District 3 Commissioner Jamie Grant discusses his vision for Etowah County prior to becoming commission chair in January.
By Katie Bohannon, News Editor
While January marks the beginning of a new year, it also signifies the introduction of a new Etowah County Commission Chair. Before acting chair District 5 Commissioner Jeffery Washington passes the gavel to newly elected District 3 Commissioner Jamie Grant, Grant details his hopes for the county he calls home.
Born and raised in Etowah County, Grant considers his childhood akin to most. He grew up in a blue-collar working class family and attended West End from first grade until he graduated, when he began working with the Etowah County Drug Enforcement Unit. Grant’s service-oriented drive outstretched beyond his home, inspiring him to follow in his father’s footsteps and join the Alabama Army National Guard.
While Grant’s childhood might appear ordinary, his decision to pursue a military career – and all his decisions that followed – would chart a course for his life no less than astounding.
Working in the National Guard’s Counterdrug Program, Grant began his service at the U.S. Custom’s and Border Protection port of entry in Birmingham before traveling to different narcotic agencies throughout the state. Grant worked in Blount, Calhoun and Cherokee counties before culminating the last decade in Etowah County.
Although Grant noted that he worked narcotics like regular agents, his service in the National Guard’s 20th Special Forces Group and his roles as a signals intelligence analyst and criminal analyst ensured that a mundane desk job never fit his job description.
“Nothing was ever typical,” said Grant. “No routine in it. Every day was different – that was the beauty of it. I never went to work a day in my life. It was always fun and exciting. I was fortunate…not everybody gets that opportunity.”
From traveling nationwide for training to chasing criminals in other countries, Grant’s resume is enriched with endless moments and incredible experiences. He visited numerous schools throughout the years, educating students about the dangers of drugs and the importance of making positive decisions.
“You try to make a difference in the community,” said Grant. “If anybody was to ask me, I’ve waited tables and I’ve hunted murderers and warlords down. I have a chicken farm. I’ve worked in a store. I’ve chased drug dealers through the streets. [But] I’m as normal [as they come]. I’ve worked at every level you could possibly work. I know people from the ground up. The greatest thing about my job is dealing with people and giving them a chance, and trying to save that one kid or get that one parent an opportunity.”
Following Grant’s retirement as a Master Sergeant about four years ago, Grant faced a new direction in life.
While people questioned if he might pursue politics because of his military background, jovial personality and extensive knowledge of the county, it was not until all the pieces fell into place that Grant considered a new opportunity at his feet.
“You belong to something,” said Grant. “I belonged to the National Guard. I belonged to narcotics. Now, when you’re taken from that, it’s just [about] finding your place. Where do you belong? It’s not that narcotics was never going to run without me. It’s not that the National Guard 20th Group was never going to function without me. It’s just that you want to be a part of something. I want to be a part of something bigger than me. I knew when I got into politics, especially local with the commission, I could still be involved.”
When former District 3 Commissioner Larry Payne chose to not seek reelection, the Etowah County Commission proved the next place Grant would serve his community.
Although a recently elected commissioner, Grant approaches his term as chair with a perspective of equality and unity. He envisions the commission chair as no different than his fellow commissioners, hopeful for the chance to acquire more information about the county as a whole, rather than just District 3. Grant leans on the commission for advice, open to other viewpoints and endeavoring to learn more about his position each day. He is not fearful of admitting when he needs to research a subject more thoroughly before coming to a decision, noting that he would never lie to anyone asking a question.
As a commissioner, Grant hopes to witness more development in the county and recruit industry for the community. He believes that the first step in reaching that ultimate goal begins with reaching out to state legislators to welcome constructive communication on what barriers hinder Etowah County from progressing. Grant envisions elected officials uniting to address these obstacles, to resolve issues and ensure the community thrives.
