The Messenger’s Political Series: Local candidate Mark Gidley shares mission and vision for District 29 seat

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Watch the full interview here.

For those who don’t know you, give a brief bio – where you were born and raised, your professional career and your involvement with the community.

“I lived in Hokes Bluff almost my entire life. I’ve moved around some, but I always ended back where I grew up. My grandfather homesteaded here in 1880 and I still live on a piece of that land. I graduated from Hokes Bluff High School, and I have deep roots in Etowah County. The first 21 years of my career was in the insurance business and the last 24 I’ve been in full time ministry. Now I’m running for House District 29, which will be my first bid for an elected position.” 

Tell us about the transition from the insurance business to the ministry —how did you first get into insurance and how did it lead you into the ministry?

“There really wasn’t what I would call a transition. My wife and I married when I was 19, and I needed a job. Someone approached me about this insurance company, offered me a job and I took it. I fell in love with that type of work because it put me in people’s homes every single day. I would go in and out of numerous homes every single week.

I love people, I love meeting people. I enjoyed it. I served as a leader and on the board in the Life Underwriters Association with an organization called LUTC (Life Under Training Camp). They did training programs for insurance agents. Then at the age of 26, I was promoted into management with the company I was with – that put me traveling a lot and going to different areas all over Northeast Alabama.

I just loved that more and more. I left that company and worked for another company for two years where I was also promoted into management. I loved the career and the fact that I was out meeting people and serving a need.

You sit across from someone and you say, “How am I going to help you to deal with a tragedy or your future or whatever happened?” It taught me a lot about dealing with people and helping people and serving. It’s what I love to do. In my late 20’s I was called into ministry and I did that for a number of years.

In 1998, I was approached about a full-time position at a church. I prayed about that, and then I made the launch from my career in the insurance business into the church full time. The Lord has been very faithful to us, and for the last 24 years I have served in that capacity as a full time minister. Which in reality, those two things really work hand-in-hand.”

 What have you learned over the years from serving people in both these roles? 

“I’ve gained a lot of knowledge. I believe that the experiences I’ve had in the last 40 years of serving the communities in both capacities has helped me prepare me for this moment to step into this legislative position.

It’s all about serving. It’s about putting your needs on the back-burner and doing what’s best for those you were taught to serve. I ask myself, “How can I serve these people? How can I be here to help them work through their problems?” As representative for the State of Alabama for district 29, I think that’s just going to continually follow-suit. I won’t be there to serve my needs. I have to be there for the 45,000 people in this district to do the same thing I’ve been doing these past 40 years.

I really emphasize their representative, to see what I can do to make their lives better and hopefully work toward making our community, the district and the state a better place for future generations.”

How would you define the word service, and what it means to you?  

“I think the word serving is exactly what Jesus said, “He that is the greatest is the one that is a servant of all.” It doesn’t mean that we don’t have a life, but service means putting your own needs on the back-burner to make sure I’m there for those I’ve been taught to serve. It’s a very important part of being an elected official. I am a servant for those people I’m there to represent.”

You’ve said in the past that you’re very passionate about being a voice for the people and and helping our community. Why do you think that so important in representatives?

“That’s what a representative is. I think sometimes as representatives we forget what it means. It means I represent the people. I must listen and make myself available to them. I don’t want to become so ‘Montgomery-minded’ that I am not District 29-minded.”

What are some other characteristics that you feel make an effective representative? 

 “Service is very important, as well as knowing your district. You have to know the needs of the people. That’s one of the things I feel I bring to the table as a candidate. I know this district and its people, from Sardis all the way to Ohatchee, Alexandria and Piedmont.

You have to know something about the issues going on as well. You have to have some working knowledge of what’s going on in the state so you can be sure to represent the desires of the people you’re serving.”

What motivated you to run for District 29? 

“I believe that the Lord has prepared me for a number of years to come to this spot. If I had tried to do this 10 or 15 years ago, I would not have been ready. I have been through things that all have connected and prepared me for this time. I have become aware of things that have happened in our state that we need to fight for.

I knew this was my time to serve and to use what God had taught me over the past several years to implement here in this district and for its people.”

What do you personally feel is your own skill set that would be beneficial to this position?

“I worked with people the entirety of my adult life and I care about the needs of people. I think that is one of the greatest qualities and characteristics that must exist among somebody who is looking to represent. The Lord has had me on a path now, for a number of years to learn about a lot of different things that I believe I’m bringing to the table here so I can begin implementing and using as representative to make this district a better place.”

