Governor Kay Ivey has just announced that former Congressman, Jo Bonner, is joining her staff as “senior advisor.” In my opinion, this is great news for the people of Alabama.
I have known Jo since 1982. And if I could sum him up in just one word, it would be GENUINE. What you see is what you get. As far as I know, he is the same person he was when I met him 36 years ago. He has a moral compass that is steadfast and has always seen the light side of life–even when the joke is on him. Trust me, there are not many in the political world I would say this about.
He was just out of school at the University of Alabama and working on the campaign of my college classmate, Lt. Governor George McMillan, who was running for governor, in 1982. (And lost in a runoff to George Wallace.) Jo was working throughout the Wiregrass and was stationed in Dothan.
McMillan was having a rally in Dothan and that’s where Jo and I met. At some point that evening Jo asked where I was spending the night since I lived in Montgomery. I told him I had no plans and he graciously suggested that I spend the night with him since he had an available bed. I did.
Years later when he was elected to Congress from Alabama’s First District, he sent me a note on his stationary and said something to the effect, “I will not forget the night we spent together in Dothan.”
He told me later with a hardy laugh that his secretary questioned what he said in the note and asked him if he was really going to send it. He told her he was because it was true. How do you not appreciate that quality in a person?
When we studied 10 rural elementary schools in 2008, I was dumbfounded by the physical condition of Calcedever elementary in the north end of Mobile County. To call it deplorable was being too kind.
I got Jo to come visit the school and see firsthand. He did. And in each room he quickly told the students that he worked in Washington and if they were ever going to be there, he would help arrange a tour for them. A little blond guy in the first grade paid rapt attention and as soon as Jo said this, he quickly pulled out his pencil and asked, “What is your number?”
I nearly fell in the floor laughing.
Jo worked for Congressman Sonny Callahan of Mobile for 18 years. And when Sonny retired in 2002, Jo was elected to replace him. He stepped down in 2013 to take a position at the University of Alabama.
As we say in Red Level, “Kay, you done good.”