Allison won’t seek another term in office

By Ed Howell, Daily Mountain Eagle
Posted 1/21/18

Walker County Probate Judge Rick Allison confirmed Saturday he will not run for re-election as probate judge this year in order to spend more time with his family and to travel.

The surprise …

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Allison won’t seek another term in office


Walker County Probate Judge Rick Allison confirmed Saturday he will not run for re-election as probate judge this year in order to spend more time with his family and to travel.

The surprise announcement, which creates a major open seat in the 2018 election season, was made to staff Friday after he came to a decision earlier in the week. In April of last year, Allison switched to the Republican Party and announced he would run.

Qualifying began on Jan. 8 and will end at 5 p.m. Friday, Feb. 9, when the two local party chairmen will gather at Allison’s office. John Mark Dutton of Jasper qualified this week as a Republican for the position, the first candidate in either party to do so.

In 2012, Allison won re-election as a Democrat for his fourth six-year term, receiving 17,162 votes to Republican challenger Stephen Landrum’s 11,132.

Allison said he made his decision this week while at a winter conference for probate judges in Montgomery. He returned Friday and made the announcement to his staff.

“Then I contacted (Walker County Republican Chairman Linda Ensor) so that they could look for candidates if they wanted to,” he said.

Allison said he has not endorsed any candidates for the position.

“I wish I could have given a bigger notice and really given people an opportunity to think about it,” he said. “I kind of expect there will probably be several run as it will be an open seat. I just encourage people, whoever the candidates are, to look at it, think about what the job entails, and just make their best choice.

“I’ve been toying with it the last few months anyway. My wife and I, we want to travel while we are young enough to do some things. I still love my job.” He decided in the end to “do things with the family” and leave time for other things he might want to do in the future, although he hasn’t decided what those activities could be.

He said his wife is planning on retiring in about a year. Allison turned 62 in November.

Asked if he was surprised at this own decision given his indications he would run last year, he said he had even announced at a local party meeting he was running.

“I’ve been thinking about it and praying about it and worrying about it,” Allison said. “Not having a job is scary. About 3 o’clock in the morning at the conference a couple of nights ago, I just woke up. I finally made that final decision that I’m going to retire.” He added it was “just good time for me and my family.”

Asked what he would say to his supporters, he said, “I know there is going to be a lady in church and she is going to be so disappointed because she wanted me to run again so bad. I know there will be people who are disappointed that I am not running again. There are probably going to be some who are glad I am not—I don’t know.

“I just totally appreciate the opportunity. I’ve enjoyed it. I’ve got no regrets. I feel like I’ve made some good choices over the years and I’ve done a good job. That is how you want to go out, on top. I feel like I am getting to do that.”

Asked for any highlights, he said many of his tasks, such as adoptions, are enjoyable, “but it all boiled down to it made me feel good when I was able to help somebody. Not that I did anything out of the way. I really did my job. But it still makes you feel good when you were able to help somebody.”

He said he would continue to serve one more year and if people need service he would still be available to help in that time. “We’re going to keep doing what the law allows us to do,” he said.

Allison said he will work one final election cycle, and, if the next probate judge is favorable, he would still like to help work elections in retirement as a poll worker and “do my civic duty. I would enjoy that. That would still give me a chance to see people and help. I’m hoping I get to work elections.”

Circuit Judge Hoyt Elliott and Allison confirmed in April 2017 they had switched to the Republican Party, virtually giving the party a lock on the elected department head seats in the county, except for a couple of seats on the Walker County Board of Education. One of those two, Bill Ed Gilbert, later was officially accepted by the GOP.

Elliott and Allison also said in separate interviews at the time they would be running for re-election in 2018, adding that they had recently been interviewed on the same night by a party screening committee and approved to take on the label. That process has become controversial recently as two challenger candidates in the party were recently rejected by the party. One, superintendent of education candidate Tanya Guin, has said she will challenge the decision on her within the state party.

Elliott did qualify to run for re-election and has drawn no challengers.

Allison said of his party switch in April of last year, “It’s just one of those decisions that you hate to make people mad or disappoint anybody, but I just really felt like the Democratic Party has drifted from where when I started,” he said. “And understand, I am still going to be the same person I’ve always been and treat everybody the same. This office, when someone comes in, we don’t ask, ‘Are you Democrat or Republican?’ They are citizens and we are here to represent everybody, and we’re going to keep doing that.

“But there are just some things in the party that I just kind of felt like maybe the Republican Party believes a little bit more like I do right now,” he said.

“I know there are going to be a lot of friends disappointed and that is kind of what I guess held me out for so long, that I just really felt like if I am going to run again, I need to be more in line with where I feel like I am. I’ve prayed about it and talked to my wife. I thought about it for a long time before I did anything. I just reached that point.”

The Walker County native grew up in Jasper and still lives in the city. Allison graduated from Walker High School and worked in underground coal mining for about seven years. He then went to work for the Jasper Police Department and eventually the Walker County Sheriff’s Office before being elected as probate judge. He has completed several probate judge courses with the University of Alabama Law Institute.

Among the highlights of his tenure was relocating the probate office to its current location in a courthouse annex in 1997, putting all the licensing and registration under one roof.