By ASHLEY BERKERY
I recently sat down at Hart & Soul in Edgewood to chat with Alabama State Representative Paul DeMarco about issues related to the state and to our city.
DeMarco, a Homewood resident, grew up in Mountain Brook and graduated from Mountain Brook High School. After majoring in journalism at Auburn, he attended law school at the University of Alabama. He is a partner in the law firm Parsons, Lee, & Juliano and represents the 46th district in the state legislature. DeMarco lives in Edgewood with his wife, Jacqueline, a clinical psychologist.
What current projects are you working on that affect Homewood?
On an ongoing basis, I communicate with the Homewood mayor, city council and city manager to discuss local, state and city issues. I also communicate with Homewood City Schools superintendent Bill Cleveland regarding any education issues. I have recently worked to help Edgewood Elementary and Shades Cahaba Elementary secure grant money for a new playground and fitness circuit. In addition, I have assisted Hall-Kent with various projects. Our state has a high rate of childhood obesity, and projects such as this encourage children to spend time outdoors.
I am also an active member of the Homewood Chamber of Commerce.
You have lived in Birmingham your whole life. What do you love about it?
Our parks and trails are one of the many things I love about our region, and a big reason why people want to live here. We are an outdoor community with lots of runners and cyclists, and this makes us stand out from other places. Homewood is a great running community. Whenever I bring people to Birmingham, they are surprised at our mountainous terrain and are inspired by the beauty of our city and state.
I also love how the citizens of Alabama came together after the recent oil spill and tornadoes. During these tragic times, the entire country saw a glimpse of the charitable nature of our citizens and the spirit of Alabama.
How would you describe your job?
Voting on legislation is a very important aspect of the job, but there is much more work that takes place prior to legislative sessions.
My primary focus is to stay abreast of issues important to my constituents and provide all possible assistance to them.
I also work on issues that are of concern to citizens state-wide. For example, I work with many organizations and individuals in an effort to reduce cancer mortality rates in the state of Alabama.
Your district stretches all the way from Cherokee Road in Mountain Brook through parts of Homewood, along Lakeshore Drive and extending into western Hoover, but you also represent parts of each city. Are there some things in common that you hear from your constituents when you speak with them?
The common interest is education; one of the most important parts of a community is to have a thriving school system to educate the next generation. I work with great superintendents and school boards, which are some of the best in the state. During the session when education legislation comes up for debate, I always call my school superintendents and ask, “How will this affect our school system?”
I am always conscious of how any legislation will affect the Homewood School System and would oppose any legislation that would impair our local school system’s ability to continue the great work being accomplished.
How do you feel about the progress being made to reach a settlement on the Jefferson County sewer issue?
The most important aspect of this issue is how it will impact the citizens. We have had years of corruption, fraud and mismanagement, and it would not be fair to put all of this debt on the backs of the citizens. I am strongly opposed to the notion that there will be a non-user fee on septic tank users. We want a resolution to the issue now but not something that will drive citizens out of Jefferson County.
The legislation I sponsored to create the position of county manager became law, and as of two months ago the county hired a manager. I think that is a piece of the puzzle to moving Jefferson County forward, and I am optimistic that we will be able to get this issue resolved.
I also sponsored legislation to make county financing more transparent. The law requires public hearings before county bond deals are approved, and the documents must be open to the public.
In private practice, you’re an attorney. What areas of law do you specialize in? How often are you actually in the office?
I am one of nine partners in the firm of Parsons, Lee & Juliano, P.C. We specialize in civil litigation in state and federal courts throughout Alabama. My partners are great about working with me when I have to be out of the office for legislative matters, but I do spend a great deal of time in the office when not in session. I believe my partners share my belief that it is important for a state representative to be active in the community, and they realize I work extremely hard to do that in Homewood. I believe we should all do what we can to continually improve our community, no matter our role.
In your rare “spare time,” what do you like to do?
My wife and I both love to run and we try to participate in all local charity races. We also enjoy serving in our church and spending time with our families.