Former Alabama Governor Robert J. Bentley is back.
This new site, launched on Memorial Day, examines Bentley’s time serving as Alabama’s 53rd governor and provides contemporary updates on his life since leaving office.
The platform also makes available to the general public archived digital content from the Bentley Administration and both of his gubernatorial campaigns.
“Governor Bentley was Alabama’s first governor to serve during the rise in popularity of digital mediums and social media platforms,” the site notes, before outlining the litany of online resources that it provides.
In an interview with Yellowhammer News, Bentley discussed his new project, his post-public life and even left the door open on a 2020 U.S. Senate run.
Transcript as follows:
YELLOWHAMMER NEWS: What would you like people to know about Bentley for Alabama and what’s the goal of this new endeavor?
BENTLEY: Bentley for Alabama is really a continuation of the work we began during my Administration. The goals and initiatives of all the people who worked so hard in our Administration are important and matter to our people, such as job creation, Pre-K growth and even the need to build new prisons. We were inspired by President George W. Bush, and the philanthropic work he continues to do after leaving office. The Bush Administration makes available its digital resources from his time in office.
I love history, and we felt that is was important to preserve the work we did, and the recording of that work. It just so happens now that’s all in a digital format where it can be accessed by anyone. We wanted to make it easily available online for anyone.
YELLOWHAMMER NEWS: Should we expect frequent social media posts from you?
BENTLEY: Absolutely! Social media really exploded during our administration, and we found it to be very effective when it came to communication with both the media and the people of our state. The Internet can be dark and dirty, but it can be used for good. I love staying in touch with what people are thinking and talking about, social media is a great way to do that.
YELLOWHAMMER NEWS: What are you most proud of from your tenure as governor?
BENTLEY: Without a doubt, lowering unemployment and changing the state’s jobs strategy. We were over 10 percent unemployment when I became governor, and we hit full employment when I left office. It’s gratifying to see the strategy we put into place, Accelerate Alabama, net so many good jobs. Especially in Wilcox County and other small towns that were hurting. I always believe if you educate people and give them an opportunity to succeed in a good job, they’ll be fine. I believe we are helping do that by expanding Pre-K, and by creating jobs. I’m also proud of how our administration responded and rebuilt after the 2011 tornadoes.
YELLOWHAMMER NEWS: How has the adjustment back to private life been?
BENTLEY: It was a little awkward at first, sometimes you feel like a baby giraffe learning to walk, especially driving around town when you really haven’t driven much in seven years. I had a few health issues, and I needed some time just to rest and get re-acclimated. I actually enjoy doing ordinary things like going to Winn Dixie to buy groceries. I’ll see folks and they still want to ask me how I’m doing, tell me they appreciate my time as governor and get their picture made with me. That’s always sweet and very humbling.
I opened a new medical practice June of 2017. I started on that a few days after coming home, and it has been an absolutely blessing. We are busier that I could have ever imagined. The practice is a true miracle, and God gets the glory for every bit of that. My medical practice staff is top-notch and like family to me. I’m a creature of habit, so I just settled back into my old routines at my house. I love to get out and cut grass when I have some free time. But people have been so kind and supportive and I can’t thank them enough.
YELLOWHAMMER NEWS: Would you consider a return to public office? Maybe the U.S. Senate in 2020?
BENTLEY: I love serving the people of this state. Serving as governor was the greatest honor of my life. I have a heart for our people and I believe we are all called to serve one another in some capacity. I found public service was a way to do that. I believe what is missing in public service today is loving the people that you serve and wanting to help those who need help, especially those who are less fortunate and really have nothing. If God shows me a new avenue where I can do that, I’ll do it.
YELLOWHAMMER NEWS: How do you want people to remember Robert Bentley?
BENTLEY: I just want people to know how much I truly care about them. I love being a physician and taking care of patients. Being governor opened up a whole new world to me, and it changed how I see people. Especially after the tornadoes. When you go through something like that, you realize hurt and suffering are no respecters of people.
We’re all equals and that’s how I see the people of Alabama. White Republican governors in their 70’s usually don’t push to fund Medicaid for the disabled, elderly or poor, much less try to make people care about building a new women’s prison where female inmates were once subjected to humiliation, shame and abuse. And politically speaking, doing that probably hurt me. But I always tried to put the people first. And I’m proud of that.
YELLOWHAMMER NEWS: Is there anything else that you want our readers to know?
BENTLEY: I would just thank them again for allowing me to serve as their governor. In this campaign season, just remember public service is tough, and credit goes to anyone who is willing to step in the arena. I never intended to be a caretaker governor. If you want to be a public servant and see change, be ready to get bloodied. As a voter, look for a candidate who cares about people, not just one who panders
Sean Ross is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn