Up until 2022, U.S. Navy veteran Chad Robertson of Cleburne County never considered a run for public office. Serving as the executive director of the Cleburne County Chamber of Commerce, Robertson worked closely with Alabama State Rep. Ginny Shaver and former Rep. K.L. Brown, and said they both helped his county “tremendously.”
When the district lines in Alabama were redrawn after the 2020 Census, as well as Brown announcing his retirement, however, Robertson said he saw a new opportunity to expand the impact he could have on his community. House District 40 includes all of Cleburne County and southeastern Calhoun County.
“I got to thinking, nobody was stepping up from our county so it just got me thinking we really need to protect this district,” Robertson told Alabama Daily News. “I grew up in the area, so it just fit and I felt like I could do a good job and bring some value to the area.”
Robertson ran in a highly contested Republican primary election in May of 2022, winning 22.2% of the vote against six other Republican opponents. Robertson went on to win the Republican nomination after defeating Republican opponent Julie Borrelli in a runoff election with 50.2% of the vote.
Come November, and Robertson would win the general election handily, securing a victory with 82.9% of the vote.
Robertson said that while his legislative priorities are likely to become more concrete after spending more time with his new colleagues in the Alabama House, his first instincts are to help expand the state’s Veteran Treatment Courts program, as well as to strategically encourage economic development.
Robertson was appointed to three House committees: Military and Veterans Affairs; Constitution, Campaigns and Elections; and the Economic Development and Tourism. All three, Robertson said, aligned closely with his legislative priorities, as well as his personal and professional experience.
Representing District 40, Robertson spent four years in the U.S. Navy, owns two fitness centers and recently purchased a convenience store.
Q&A with Rep. Chad Robertson *questions are paraphrased
Q: What was your motivation in running for office?
“It was not on my agenda until the district lines were redrawn because of the census. I was the executive director for the Chamber of Commerce in the county I lived in, and I worked with Ginny Shaver – she was one of the representatives in our county – and then Bob Fincher was the other one, so I had a really good working relationship with them. They helped us tremendously in the county and just enjoyed working with them.
I had no intentions of running against any of them, then this opportunity came where our county got put in (K.L) Brown’s district, and he was planning on retiring.”
Q: What are some of your legislative priorities?
“Our area has a lot of veterans due to Fort McClellan, a lot of retired people are in that area. Tourism and economic development is right up my alley, I love working with that kind of stuff.
Veterans court is a thing that I’ve been turned onto lately, and I think it’s a really good program through the state. Some veterans reach out in different ways, and they don’t realize they need help sometimes and are struggling from different things. Once they get in that veterans program, they get plugged in to where they can find help. We can see an immediate turnaround, so it really helps.”
Q: What else might you support as a legislator?
“You’re always hearing about workforce development and getting that labor force built up to support the companies coming in. Especially in our region, we are uniquely set up at the moment to be able to strategically plan on how we want to develop. People are wanting to come here, we’re seeing the growth; we need to be picky on what we let in, and we need to be deliberate on how we want to grow.
Success isn’t always measured by monetary values or population, it’s the standard of living. If we plan it well, we can grow exponentially and still have the standard of living that we want and that we have come to appreciate in Alabama.
I think we’re in a spot in Alabama where we can be picky on the type of industries and companies that we want here. Saying that, I think they would be chomping at the bit to come here. What I’m saying is keep that integrity and grow (Alabama) the way we want to grow it.”
Q: Could you speak more to your desire to improve the Veterans Treatment Courts program?
“We’ve seen really good results in the counties (that do the program), and I would love to expand that statewide.
I feel like it’s a good benefit; they protected us, and I feel like we owe them everything. “
Q: Where do you land on the topic of school choice?
“At first I sided with school choice – at first. As a parent, I see the importance in being able to make that choice (as to) what would better suit your child, and I side with them on that. What I’ve heard, the way it’s working out is that the children it would benefit the most, I don’t think it would reach them.
Say a public school kid wanted to go to private school; the reimbursement would not be enough to cover the full tuition. So I’m very cautious with it.
I think the devil’s in the details, but I think it would have to be a good bill that would reach the students it needs to reach and be beneficial to the lower-income students who are stuck. It would have to do that, and if it’s not doing that and it’s shaking up the school system in a way that might be detrimental, then I think we need to go back to the drawing board.”