New State Rep. Chad Robertson (R-Heflin) is a busy man.
In addition to owning multiple businesses, being a new legislator, a husband and father of three children, you also might catch him out at a local restaurant playing the guitar or harmonica.
"I don't hunt or fish or golf," Robertson told 1819 News in a recent interview. "It's kind of my stress reliever. I do that, and I lift weights. I enjoy it. I love blues, classic rock, things like that…and country. You got to play country in Alabama to get tips.
Robertson, a 2009 graduate of Jacksonville State University in finance and a veteran of the Navy, decided to start one of the multiple gyms he's owned and co-owned over the years while still working at Southwire because "at the time, I was really big into working out, and I still work out as much as I can, but the city that I live in didn't have an option for a gym, and I thought it would be a good idea."
"I was just passionate about it," Robertson said. "I'd never owned a business. Going to school for business…I was interested in seeing if I could do it. It was a safe play for me because I was still employed with Southwire. The initial investment wasn't huge, and I was able to absorb it. It took off really well the first year. It did very well."
Robertson said he ended up quitting his job at Southwire due to the success of the business. He also co-owns a convenience store with his brother in Cleburne County.
"Just was blessed and kind of lucky at the same time," Robertson said. "I guess blessed and lucky coincide with each other. Being in the military and stuff, I was conditioned to working for a company, you know, that was my mindset. Stepping out into the private sector on our own, you know, it was like lifting those boundaries from you is kind of scary. It changes your work hours. It's not a 9-5 thing you can go home and quit. It's constant, 24/7."
Robertson won the nomination for House District 40 with seven Republicans running in the primary. Robertson won both close primary and run-off elections. He won the general election handily.
"The process was very good," Robertson said. "I had a bunch of good competitors. It didn't get nasty. Nobody got ugly. That's what I loved about this area. I think I was the seventh Republican. There was a Democrat adversary in the final one, but they were all good candidates. We had great choices. I think that's why it was so close. The candidates were respectful people. I think they had a serving heart just like I do. That's the whole idea of the democratic process is to have good candidates to choose from, and I experienced that with this race. Before getting into it, you hear horror stories about people being bad, but I didn't experience that. Our race was pretty clean. It was intense. It was a lot of leg work, a lot of door-knocking, (and) just meeting people. Very busy. It was a good experience. Nobody got ugly. I can't say anything bad about anybody that I ran against."
Robertson said one issue that came up consistently on the campaign trail was Alabama's grocery tax.
Alabama is one of only a couple states in the nation that tax groceries at the full sales tax rate.
"In my area, it kind of hits home uniquely," Robertson said. "With I-20, we're very close in both Calhoun County and in Cleburne County and we border Georgia. A lot of our people go across state (lines) to buy groceries and stuff. Grocery tax was one of the big issues I ran on. I think this area is uniquely kind of hit by it. We see the people that are going across to Georgia, and we're losing that financial gain from that. It's such a burden on fixed-income families in the state of Alabama and lower-income families. I feel like that's something we could reduce or even do away with and help tremendously in an easy way. We've got to figure out how to substitute that revenue it generates for the educational fund. I think it would be a tremendous help to the citizens in this area. I think it would benefit all of Alabama, honestly. I believe in the free market, and I think if people are saving money in one aspect, that's going to free up their funds. They'll spend it on entertainment and other areas. I believe that money would only come back to Alabama if we would just release that burden of the grocery tax on our citizens."
Robertson said he'd also like eluding the police charges to be increased from a misdemeanor to a felony.
"There's a concern of eluding the police," Robertson said. "Right now, it's a misdemeanor. Again, because we border Georgia off I-20, Calhoun County and everything. If they get in a chase, they dart across the (state) line. It's hard to extradite them back over here if they get caught over there. I think in other states, it's a felony. I think that's something we need to address as a felony. I'm hoping with that mindset it will keep people from eluding in the first place. If they know that it's a bigger charge, maybe they'll think twice before they run and endanger everybody."
Robertson will be on the Military and Veteran Affairs; Economic Development and Tourism; and Constitution, Campaigns, and Elections committees.
"I think that will fit my demographic," Robertson said. "I'll be able to help in those areas. It's hard to get on some of the bigger ones that you really want. I wanted to be useful and helpful as much as I could. I feel like I was placed in the ones that I could do the most good at this point."
To connect with the author of this story, or to comment, email caleb.taylor@1819News.com.
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