looks forward to private sector life
has offers from several private companies
(January 2008) Whether it was a simple ribbon-cutting
ceremony at a small store or a major groundbreaking event for a large
factory expansion, Al Huntington was almost always there. For 13 years,
the Madison mayor worked to be a visible force leading the community.
by Don Ward
Huntington served 13 years
as mayor of Madison, Ind., and
seven years prior to that as
a city council member.
But after his narrow defeat in the Nov. 6 election, Huntington
will forced to leave public office Jan. 1. Newly-elected Mayor Tim Armstrong
will replace Huntington, who says he plans to unwind for a couple
of months and see what happens.
He believes his legacy will be the balance he found between the many
interests in Madison. We have a community very passionate about
specific interests, including the historic, business and industry,
said Huntington, 62, during a mid-December interview at his City Hall
office. I made the playing field level for all of them.
Corey Murphy, president of Madison-Jefferson County Economic Development
Corp, said Huntington always kept in mind what was good for Madison
and tried to balance all of the important aspects of the community.
He was a true ambassador for the city.
Huntington is a co-founder of MIDCOR, a not-for-profit agency organized
to help attract industry and business expansions. He will continue to
serve on its board of directors.
Huntington said he also tried to instill a high level of confidence
in the community. He said area residents seemed to have lost that confidence
for many years. We dont have to take a backseat to any community,
he said. We can do anything we want.
Prior to becoming mayor in 1994, Huntington served as a city councilman
for seven years. That included a short stint as president of the council.
He became mayor when then-acting Mayor Morris Wooden resigned because
he was elected state auditor.
I never planned to get into politics, said Huntington. But
I was asked to run for city council, and I won.
Huntington, who grew up in Madison, went to work in the corporate world
after receiving a degree from the Indiana University School of Business.
He came back to Madison nearly 30 years ago with his wife, Connie, and
two daughters, Erin and Brooke, to raise his family and start a business.
In 1977, he and Connie started Valley Industrial Supply, which they
recently sold. I hadnt planned to sell it, but the offer
was great, he said. The price was right, and the company
agreed to keep our employees.
He admitted that he will steer away from any type of future work that
involved lots of inventory.
Huntington said he already has had offers from private companies, but
he is not ready to make any definite plans at the moment. I like
people, and I like public relations, he said. I may see
what develops from there.
Amy Browning, the mayors secretary for more than four years, said
working for Huntington was the best experience of her life. Hes
a great boss, she said. I had four years of education in
leadership, ethics, responsibility and politics.
Betsey Vonderheide, special projects coordinator for the city under
Huntingtons administration, echoed Brownings sentiments
about working for Huntington. He has the greatest capacity,
she said. He attended everything and went everywhere in the city
because he truly cared about his community.
Vonderheide held numerous committee positions during her 13 years of
working for Huntington. At present, she said her plans include withdrawing
from those committees to get my bearings. She has already
taken a position in public relations at Southeastern Indiana Solid Waste
Madison Area Chamber of Commerce Vice President Galen Bremmer said Huntington
was good to the business community. He showed a genuine concern
and caring for our area, he said. He was very committed
to small business as well as the larger corporations.
Huntingtons administration made many improvements to the quality
of life in the city, supporters say, including numerous infrastructure
upgrades such as an early weather warning system, road improvements
and an airport expansion.
His administration worked to promote tourism as an economic development
tool, and future industrial development was secured by the acquisition
of property in a hilltop industrial park. Only a few sites in
Indiana have been certified shovel ready by the Indiana
Development Corp., he said. We have one of them, which puts
us in a favorable position to attract possible suppliers to the new
Honda plant being built in Greensburg.
As the recent election neared, his administration had been leading the
development of a Madison Bicentennial Park on the riverfront. We
certainly tried to get the restrooms in place down on the riverfront,
but some of the early construction bids were ridiculously high,
he said. The city was looking at different designs and other property
to place the restrooms.
Huntington said the next mayor will have to decide what to do. There
is a great need for those restrooms, he said. Im sure
the next administration will want to continue that project.
Huntington said of his recent defeat. Im pragmatic,
he said. When you run for office, you accept the fact that you
can be defeated.
He said he may have been caught in an anti-incumbency air
that resulted in 63 out of the 119 Indiana mayoral seats being turned
in the last election. In 2003, Indiana turned 68 mayors.
Being mayor is a tough job; you are very visible and accessible,
he said. While that is part of the fun of it, you can also be
blamed for any problems. He thought the states property
tax issue may have contributed to some of the discontent among voters.
Huntington said his only regret at leaving office will be the opportunity
to deal with people because he is a people person. He is
also disappointed he will not have the opportunity to be the president
of the Indiana Association of Cities and Towns. He was the president-elect
and would have taken over leadership of the organization in September
2008. It is a non-profit organization that seeks to improve the quality
of municipal government education in state schools, educate local officials
on leadership and management, according to its website. The group represents
municipalities before state lawmakers, and provides education and information
to members. With more than 460 municipalities as members, it is the
official voice of municipal government in Indiana.
I felt I had a lot to contribute, he said. I am disappointed
I will not have that opportunity.
As for a future political opportunity, Huntington said, I am not
prepared to address any future plans in that area.
Back to January