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New member profile: Rep. Ron Bolton

Eight rural hospitals have closed in Alabama since 2011 according to the Alabama Hospital Association, with the state currently ranking within the top ten for rural hospital closures in the United States. With 44% of Alabama’s population living in rural areas, this pressing issue was noted by newly elected State House Rep. Ron Bolton as being one of his top legislative priorities ahead of the Alabama Legislature’s upcoming session.

Elected to represent Northport as part of District 61, Bolton defeated his Republican challenger Kimberly Madison in the Republican primary election in May, and went on to defeat his Libertarian opponent Damon Pruet in the general election that November.

The seat was previously held by Republican Rodney Sullivan, who was elected in 2018.

Bolton worked in law enforcement with the Northport Police Department for 25 years, retiring as a captain in 2011 to become a campaign strategist for both regional and statewide political campaigns. It was this experience, Bolton said, that motivated him to run for office.

“I’ve got a background in working with legislators in governmental affairs and solid connections to the community, and I thought I could benefit my district,” he said.

His House committee assignments include Public Safety and Homeland Security, Ethics and Campaign Finance, and the Agriculture and Forestry Committees.

Yet, despite what his career experience might suggest, it was the Agriculture and Forestry Committee, Bolton said, that he was perhaps most excited about.

Q&A with Rep. Ron Bolton *questions are paraphrased

Q: What are some issues in your district you’d like to help address in this upcoming session?

“One of my key focuses is on the western side of my district with Pickens County where we lost our hospital over there back in 2020. Our goal is to get that emergency room back up because we’re sadly lacking in medical access over there. 

Another thing in the overall picture of my district is rural broadband access. I know that’s a hot topic, but that’s a big deal for us because so many people aren’t able to communicate out there.”

Q: What do you see as the path forward for addressing the problem of rural hospital closures?

“From my view, the rural hospital model that we’ve used over the decades is just not working anymore. You’ve got too little population to support the larger operations with the residency beds and everything. 

My goal is to provide emergency stabilization services in the rural areas until a person can be transported to one of the other hospitals if they need to go, and if they don’t, they can be handled there and released back.

The main thing that I’m seeing are issues with accidents that need immediate attention. Also, things like coronary problems and stuff like that where people really can’t hold out until they get to a larger facility.”

Q: What are some of your broader legislative priorities?

“I want to make sure that everybody gets their share of the (American Rescue Plan Act) funds because each district, just like mine, is going to have plenty of needs, and those need to be separated up appropriately. Across the board, (I want to) make sure that we properly fund everything that we’ve got.

We’ve got to split up the surplus and it’s still to be determined exactly what they’re going to do with the surplus money. I’m a big fan of education, especially when it comes to workforce development. I was a workforce person in career tech when I came out of high school because it was many years before I wound up going to college.”

Q: What would you like to see improve in the area of workforce development?

“At the high school level, there need to be good opportunities to fill the jobs that we got available; we’ve got a wide range of available employment right now, and (I want to) get those youth that are coming out of high school the proper training and the proper skills to perform jobs where they can do a career and make a living with.

One thing I’m a proponent of is financial literacy. I know we provide an amount of training in (financial literacy) in the career tech programs, but I really want to see a good bit of that moved up toward the exit time of high school. It’s very important when you start to exit school not to get overloaded on credit cards. They need to know how to manage a checking account, (so) there’s a lot of stuff that they need to know whether they’re masters of mathematics or not.”

Q: Are you open to diverting funds earmarked for public education toward private schools and public charter schools as has been advocated for by proponents of ‘school choice?’

“The question there depends on who you ask and what they think ‘school choice’ means. The bottom line is, I want the kids to have direct access to education of a high quality. 

It doesn’t matter to me so much where they go, but I’ve really over the years been a fan of public education. I like to make sure that we get the resources and that we continue to strive to make improvements in the outcomes.”

Q: You mentioned you were particularly excited to serve on the Agriculture and Forestry Committee. Why do you see that committee appointment as particularly important?

“We know this year they’re going to have an upcoming renewal of the Farm Act in Washington, and (I want to) make sure we get a good distribution that we can work with (and) provide the agriculture and foresting people the tools they need to work with. 

Their costs have gone up enormously in the past three years or so, and I’d like to make sure that we can help them economically.”


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