Cliff Sims: Let’s start with the question that immediately jumped to my mind when you told me you were considering running for Secretary of State, why do you want to leave the legislature after only one term?
John Merrill: I love serving in the State House more than anything I’ve ever done in public or community service. The only reason I would even consider evaluating potential candidacy at this time is due to the fact that the incumbent is term limited and cannot seek re-election. If I chose not to offer myself now, there is no doubt in my mind that in four to eight years from now I would look back at the person serving and will know that I could have done a better job and I could have been more committed to the people of my state than that individual. Leaving a safe seat, in the community that I love, demonstrates my commitment to serve the people of the entire State of Alabama.
Sims: What qualities do you think make a good secretary of state?
Merrill: Discipline, diligent, detailed-oriented, problem-solver
Sims: What experience do you have that will make you a good fit for the job?
Merrill: I have proven myself to be a successful manager of people as President of the Student Government Association at the University of Alabama, as Director of Business Development at the Chamber of Commerce of West Alabama, as Director of Community Relations and Community Education for the Tuscaloosa County School System, most recently, as a Business Development Officer for First Federal Bank, my roles as a community volunteer, and as a successful legislator in the Alabama House of Representatives, uniquely qualify me for this position.
Sims: Do you think it will be challenging to win statewide office after only one term in the House?
Merrill: It’s challenging just to win a seat in the Alabama House of Representatives. I cannot imagine entering into an electoral process and it not be challenging. It would be both a unique and welcome experience.
Sims: Tell Yellowhammer readers a little more about your background and what you’d done prior to being elected to the legislature.
Merrill: I was born in Wedowee (Randolph) County and raised in Helfin, Alabama where my father was a bi-vocational pastor, circuit clerk, and probate judge of Cleburne County. My mother was a school teacher for thirty years, and my sister and I lived in the same house from childhood, until we went away to school. At Cleburne County High School, I participated in basketball, baseball, and many clubs and organizations. I also served as the President of my Student Council. I became an Eagle Scout from Troop 206 in 1980. At the University of Alabama, I was very involved in extracurricular activities, including intramural sports and the Student Government Association, where I served as a Student Senator, Vice President, and SGA President. My wife Cindy, from Phil Campbell, Alabama, and I met and were married at Calvary Baptist Church, where we still attend today. While at the University, I also had the privilege to serve two congressional internships, one for Congressman Bill Nichols and one for Senator Howell Heflin. These efforts led me to become the Governmental Affairs Intern at the Chamber of Commerce of West Alabama. Subsequently, I have served as a National Account Executive and Manager at Randall Reilly Publishing, as the Assistant Director of the Tuscaloosa County Industrial Authority, where I helped to recruit Mercedes Benz, as the Director of Business Development at the Chamber of Commerce, and as the Director of Community Relations and Community Education for the Tuscaloosa County Schools. Most recently, I have served as the Business Development Officer for First Federal Bank. I have been involved in numerous local, state, and national professional, civic, and service organizations.
Sims: Alabama Republicans have dominated the state political landscape since 2010, but the Party seems to be struggling nationally. What do you think it will take for the Party see a resurgence on the national level?
Merrill: I think that the Party needs to return to its core values of individual freedom, liberty, less intrusive government, more efficient delivery of services, and creating a more favorable climate for individual development, growth, and responsibility.