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Former rivals will make a good team

Former Agriculture Commissioner Ron Sparks is headed back to work.

As most of you likely recall, Gov. Robert Bentley defeated his then-Democratic foe in the gubernatorial election in November.

Now, Sparks will join Bentley and his team as the Director of the newly established Alabama Rural Development Office.

Through Executive Order No. 5, Bentley established the department this week with designs on improving and advancing education, healthcare, and economic development in the rural areas of Alabama. The Executive Order also rescinds previous Executive Orders which created the Black Belt Action Commission and the Alabama Rural Action Commission. The missions and responsibilities of the Black Belt Action Commission and the Alabama Rural Action Commission will now be implemented by the Alabama Rural Development Office.

Both of the now-defunct organizations were created by former Governor Bob Riley.

Bentley said his former opponent and he share a common desire to create a better quality of life for Alabama’s rural areas. “During the campaign, I got to know Commissioner Sparks well and the one issue we could always agree upon is the need to improve the lives of those who live in our rural communities,” Bentley said. “This is an example of how we can put politics aside and work together for the common good of all Alabamians. I appreciate his willingness to serve.”

The merger of once strong political foes is interesting to say the least. Many see this as yet another crippling blow to the state’s already weakened Democratic Party.

That kind of impact may never be weighed accurately. What can be adequately measured is Sparks’ performance on the job.

Regardless of what you think about his qualifications for governor, Sparks was effective as Commissioner of Agriculture and Industries.

Sparks spent much of his time while in office in the trenches with farmers and “the working man” which should put him acutely in-tune with the needs of rural Alabama.

I didn’t vote for Sparks for governor, and this newspaper did not endorse him, but we would have backed him strongly had he sought to return to his commissioner’s post. Sparks knows how to get things done and he has a successful track record behind him. Rural Alabama has a good man looking out for its interests.

Bentley’s consolidation of the offices and their responsibilities is also fiscally sound.

There’s less personnel, thus less expense.

Sparks is likely to have only two staffers, compared to a combined six – including a director – in the now-eliminated offices.

Jason Cannon is the publisher of The Demopolis Times.