HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WHNT) – The Alabama House District 4 race features incumbent Republican Parker Moore, who is seeking a second term. He is being challenged in the GOP primary by Patrick Johnson and Sheila Banister. We asked the candidates about the issues facing the district and who is the right choice for votes.
News 19’s questions and the candidates’ complete answers are below:
Question #1: Tell us a bit about your background. How has it shaped you to serve in the office you’re seeking?
SHEILA BANNISTER: I am a business woman, wife, mother, volunteer, Christian, and defender of freedom. I have a bachelor’s degree in political science and a master’s degree in organizational management. I have spent the bulk of my career in management consulting.
As an executive, my role gave me in-depth knowledge and experience in budgeting, project management, training, leadership, sales, negotiations, people development, change management and communications. As a volunteer, I have worked with a variety of organizations, such as Big Brothers Big Sisters and Girl Scouts of America, serving as mentor, sponsor, teacher, fundraiser and/or organizer. Over the past four years, I have served in a variety of roles with the local Republican party.
I currently serve on the Limestone County Republican Executive Committee and the Alabama Federation of Republican Women Executive Board. I previously served as the president of the Republican Women of Madison from 2020-2021. In all these volunteer capacities, I have been able to utilize my skill set to help these organizations reach their goals. My most beloved role is as wife and mother and I believe strong families are the building blocks of prosperous and healthy communities. It was through my journey in learning more about Alabama’s public education and how community programs influence my own family that I recognized our state, and specifically District 4, lacked the leadership needed to make serious change in areas such as education, growth and standing up for freedom and State’s rights.
My education, experience and leadership opportunities have prepared me to serve as a Representative in the Alabama House.
PATRICK JOHNSON: Tell us a bit about your background. How has it shaped you to serve in the office you’re seeking? I was raised on a farm in Morgan County, by a dad that was a school teacher, farmer and a basketball coach. My mother also served as a school teacher.
I am married to Vanessa Johnson. Together, we have two daughters at my alma mater, the University of North Alabama. I have owned and operated my State Farm insurance office in Decatur for over a decade.
It has always been important to me to be involved in and give back to the community. I am a proud member of the Decatur Kiwanis Club, Decatur-Morgan Chamber of Commerce, among many other organizations. I have been a leader in these organizations and have given back to numerous different initiatives and groups in the community. Besides leading groups through the Chamber to Montgomery, my time as a former Chairman of the Board for the Chamber, allowed me to be involved in countless discussions in the areas of public policy, workforce development, infrastructure, education and residential growth.
PARKER MOORE: I was born and raised right here in District 4 which has kept me intune with all the issues we face right here in our district. I went and got my college degree in Political Science which gave me a solid understanding of the political process. After college, I chose to return to district four and I started working on doing political campaigns. For over 5 years I did campaigns all throughout the state learning the challenges that we face.
Question #2: What do you see as key challenges facing your district and the state and what do you propose to do about them?
BANNISTER: I see our top two challenges are managing growth and education. Managing growth is a multi-tier responsibility to be shared by city, county and state governments. As representative, I will work with these three levels of leadership to ensure projects are prioritized and funding is allocated appropriately from the state.
These projects should not only include roads, which is the most urgent need, but also broadband expansion, parks and services that support the growing areas, just to name a few. Education should be our state’s top priority to improve. Not only is this essential for our children, but it is also essential for our growing economy as Alabama attracts new businesses to our state. Our educational problems will require a multi-faceted, multi-organizational approach and may take several years to fix. While the Legislature cannot fix all the problems, I would like to work with other leaders within the Legislature, the Governor’s Office, Alabama Department of Education and the State School Board to establish a roadmap identifying the items that need to be addressed and what groups are best to resolve the problems.
Our issues are broad in range but include items such as: failing schools, teacher’s inability to discipline in the classroom, lack of programs and resources for special needs students, new teacher skill gaps, and curriculum gaps. Some items I will champion at the state level are passing school choice legislation, enabling clear pathways for charter and private school creation, and encouraging more transparency and accountability from school boards and administrators. Two other issues I would also like to help provide solutions for is our ongoing need for mental health resources, especially within law enforcement, and the ever-increasing drug epidemic in our communities.
JOHNSON: With the rapid growth and expansion of the area, there have been and will continue to be growing pains throughout the region. A great migration is currently underway with people moving to the area in search of steady and great paying jobs, our affordable housing market, and great hospitality.
