MONTGOMERY — Gov. Kay Ivey has replaced the three members of the Alabama Alcoholic Beverage Control Board.
The new members are Col. Alan Spencer of Tuscaloosa, Melissa Morrissette of Mobile and Walter Bell of Mobile.
Mac Gipson, the ABC administrator, was appointed by Gov. Robert Bentley. He said he didn’t have any conversation with Ivey about the new appointments, but she’s within her right to make the changes.
“As far as I’m concerned, she’d done a lot of good work on other decisions, so why should I question this one?” Gipson said Thursday.
Spencer replaces Michael Ingram; Morrissette replaces Sameutta Drew; Bell replaces Robert “Bubba” Lee. The former board members were appointed by Gov. Bob Riley and Gov. Robert Bentley. Their terms had expired in 2016, Ivey's office said Thursday, but they hadn't yet been replaced.
Gina Maiola, a spokeswoman for Ivey, said she was not aware of any other changes coming to the ABC.
Gipson said he didn’t expect Ivey to replace him or assistant administrator William Thigpen.
“With a brand-new board, they need someone to tell them what’s going on out here,” Gipson said from ABC’s Montgomery headquarters.
Dean Argo, a spokesman for the ABC board, said the agency found out about the change Tuesday.
“We do not have any information other than the letters from the governor’s office that she has appointed three new members,” Argo said Thursday. “That’s all we know.”
In June 7 letters to her new appointees, Ivey told them they’d be making important decisions that directly affect the citizens of Alabama.
“I have made honesty and integrity a priority in my administration, and I know that you will embody these two virtues while serving the people of Alabama,” Ivey said in the letter.
Spencer, a veteran Air Force officer, stepped down later last year after four years at the Chamber of Commerce of West Alabama. He’d previously served as chief of staff to former 1st District U.S. congressmen Sonny Callahan and Jo Bonner. Bonner is now Ivey’s chief of staff.
Bell served as Alabama Insurance Commissioner in Riley’s administration.
Morrissette is co-owner of LLB&B Inc., a real estate company in Mobile.
The appointments require confirmation by the Alabama Senate, which won't likely happen until the next regular session in February, but the new members begin serving immediately. Their terms expire in 2022.
The ABC Board oversees about 170 retail liquor stores around the state, as well as wholesale liquor distribution. It also enforces state alcohol laws.
Some lawmakers have butted heads with ABC leadership in recent years. Sen. Arthur Orr, R-Decatur, for several years has sponsored legislation to end ABC’s retail sales, arguing the state shouldn’t compete with private industry. The agency has opposed his legislation, saying employees would lose their jobs and the state would lose revenue.
This year, Rep. Terri Collins, R-Decatur, sponsored a bill to allow Alabamians to have wine shipped to their homes. The bill was approved in the House, but died in the Senate. Collins said she had a compromise worked out with the ABC, but the ABC pulled its support when the bill got to the Senate and a study group to consider all alcohol-related bills was created.
Collins said the ABC’s move was disingenuous.
“I was very disappointed in them,” she said.
Gipson said the board is concerned about enforcement and keeping shipped wine out of minors’ hands.