MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) - The Alabama Education Association, one of the largest and most powerful political groups in the state, will have a new leader January first. That's when Dr. Paul Hubbert, who has led the organization since 1969, will retire.
The man who will replace him as Executive Secretary is Dr. Henry Mabry, the former Director of the Alabama Department of Finance under Don Siegelman. His final year in that post was 2002.
"I'm humbled by the decision of the organization" Mabry said in an interview.
Mabry says he has learned many valuable lessons from Dr. Hubbert. He says he will continue the role that Hubbert established as being the top lobbyist for the group on behalf of the more than hundred thousand members statewide.
"I've watched Dr. Hubbert do it for over 20 years and I see no reason not to take his lead and how he does his role and how I should do mine" Mabry said.
Republican leaders appeared to target the AEA during the last legislative session and a special session in December 2010. The AEA has historically been aligned with the state's Democratic Party.
GOP supermajorities passed measures that outlawed the process of automatic dues payments from payroll for state employees, and it passed sweeping changes to tenure laws.
Mabry says he isn't fazed by a supposed divide in the legislature. He said, "We're going to work with the leadership of both houses of the legislature. We're going to work with the executive branch to help improve education."
Republican leaders will announce their plan for education reform for the 2012 legislative session in the next few weeks. The notion of authorizing charter schools has come up in GOP circles. Charter schools are publicly funded institutions that act beyond the normal scope of public schools. Students typically need to apply for admission and the school must meet the requirements laid out in its charter.
In what will be another difficult budget year for education, Mabry says no new programs should be considered unless the state can for sure afford them. He said lawmakers should be able to fund the basic functions of public education first.
"It's going to be hard to see new programs taking away money from already strapped schools" Mabry said.
The former Deputy Executive Secretary Dr. Joe Reed will also retire before the end of the year. Greg Graves, who currently serves as a staff attorney with the AEA, will take over his position.