The growing pains that lie ahead are going to impact our traffic, crime, infrastructure, and education. I feel we need an active voice in Montgomery that regularly communicates with and is available to all citizens of District 4. We need a proven leader with business experience to bring common-sense solutions to Montgomery.
MOORE: Having knocked on over 33,000 doors and talked with residents from every corner of our district the top issues I am hearing are please keep up with our infrastructure, please keep working for more mental health funding, and continue to fight for better education. We have been able to bring in over $114+ million dollars back to District 4 in the time I have been in office for infrastructure, I am proud to say I have helped fight to restore over $45 million to our mental health system to create 7 crisis diversion centers and at least 1 mental health professional in every single school district and we are not done there. I have Also fought to bring in a mental health wing at our new prison for those who need to be incarcerated they can truly get the help they need.
Question #3: What are voters telling you they are concerned about? Can you help?
BANNISTER: I hear a variety of concerns and they often vary. But three concerns I hear about the most are education, inflation/economy and infrastructure/growth. As the next District 4 Representative, I can help in all three areas. I am committed to helping resolve our education issues by enabling parents/legal guardians to have options that meet their learner’s needs (see previous question for more detail). While state government is limited in their ability to control inflation, government leaders can promote economic growth by supporting business development and entrepreneurship in its communities.
I will support initiatives and legislation that promotes the free market and limits tax burdens. As Representative, I will use a family budget lens when appropriating tax payers funds, looking to shrink spending and save for a rainy day. I will also support initiatives that will lessen the burdens of hard-working families. Specifically, I will support eliminating the grocery tax and look for other ways to relieve tax burdens. Growth is an exciting problem to have because it means things are going well in our communities with business development and job opportunity.
But with that excitement comes growing pains of constant construction, inadequate infrastructure (e.g., roads), safety and delay in services, just to name a few. As Representative of District 4, I will work with local leaders to help determine priority and that funding comes to our district to help ease the burden of these growing pains.
JOHNSON: District 4 needs a voice in Montgomery. I want to bring back a voice that has been missing in District 4 for way too long. I want to be present, engaged and in a position to give our voters the representation we deserve. My community involvement and business leadership have been a voice in our community for well over a decade and equips me with the ability to be effective from day 1.
Our businesses are struggling with high taxes, inflation, workforce availability/development, etc. These issues require someone that has first-hand experience to effectively address and bring solutions to the problems at hand.
MOORE: Going back to the previous question.
Question #4: What is an accomplishment you’re especially proud of?
BANNISTER: Over a decade ago, I, along with 5 other friends, decided to plan a service-focused vacation trip where we could help with development work while seeing the world. We spent six months researching, planning, organizing and recruiting volunteers and donations for this epic vacation. The result was 12 days in Guatemala with 90 volunteers and the start of a beautiful organization.
That first mission included 3 infrastructure projects, small business workshops for villagers, a dental and health clinic and human connection that transcended any cultural and language barriers. More importantly, the success of the experiment led us to building Singular Humanitarian Experience, a 501(c)3 non-profit organization, designed to provide young professionals the opportunity to explore the world while participating in sustainable development work. Since its inception, the organization has facilitated 16 expeditions with 675 volunteers in 7 countries. Working together with CHOICE Humanitarian, our expeditioners have helped build schools, a hospital, health clinics, water lines and water pumps, bricks, kitchens, community centers, wood-burning stoves and biogas digesters. We have planted orchards and repaired and painted schools. We have trained and worked with 100s of rural teachers, health workers, midwives, dentists, small business owners and entrepreneurs. Our organization is 100% volunteer run.
JOHNSON: Raising my two daughters. My wife and I are so proud of the young women they have become. We have tried to set an example of being a good citizen and helping those around you. Watching them grow and flourish in college through their successes and leadership is truly heart-warming. Anyone who has raised a child knows the effort that goes into that raising and upbringing, and that is genuinely my proudest accomplishment.
MOORE: I am proud of my work with fighting for our military families to champion and pass 4 pieces of legislation to help them. Also with the previously mentioned mental health issues we are facing in our state it is critical that we have the opportunities in place to be able to help them when the time comes. (Which because of Covid the uptick in cases has risen).
Question #5: Leaving out elected officials – past and present – tell us about someone you admire and why.