In both your own experience and speaking with residents of District 29, what are some areas of improvement you’d like to address that you feel are important to the people here?

“One of the things that is really important to me is advancing education and also developing the workforce. We have a lot of needs in our community, and we’ve lost a lot of industry. We definitely need to be bringing new industry into the area, and we have some tremendous opportunities to do that very thing.”

What is your vision should you be elected? Do you have some short-term and long-term goals that address these issues? 

“As elected officials, we have to work together. When I first announced my bid to run for this seat, I began to meet and build relationships with leaders in the community because I knew it was extremely important. This is not a one man show here. We must work as a team. One of the greatest ways to attract industry to a region is to show the business leaders who might want to come and look at Gadsden or Etowah County and surrounding areas how we are a team. I’ve had the privilege over many years to work with many organizations and many groups, and I’ve learned how to do that. I look forward to sitting around the table with other elected officials across the board and say “Let’s share ideas about how we can begin to attract these big industries and business. How can we make our community better?”

I think we need short-term goals. I think we need goals about what we’re going to need to do today. We also need to lay a track of goals for the future because this is not just about what we’re doing right now.

It’s about what we’re going to do that is going to benefit the generations that are coming behind us. This is something I’ve already been doing, and this is something I would continue to do as a representative for District 29.”

In past interviews, you shared your belief that state governments are the backbone of what keeps our nation going. Elaborate on that. If elected, how would you ensure that our state government remains an effective and supportive backbone? 

“I believe state governments are the answer to some of the things we see going wrong in America, one of those being governmental overreach through our federal government.

We know that there’s a lot of things that have been pushed on some of our states and they have been very effective in standing against those things to make sure that nothing is imposed on our people or things that we don’t want.

When our founders created our country, there was a purpose for breaking it up into these segments called states – that was to keep federal overreach out of the lives of American people. We’ve seen that the during past two years with the COVID-19 pandemic. We see things like critical race theory that wants to infiltrate a lot of our schools, and the list goes on.

I believe it is state governments that will make a stand and will say “We believe we have the right to freedom of religion, we have the right to bear arms, and we have the right to make the direct choices for what’s best for our state and people.”

As representative for District 29, I will definitely continue to stand for those values that I believe have made not only our state great but our country great, such as the right to bear arms and freedom of religion.

I’m extremely pro-life and one of the things I’m proud of for Alabama is that Alabama has been one of the leading pro-life states in the nation. Through those state governments, through those laws that take place like Alabama and Texas and others have enacted, we’re looking at the possibility of having Roe v. Wade overturned this coming year. So, it is state governments that have set the stage to make sure we maintain our freedoms and it will.

I think it is state governments that will continue that and I will definitely work very hard to stand for those values that I believe that Alabama believes in.”

Should you be elected, what would be your first action taken?

“I think my first action taken is to continue building team relationships to help move us forward. Meeting with people and sharing ideas and figuring out what the needs are to move us forward so that when I go to Montgomery I have some ideas of what I need to be working on and making sure my district is a better place and that I’m hearing what the needs are.”

What would be your ultimate vision for District 29? 

“My ultimate vision is to advance education and I want to see the workforce develop. I’ve already been laying groundwork with that and working with different infrastructure ideas. I’ve already been in some of those places and met with those people. I’ve already found out that there’s some infrastructure issues that need to be dealt with, some roads and bridges and other things that need to be done to help make the community safer. Law enforcement funding is very important, to make sure that we are supporting those on the front lines so we can lay down and sleep at night.

I won’t know what all the needs are in those areas until I continue to sit down with the people in those areas. That’s going to be one of my greatest things is to listen to them and to see what their needs are.”

What can District 29 expect from you as their representative should you be elected? 

“That I’ll be there for them and that when they see me today, I’ll be the same guy tomorrow. That’s exactly what I will be for District 29. So often people are something one time and something else some other time.

I appreciate everybody that has stood by me and supported me and encouraged me. Every person, all 45,000 people that live in District 29 are going to be just as important as the other to me. I am a servant for the people, and that isn’t just something I say, it is something I feel deep inside of me. It’s what He [God] wants me to do.”

Is there a message you would like to send to voters as we meet the primary?

“Get out there and vote. Voting is a right we have as American citizens, and it’s one of those rights that if we don’t use it, we will lose it. Don’t be passive about voting. Look at the issues and choose who [you] feel would best serve the needs and problems of District 29.”

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