“It’s my job to make you successful,” said Grant. “When somebody walks in my office, tell me what your plan is and I’m going to give you all tools to be successful. I’m going to give you all the training, resources and equipment to be successful, so that when you leave here or when you quit, it’s not because you didn’t have the training or resources. We’ve got to prepare people to be successful. We’ve got to give that person motivation, give them the right tools, the right education and the right mindset [to succeed].”
Grant expressed how his career in the military will influence his approach to serving as commissioner, noting that he will rely on his effective decision making skills to analyze what is best for Etowah County.
He reflected on how the military transformed his perspective on life and the world, recalling a moment he experienced in another country. After Grant’s group asked a man helping them constructing a fire support base how much money he wanted in payment, the man declined. Instead, he pointed to a cleaned out 55-gallon drum that was cut in half. The man said, “Money does me no good. I want that drum because I’ll have something.”
Grant contrasted that man’s desire to own a possession, and his drive to work tirelessly to acquire it, with the materialistic sense of abundance Americans often experience without much consideration. While some individuals toss televisions away or spend hundreds of dollars on a meal without batting an eye, others struggle to maintain what little they have, or possess nothing at all.
The perspective Grant gained from his past interactions keep him grounded today, reminding him of the true riches in life. These experiences instill in him a keen awareness of the world, gifting him with humility and ceaseless gratitude.
“When you see a four-year-old kid wearing a pink boot and a yellow boot because that’s all he has for his feet, or you see a kid dragging a tin can on a string as his toy because he has nothing, you see what the world is like,” said Grant. “It happens right down the road here. You go home and you think, thank you, because I’ve been blessed. And you know that any day, you can wake up and it all be gone.”
But while Grant’s experiences with others have shifted his perception to a holistic view, events in his personal life transformed the way he lives.
“I have a lot of faith,” said Grant. “In 2002, I was hit head on and went through the back windshield of a car and survived. In 2007, I was blown up in Afghanistan and left for dead. In 2017, I was hit by an 18-wheeler and called in dead. I’ve died three times. [But] I’ve been brought to this point. Don’t live for yourself; live to move forward. Live to make someone else successful, because your success depends on someone else’s success.”
Grant’s motivation for others to succeed flourishes in his military background, which taught him the necessity of all individuals performing his or her role to ensure the overall mission was achieved. He attributed his own accomplishments and current position to his teams in Afghanistan and Africa, as well as all those surrounding him, who he strives to ensure receive the essential resources for their own triumphs.
“I just want other people around me to be successful,” said Grant. “That’s my motivation. I don’t care what’s said about me, or how good I am. If I give [others] all the glory, I don’t need glory. Just by return, I’m going to receive that.”
He requested that residents pray for him as he moves forward and shared one aspect of the county that he admires most.
“Etowah County just keeps taking a punch,” said Grant. “We lose the steel plant, we survive. We lost Goodyear and we’re going to rebuild. This is my home. This is all I know as far as where I’ve lived. I’ve been around the world and I’ve seen great cities, but Etowah County keeps taking a punch in the mouth and we keep coming back. I’ve seen where we don’t get along, but I’ve seen the community come together when bad things happen. It’s a great community. That’s what I love about it…we’re going to continue to grow and fight.”
From officiating local basketball games to finding a distressed father’s missing daughter, from giving out food to those in need at his grocery business to serving three combat tours, Grant’s commitment to the betterment of others is evident in his dedication to his community, state and nation. His own resiliency and drive mirror the fighting heart of the county he calls home, while his faith fuels a purpose much larger than himself. Through his leadership, dedication and perseverance, Grant represents a resident of Etowah County determined to improve his community with each new possibility that arises in the future.
“I want to always learn and grow,” said Grant. “I hope I leave [the commission] better than it was. It’s good now, but I hope I make it better in some way. I hope when my term is done that somebody goes, ‘Hey, Jamie left fill-in-the-blank.’ I hope there’s one more business here. I hope there’s one more road paved. I hope when I leave, someone says, ‘Hey, Jamie, you did a good job.’”