Tri-City Ledger -

By Joe Thomas
Ledger Editor 

Gehman booted from the rail commission

Atmore resident critical of Gov. Ivey's decision not to ante up for passenger rail is replaced

 

July 5, 2018

Gehman

Atmore resident Jerry Gehman was removed from the Southern Rail Commission following critical remarks about Gov. Kay Ivey's decision not to commit $5.3 million in state funds to help bring back passenger rail along the gulf coast.

Gehman, 59, was appointed to the rail commission in 2016 by then Gov. Robert Bentley. The funds from the state of Alabama were needed to jumpstart passenger rail from New Orleans to Mobile with future plans to extend the route through Atmore to Jacksonville and Orlando.

Gehman said he and others had made repeated attempts to talk with Gov. Ivey about passenger rail and the importance to the state to get on board with the project.

He said he reached out to the media to voice his frustrations because he could not talk with the governor.

"The governor should know all the facts before making a decision," Gehman said. "I said if we don't support the effort it will give Alabama a black eye."

He said the frustration began when the governor failed to apply for a $2.9 million grant for the rail service.

"The exposure got me kicked off the rail commission," Gehman said. "It was exposure to the truth."

Gehman said when he first got on the rail commission he learned the state had not been paying its $60,000 per year dues to the rail commission. He said he and Greg White of Andalusia, who was chairman of the commission at the time, met with Jim Byard with the Alabama Department of Economics and Community Affairs and were able to get the past due amounts and have the funding in place for 2017 and 2018.

Gehman said he first tried to reach out to Ivey while she was still serving as lieutenant governor, but had no success.

"I have never talked to Kay Ivey," Gehman said. "I went public before the decision was made. I tried repeatedly to get to the governor because we were up against a hard deadline. We had to have her support and we couldn't even talk to her."

"How can you get the governor to make a commitment when you can't meet with the governor?" Gehman said.

He said he has no ill will toward Gov. Ivey, but said he'd still like to meet with her.

"I turned to the media and it was a costly mistake," he said. "She's either not governing or someone else is calling the shots."

Gehman said the governor's refusal to commit funds has greatly diminished any chance of restoring passenger rail service along the gulf coast in his lifetime.

"It's unfortunate," Gehman said. "It's an economic tool we lost."

Gehman said he's still a railroad advocate and will continue to be an advocate for passenger and freight across the country.

He said his passion for rail is why State Rep. Alan Baker first recommended him for a seat on the rail commission.

 
 

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