PRATTVILLE, Ala.-Although H. Mac Gipson has always believed in community service, until last year that service was always in the context of owning Gipson's Auto Tire, Inc., in Prattville. He never even dreamed of entering politics, much less of running for the Alabama House of Representatives.
But run he did.
The result: he now represents Alabama's 88th District, serving the 39,000 residents of Autauga County and part of neighboring Elmore County.
``I've always felt that I make a living in the community, not on it,'' Mr. Gipson said.
This straightforward, neighborly attitude-combined with Mr. Gipson's service as president of the Prattville Chamber of Commerce and participation in other community affairs-prompted a group of his friends and business associates to approach him about running for the State House as a Democrat and facing off in the primary election against a vulnerable incumbent.
``I never had any particular party affiliation before,'' Mr. Gipson said. ``I've always been a `vote-for-the man' type of voter.'' Originally, after discussing the issue with his wife, Mr. Gipson declined to run. But just before the deadline for declaring candidacy, the same group approached him again, and he changed his mind.
Running on the slogan, ``Vote Gipson-Voice of the People,'' Mr. Gipson handily defeated the incumbent in the June 8, 1994, primary. The November election, against a Republican candidate, was much closer, but Mr. Gipson still won by a 500-vote margin out of approximately 12,000 cast.
Infrastructure improvements for his district were a major part of Mr. Gipson's platform, and he said they would be his main focus.
``As a tire dealer, I know that in growing a business, you can go broke if your rate of growth exceeds your ability to pay,'' he said. ``The same thing happens when a community grows too fast.'' Prattville is a bedroom community for Montgomery, he noted, and its growth has exceeded its ability to pay for new roads, sewers etc.
As part of his program, Mr. Gipson has submitted a 10-point transportation plan to the mayor of Prattville, the city council and state officials, among other things calling for the paving of currently unpaved roads in the district.
Mr. Gipson said he also would promote education, particularly vocational education. He hopes to expand the district's ``school-to-work'' program, which combines high-school classroom studies with apprenticeships and on-site vocational training.
Mr. Gipson spent many years in the tire industry before founding Gipson's Auto Tire in 1981-first with Goodyear, working his way up from service manager to general line salesman, and later as a district manager for Kelly-Springfield Tire Co.
His store in Prattville now carries the Star, Michelin, Uniroyal and B.F. Goodrich tire lines, as well as offering a full range of automotive service and repair. It recently became affiliated with American Car Care Centers.
While he is occupied with legislative business, two of Mr. Gipson's four children run the family business. H. Mac ``Hootie'' Gipson Jr., 34, is the store manager, and Bob Gipson, 30, is the shop foreman, performing many of the hands-on repairs himself.