Our Leadership Perspectives series moves into week five and to the county level as my guest is Dale Strong, Chairman of the Madison County Commission. Dale is no stranger to government, having served 16 years as the County Commission Representative for District Four (Monrovia, Harvest, and half of Madison.) In his new role Chairman Strong manages over 1,200 employees, a $130 million budget, and he represents all 350,000 (or so) Madison County residents.
Two events stand out in my mind in my relationship with Chairman Strong. The first was our school shooting at Discovery Middle School on February 5, 2010. Our fire, police, and school administrative team were amazing in every aspect of the support process. Dale was there as well, ready to support where needed. As we all prepared for the initial press conference Dale took charge, speaking first. I realize now, looking back, he recognized that was what was needed. Many of us were still in shock, too close to the situation. After the first press conference we got our feet back under us and Dale simply slipped back into the crowd.
The second was our nine-inch snow storm in January of 2011. Madison was simply not prepared… our only mode for removing the snow was a road grader. Through discussions with our council I learned Dale might have pick-ups with plows on the front. I called him about 8:00 a.m. and asked… you bet he did. He said give him an hour to finish in Monrovia and he would meet me at City Hall. Sure enough, an hour later here he came down Hughes Road; picking me up at City Hall and off we went. Five hours later, after we had cleared a path on almost every major road in Madison, Dale let me back off.
These two events, along with Dale’s incredible leadership in Monrovia and Harvest following the April 2011 tornados, give me great confidence Dale will be ready to lead our county when the next unexpected natural event occurs. The relationship he built with Governor Bentley during these tough times sure won’t hurt our community either.
What is most intriguing to me is the unique perspective he brings to the Chairman’s role. Dale’s predecessor Mike Gillespie, a good friend and great leader, held the Chairman’s position for 32 years. Yes, you read that right… 32 years. To put that in proper perspective, when Mike took over in 1981 Madison was a town of 6,000 and the Monrovia/Harvest area half of that. Huntsville was the only big city and most decisions that were made revolved around them.
Fast forward to today. Huntsville is still the largest city but it now encompasses only about ½ of the overall county population. Dale, born and bred in Monrovia, will govern for all but also will be able to clearly see all sides of any issue dealing with roads, schools, economic development, and assorted others.
As I close I am reminded of a quote by that great philosopher Taylor Swift:
“This is a new year, a new beginning, and things will change.”
While people and perspectives can and will change in Madison County what can’t change is our commitment to the overall good of the Tennessee Valley. Hopefully it will not.
Watch our full interview with Dale Strong: