By CAROLINE BECK, Alabama Daily News
MONTGOMERY, Ala. – State Rep. Kirk Hatcher, D-Montgomery, takes his seat in the Alabama State House this year after defeating former Rep. Alvin Holmes, the longest-serving member of that chamber.
In a departure from Holmes, who was first elected in 1974, Hatcher has pledged to serve only two terms in the House.
A Montgomery native, Hatcher said understands the impact and legacy that Holmes, a fellow Democrat, left in the Legislature and wants only to respect that history and improve upon it.
This is Hatcher’s first public office, but he says he has always been moved to be a public servant. He’s a former English teacher and he started a community organization to help establish African-American men in leadership roles on local bank boards and executive committees.
Hatcher attended graduate school at Emory University’s School of Theology and then afterwards spent more than 15 years teaching in Florida and New York.
Some of Hatcher’s top platform issues are education and school quality, mental health, jobs and infrastructure.
If you’re in Montgomery, Hatcher says there is a good chance you can find him at Café Louisa in Old Cloverdale. He has aspirations of opening his own coffee shop in the area someday.
6 Questions with Rep. Kirk Hatcher
Caroline Beck: So tell me about your background and what led you to run for this seat?
Kirk Hatcher: I came home two-and-a-half years ago, and I returned for the purpose of helping my mother with my aunt who was quite sick and when I was home I realized that I really need to come home and be here for them, so I put about 98 percent of my possessions into storage and fit the rest into my car. And the intention was to always head back to New York, but you know, like most people who come up the way that I came up and you are taught that at some point you will come home and help the family …
So when I came back home, what I ended up doing was going around like I normally would do and just looking at what was happening here and kind of lamenting the fact that while we made some progress that we could do better. I thought, you know, maybe I should run for public office and I have a couple friends who have always felt that I should run for political office. I never bought into that because I always felt far more effective working behind the scenes whether I was in the classroom space or years ago when I was running an economic organization right here before I left going off to graduate school…
CB: So how did you decide to officially start running?
KH: I thought I was in District 77 actually. I would later learn after pouring over the maps that were recently reapportioned that I’m in district 78. So literally, I made the decision because Rep. Holmes was representing that district that I said I’m not going to run. It wasn’t because of any sort of fear, it was really out of a great deal of respect… There was just a strange kind of emotional energy, that was like ‘don’t do that.’ And I’ve had time to process that because I think the reason I did that was because he was such a hero to my grandfather who has now since passed and my grandmother who in addition to having a picture of Martin Luther King Jr. in their house they had a picture of Alvin Holmes …
CB: So did you feel like there was a need for a changing of the guard, so to speak?
KH: Well, eventually, yeah. Eventually that came to me. There were certain strategy sessions where people felt we needed to be a little harder on Mr. Holmes, and I absolutely refused to do that. My position was we’re not going to run a campaign against Rep. Holmes, period. If we lose this campaign, so be it, I said. I was absolutely content to this day, I can tell you that straight up, about our decision to do that. We’re just not going to do that. We’re going to honor this man.
CB: Do you still have a good relationship with Holmes?
KH: Oh yes, absolutely. And he passed on a lot of knowledge to me as well. I had the chance of honoring him shortly after the campaign by putting together a banquet to honor him and according to him, he was moved by the experience and said this has got to be a first where the guy who beats you turns around and then honors you. But it was done because in my view he deserved it. Mr. Holmes had been an incredible advocate and a consistent advocate for primarily the African-American community.
CB: What is your favorite thing about your district? And what is something that people living outside of it might be surprised to know?
KH: The people are probably the best thing about my district. I grew up with such a sense of community around me. I also saw an incredible amount of support and a great show of support from people I knew growing up… Also the sense of community these people have provided me during my life is something that I will always appreciate and really take with me in how I govern and enact my duties as representative of district 78. I also really enjoy going to coffee shops in my free time. Café Louisa is my favorite to go to in Montgomery and I also like to journal in my free time, when I can. With regards to everyone else, I think people don’t really know that Maxwell Air Force Base is housed in our district, as well as the new Hyundai plant as well. So our district is actually a fairly diverse one, filled with many different families and backgrounds.
CB: What are your top issues you would like to tackle your first term in office?
KH: Well one thing I am certain of and something I’ve said before is that I only plan on serving for two terms. But as far as issues go, what really concerns me when I look at my district is seeing how my neighbors and how the people living in my community feel about going out and walking their streets. I feel like there is a real need to help create that sense of security and just a general improvement in our neighborhoods that I’ve seen in my district. I am also really passionate about the mental health concerns that are going on now and I think that needs to be addressed severely. Schools and the school system in Montgomery is another thing that I would like to see changed, and I think that segregated schools is something that is becoming more of a problem now. You have the white and wealthy children all getting to go to charter schools and then the poor black children who just aren’t able to have those opportunities and instead are going to failing schools. Jobs, of course, is another concern of mine and I do think that we need to focus on bringing good quality jobs to Alabama.