By Adam Smith
The North Jefferson News
Alabama’s gubernatorial primary won’t be held until next summer, but the race for the highest office in the state is in full swing.
The 2010 race is wide open as Gov. Bob Riley serves out the remainder of his second term in office. At least nine candidates have thrown their collective hats into the ring.
One of those contenders is Republican Robert Bentley, a Tuscaloosa dermatologist. Though his name may be unfamiliar to some, Bentley is no stranger to politics. He has served as a representative in the State House since 2002.
Hailing from Columbiana, Bentley has lived in Tuscaloosa for the past 34 years. After a stint in the United States Air Force medical corps, he started Alabama Dermatology Associates, which is now the largest dermatology practice in the southeast.
Through his practice, he’s also treated every Alabama head football coach from Paul “Bear” Bryant to Nick Saban. However, Bentley retired six weeks ago to devote himself to the gubernatorial campaign trail.
Bentley refers to himself as a “small business operator,” which he said gives him an understanding of the wants and needs of Alabamians.
“I understand how people think and the problems they have and those things make me qualified,” he said. “Having practiced medicine has given me that unique insight.”
Though he doesn’t represent Jefferson County, Bentley said he’s well aware of the problems facing the state’s most populated county. While he doesn’t have all the answers to solving the financial crisis, he said it will take a common sense approach and quick action.
“The people of Jefferson County need to be concerned about this situation and the people of the state need to be concerned about Jefferson County,” he said. “There’s been so much corruption and mismanagement of funds and the problem must be solved. If I had the answer, I could win the Nobel Peace Prize.”
Bentley said one of the best options is one proposed by Rep. Owen Drake, R-45th, who recommended a county manager that all department heads would report to. “It’s a good idea and it would take that responsibility out from under the individual commissioners,” Bentley said.
Having made his living in the medical field, Bentley is very concerned about the health care of Alabamians. He said one of the biggest issues in the state is the lack of primary care physicians, particularly in the state’s rural areas.
If elected, Bentley would like to require the state’s medical schools to set aside up to 25 seats for future primary care physicians. Prospective students would then be awarded a scholarship, which would then be paid back in the form of four years of service in the state’s undeserved areas. Bentley is calling the plan the “Alabama Health Service Corps.”.
He also wants to develop a system that would allow doctors to electronically transmit patient records and test results, which would be a cost-cutting initiative for doctors and patients. He said up-and-coming physicians should also be taught how to fight for their patients medically and economically.
“We need to teach our medical students how to save money and be advocates for patients in every possible way,” he said. “There are lot of ideas we have that wouldn’t really cost anything but will save money.”
Lastly, Bentley touched on the state’s education system. As a father of four and a grandfather of five, he said there are numerous issues that need to be resolved. He’s proposing performance-based bonuses for teachers who reach certain classroom benchmarks as an incentive to teachers to go above and beyond.
“They’ll have to compare their classroom to itself, because you’re dealing with different kinds of students all over the state,” he said. “We certainly have problems with our education system and we need to find solutions to improve the overall quality across the state.”
For more information about Dr. Robert Bentley, visit his Web site at www.robertbentley2010.com.
By Adam Smith
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