Mary Buckelew

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Mary Miller Buckelew (born in November 1945) represented District 3 in the Jefferson County Commission for four terms from 1990 to 2006. She was also the founder of the Video Xpress chain of movie rental stores.

Early life and career

Mary Miller grew up on Avenue G in Ensley and graduated from McAdory High School in 1964. She married Elbert Buckelew, a childhood friend she had dated since turning 16 and took a job as a secretary in an insurance office. She worked her way up to an underwriter at the firm and, after having two daughters, moved to McCalla.

Buckelew was one of the founders of a Parent-Teacher Association at McAdory High School when her oldest daughter reached high school in the 1970s. She later was nominated for a seat on the school's board. In 1983 her application to fill a vacancy on the Jefferson County Board of Education was accepted. She won re-election to keep the seat and became vice-president of the board. She resigned after her youngest daughter completed high school.

Buckelew opened her first Video Xpress rental store in Huffman. Her husband sold his pharmacy and joined her in the venture, which expanded to 25 locations before it was purchased by Movie Gallery in 1994.

Jefferson County commission

Buckelew, running as a Democrat, was first elected to the County Commission in 1990 and took on the role of President of the Commission.

In 1997 Buckelew was honored as one of Governing magazine's Public Officials of the Year. She was lauded for bringing decorum and relevance to a County Commission plagued by infighting and for bringing the county's numerous municipalities and competing agencies to the table where agreements on joint purchasing and the establishment of a county-wide sewer system. She also led the efforts to establish the Jefferson County Economic and Industrial Development Authority which constructed its first industrial park in McCalla.

Buckelew, who chaired the Jefferson County Emergency Management Authority, introduced several provisions related to the county's emergency response resources. She was honored by the Federal Emergency Management Authority (FEMA) for her work in 2002.

In 2006 Buckelew introduced an ordinance drafted by the Business Alliance for Responsible Development that sought to reduce environmental protections favored by the Jefferson County Planning and Zoning Commission.

Retirement

Buckelew retired from the commission in 2006. Bobby Humphryes succeeded her in office. Although he had run on a platform of reducing county expenditures, one of his first actions after taking office was to buy $24,000 of new furnishings and equipment to make Buckelew's former office, decorated in soft greens with wood, more "masculine" and "modern".

Buckelew's records were subpoenaed by federal officials as part of the SEC investigation into Jefferson County bond swaps. In September 2008 she agreed to plead guilty on a single count of obstruction of justice, admitting that she lied to a special grand jury about gifts given to her by investment bankers in 2003 and 2004. The gifts were made during and after two trips she took with other officials to meet with bankers in New York City. She was the first public official to be charged in connection with the county's bond deals. As part of the plea deal she cooperated with prosecutors in the Larry Langford federal corruption trial. She was sentenced in November 2009 to three years probation, 200 hours of community service and a $20,000 fine.

Mary Buckelew Parkway between Mt Olive and U. S. Highway 31 in Gardendale was named for her; in light of her criminal conviction, the road was renamed in 2013 to Barber Parkway, named for Dewey Barber Chevrolet which had relocated to there from Warrior.

References

  • Mahtesian, Charles (1997) "In the Cause of Consensus". Governing magazine.
  • Crowe, Christina (October 19, 2006) "Got Flood Insurance?" Black & White
  • Diel, Stan (September 24, 2008) "From Ensley, Mary Buckelew rose to Jefferson County school board president, millionaire." Birmingham News
  • Walton, Val (September 24, 2008) "Former Jefferson County Commissioner Mary Buckelew admits she lied to special grand jury probing county sewer bond deals." Birmingham News
  • Kwon, Wade (November 12, 2009) "Mary Buckelew sentenced to 3 years probation." Wade on Birmingham