State Senator Clyde Chambliss Interviewed by Inside Alabama Politics

By Clyde Chambliss

Interview originally published by Inside Alabama Politics

A graduate of the University of Alabama in Civil Engineering, Clyde Chambliss started his career and family in Prattville. He is currently the Principle Engineer at Chambliss Engineering. He has previously served on the Autauga County Commission (1996-2008) including 2 terms as the board’s chairman. He chose not to seek a 4th term in that role, and after a 4 year hiatus he sought and won a seat on the Prattville City Council. Last year he won the seat for Alabama State Senate in District 30. District 30 is made up of areas in Autauga, Elmore, Coosa, Chilton and Tallapoosa Counties. He is known as a consensus builder and a fiscal conservative. He recently he finished his first session in the Alabama Legislature. Clyde is married to Tara Herring Chambliss. The couple has 3 daughters – Kristen (18), Lauren (16), and Madison (14) – and a rescued beagle named Molli.

Franklin: I want to first ask how are Tara and the girls?

Chambliss: They are great! Kristen is heading off to college, Lauren is a High School Junior, and Madison is a High School Freshman. Time really flies. It seems like yesterday when we were bringing them home from the hospital. I am really proud of all four of them. They are such a support and encouragement to me. From the year-long campaign, to keeping our business going, and now being part of the legislature it is all a family effort. I cannot do it without them.

Franklin: This was your first legislative session in the Alabama State Senate. What did you take away from it?

Chambliss: It’s kind of like a duck on the water… what you see is a slow moving process; but behind the scenes (under the water) things are moving very fast. I had to learn people, processes, and proposed legislation so it was really intense. Seventy to eighty hour weeks were the norm. Fifty plus hours a week on legislative matters and twenty or so on keeping our engineering business going. Now, hopefully the people and process part will be fairly constant and the legislation part will be the primary focus.

Franklin: I observed a small independent streak on some of your votes. The charter school bill was one you seemed to take a different view than some Republicans. How did you come to that choice?

Chambliss: I believe that each issue should stand on its own merits and not be affected by other issues. I might be with you this time and against you next time. It’s all issue oriented with me and not personal. The charter bill was a tough one. First of all, it was the first major vote of my first session. I needed language in the bill to protect current boards of education. When you take revenue away from existing systems without a corresponding reduction in expenses it’s a double whammy, if you will. Choice is one of the most powerful tools available to us; but we must have a level playing field if we want a rising tide to float all boats.

Franklin: You are a former Prattville City Councilman and Autauga County Commissioner. Did those experiences as a public official help you in anyway during the session?

Chambliss: Absolutely. My previous public service gave me great baseline experience that has proven very valuable. As a freshman commissioner, I came on too strong before I learned the ins and outs of governing. I tempered my eagerness this session by biting my tongue on occasion and focusing on learning a few things before rushing in. I respected my role as a freshman, but let me add, the session is over and I don’t consider myself a freshman, anymore. I always say that you can’t take politics out of politics, but the legislature takes that to a whole new level… and I love it! Sometimes we get discouraged by the process and want to give up; I do as well, but then I look around the world and see that ours is the best form of government in the world and it makes me thankful to live in this great nation.

Franklin: What does it mean that you don’t consider yourself a freshman?

Chambliss: Well, as a freshman, you don’t know what you don’t know and when you force an agenda in that type situation you can paint yourself into a corner very quickly. I still have a lot to learn and I will continue to do that, but I also believe that I have a lot to contribute. We have a General Fund problem that has plagued this state for decades – I’ve pressed hard to be a part of the team to formulate a long term solution. That solution includes reform, some cuts, and likely some revenue because we don’t have time for reforms to bail us out before October 1. I am a live within your means kinda guy, so if I have to raise my hand for the revenue because of the situation we are in, I’m going to push for the reforms to go with it so that we don’t end right back where we are now in a couple years.

Franklin: Have you had a chance to speak with constituents in the district since the session ended? What are they saying?

Chambliss: I’ve definitely been all over the district since the end of the session. I love to get out and visit with the people and hear what they are saying. They are primarily saying two things: 1) fix the General Fund budget – even if I have to pay a little more, and 2) change the budgeting process and quit waiting until the end of the session to do the budget. Do it first like you are supposed to. I am working hard on both of these issues. I am encouraged, but there is much work to do for us to get where we need to be financially.

Franklin: What do you see happening during the special session?

Chambliss: The House and the Senate will come together and adopt a plan. No one will be happy with it, but it will solve our problems for a 7 or 8 year period. That will provide time for the budgeting reforms that have been made and those that we will be making will kick in and these mid-range solutions will become long term sustainable policy that will provide for a stable General Fund without harming the Education Trust Fund.