BANNISTER: I admire my husband, Ret. Lt. Colonel Lance Jones. Lance is your normal, guy next door. The type of guy who likes to play golf and dabble in DIY handyman projects with YouTube as his assistant. He is a hard worker, supportive husband and dedicated father. He has faced many challenges in his life, including war, loss of family members and friends, career changes and health challenges, yet, despite these hardships, he continues to fulfill his responsibilities and give it his best each day.
I admire him for a number of reasons but will highlight just a few here. First, his complete dedication, devotion and sacrifice to our country and freedom is inspiring. Second, his ability to not let life knock him down and out is something I think we can all learn from. He doesn’t complain; he simply moves forward no matter what the obstacle may be, having faith that everything will work out. Lastly, he loves his family unconditionally and his family always comes first. He is a supporter, a cheerleader, a comforter, a provider, a teacher, a leader and more — He fulfills these roles simply because he wants to be a good father and husband. I find his dedication encouraging, and refreshing and I thank God for him every day.
JOHNSON: I admire author Andy Andrews. His story and writing is truly inspiring. Andy, an Alabamian, lost both parents as a teenager and ended up homeless. At one point, he found himself living under the Gulf State Bridge. I feel that life is always dealing each of us adversity and challenges, and how we overcome and triumph molds us into who we are.
Andy overcame to become a best-selling author and a national figure that has spoken to numerous groups, including four different Presidents. I love the way he relates his stories into extremely engaging content, but he still has a knack to motivate and inspire others.
MOORE: Someone I would have to say I admire is my granddad. He was a Doctor here in our community for over 40 years and helped start a hospital. At a very young age he instilled the principals and dedication to service and being involved in the community. Although he is no longer with us today I still carry those life lessons and try to instill them in my children as well.
Question #6: What distinguishes you from your opponents?
BANNISTER: My life has taken me on a unique journey that I believe has prepared me to be in a position to serve my community and specifically sets me apart from my opponents. First, my professional background in management consulting has afforded me to work in a variety of industries, giving me insight into the challenges that both large and small businesses face. My clients have included the likes of Cargill, one the largest private agribusinesses in the world, The Hartford Group, Sun Chemical, FDIC, Ashoka, NASA and the United Nations. Each client experience I had the opportunity to assist my clients in identify issues and opportunities for improvement and then assist them in that change journey. During this experience I was able to lead global teams, work with executives and negotiate contracts, developing skills that are essential in government.
I also have created a non-profit organization, Singular Humanitarian, from the ground up. I know first-hand the struggles that come not only from starting a business but one in the non-profit world that is 100% reliant on the generosity of others through financial means, personal time or both. I have served in the role of military spouse and have not only seen but experienced the hardships that our military families and veterans face each day. This first-hand knowledge can assist me as I represent the needs of our military and first-responder families. I am also a product of the American Dream. Raised by my mother, my siblings and I grew up in a government subsidized housing complex. I know by experience what it is like to struggle, what it is like to be a kid and help your parent pay the phone bill or car insurance and what it is like to go without. I also know what it is like to work hard. I know the satisfaction of receiving a well-earned paycheck, earning a scholarship and eventually a professional degree, landing a professional job and finally paying off student loans. The combination of all these experiences has prepared me with the leadership qualities, technical skills and human understanding needed to represent the people of District 4.
JOHNSON: My business and life experience differentiates me from the other opponents. I have been a business leader in our community for over 13 years. With my Chairman of the Board role for the Chamber, I have led meetings, discussions, and forums that help connect the right people in order to get results. The groups that I have led, still come and seek counsel on projects that require next level leadership.
For a year, I was the voice of the 950+ business community with the Chamber. I am the only businessman in the race. I understand how businesses and communities are affected by government. Additionally, there is a lot of discussion regarding education. However, I was raised by educators, and I was a teacher and a coach after college. I understand how critical a strong education system is to the future of our community and state. We are currently ranked near the bottom in every major category, and we need change to secure a better future for our children.
Lastly, I have no desire to be a lifelong politician, I am here because I feel we deserve better in Montgomery.
MOORE: I think that being the only candidate that was born and raised here and having been active all throughout the district my whole life gives me a unique ability to always stay intune with the issues we are facing through the many wonderful people and connections that I have made. Also as having the honor of serving this district the past 4 years has kept me very intune with the issues we are facing because I have always had an open door policy and will continue to do so. I would be honored to have your support again on May 24th. Thank you
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