like me the backbone of America, and I sat back down.
A few minutes later, the meeting came to an end and I was heading out the door when Governor Bentley pulled my little hand over to him. He put his arm around me and comforted me. I found myself a bit shocked. We spoke again for a short time. The contents of the conversation will not be discussed here, but I felt hopeful.
Now, only two days later l find that the governor announced the park I went to bat for, Buck’s Pocket, is to remain opened until further notice. It was previously set for closure on May 1.
It is enough to make one wonder… if it was his plan all along, if all the voices of those that spoke out, along with mine, changed his mind, or what. I do know I am glad I went to the meeting. I am glad I summoned the guts to speak. I’m not sure what I said exactly, but I am glad to have used my one small voice. A week ago, I never would have guessed that life would put me in that position.
If I write another autobiography, this story will likely be in it.