Location, location, location. That’s the old rule in real estate, right? You can have the best house in the worst neighborhood and you won’t get top dollar for it. Likewise, you can have the worst house in the best neighborhood and the price for it will be exponentially more based on its surroundings.

I once had a friend who lived in a nice house in a nice middle-class neighborhood. Then his business really took off and he made some improvements, followed by more improvements, and then even more improvements. Everything was top of the line. Good for him, he earned the right to upscale if he wanted to. But the problem was that a few years later he decided to move and found that the house was priced out of the neighborhood by almost double. It stayed on the market for four years and he finally had to sell it way below what he had in it.

But then there’s the other side of that story. Over in northeast Alabama, there’s some beautiful fertile land in Cherokee County, right on the border with Georgia. There’s a rich history in row crop farming in those parts that goes back to the days that Alabama was first founded. To this day when they harvest cotton, it looks like it has been snowing, as traces of pulled cotton line the edges of the roads on the way to the cotton gin. But back in the ’50s some of that land was changed when the Corps of Engineers built a dam on the Coosa River and Weiss Lake became a thing. Suddenly PawPaw’s farmland was lakefront property and over time Weiss Lake became the crappie fishing capital of the world. Now people come from all over the Southeast to buy a house on the lake and pay well over the value of what it would have been back in the day.

Location, location, location. Location can matter and, truthfully, even markets can shift over time as things get built or, conversely, as they fall into disrepair.

I say all of this to get to a bigger point. You see, I love this state. This is my home. Alabama is where I did most of my growing up, when the Army didn’t have us on orders somewhere else. Even then we came home to Alabama. This is where Charlene and I raised our kids and this is where our grandbabies come to visit us. This is where my extended family is located.

I’ve had the opportunity to live and serve all over this great state. I watched Huntsville grow from a medium-sized town where cotton and corn competed with missiles and rockets for productivity. I spent years at my grandparent’s house in west Birmingham marveling at the smoke coming from the steel plants that are now gone. I met Charlene in Mobile while attending the University of South Alabama and we stayed there several years after college, with both of our kids being born there. I spent years in full-time ministry in Gadsden, after which I served the northeast section of Alabama in the state Senate in the state capital in Montgomery. I jumped out of airplanes as a young Lieutenant in Decatur, Anniston, and Mobile and commanded an Infantry Battalion in Talladega, with line companies in Auburn, Oxford, and Sylacauga. I’ve hiked Mt. Cheaha, the Pinhoti Trail, Bucks Pocket and Bankhead National Forest and gotten sunburned on the white sandy beaches of Gulf Shores. There’s not much of this state I haven’t been able to see, experience, serve, work or live in.

I love it here. To me, Alabama is the ideal location, location, location.

And yes, I fuss about it. I get ornery about our state politics. I gripe about local leaders who make knuckleheaded decisions. But when I do, I don’t fuss for the sake of fuss. I don’t get on ‘em to drag us down. On the contrary, when I fuss it’s because I have seen us as a state and a people and I know that we have so much to offer and I want more for us as a state.

The maintenance of our state is like that analogy of the house in the right or wrong location: you can let your house run down and it won’t ever get the best price, even if you have it in the right neighborhood.

Location is many things but it is not everything. There still has to be an equal measure of good stewardship, because a house that falls into disrepair - even in the best neighborhood - is still a house in disrepair. We have to keep it clean. We have to keep it updated. We have to put on fresh paint, mow the grass, and fix the plumbing.

The same is true for our state, and if you find that things are in disrepair you fix them. You don’t spend money on a new suit, or a big-screen TV if your foundation is crumbling.

I heard a pastor say one time that he woke up one morning to notice that there was a crack on his bedroom wall. So, he called a repairman who came out and patched and painted it and it was better. But he woke up a week or so later to notice the crack was back and figured the first guy hadn’t known what he was doing. He got another guy to come out who patched it and painted it, and two weeks later that crack was back. So he called a third guy who came out looked it over and said, “you don’t have a problem with a crack.” To which he responded, “How can you say that?! I see a crack in my wall … you see a crack in my wall … all God’s children can see a crack in my wall! The repairman looked at him and simply said, “Yessir, but that’s just a symptom. Your real problem is you have a shifting foundation, and if you don’t fix the foundation you will always have cracks in your wall.”

You see it is not just about location. To be sure, that’s a big part of the value in real estate, but it is also about maintenance, and a part of that is keeping the house on a firm foundation.

I love Alabama. I have no plans to ever leave. This is an amazing location: a great place to raise your kids, and grandkids. A state that has stood well in history and even overcome some of its own history.

In this vast neighborhood we call America I would say that Alabama is one of the grandest and stateliest old houses, if you catch my drift, and I want it to stay that way. I want my grandchildren to see and experience all that it has to offer and to love it like I do. But to have that grand house maintain its value on the bigger market we have to be good stewards. So I fuss because I want to know that what has been built these last 203 years will be here in fine fashion and standing on a firm foundation for the next 203 years.

Location, location, location … and a healthy dose of good stewardship … so yeah, I fuss.

But hey, I do it in love!

Phil Williams is a former State Senator, retired Army Colonel and combat veteran, and a practicing Attorney. He has served with the leadership of the Alabama Policy Institute and currently hosts Rightside Radio M-F 2-5 pm on WVNN. His column appears every Monday in 1819 News. To contact Phil or request him for a speaking engagement go to www.rightsideradio.org. The views and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the policy or position of 1819 News. To comment, please send an email with your name and contact information to Commentary@1819News.com.  All rights reserved to Rightside Media LLC.