As we begin to celebrate the Christmas season and close out 2022, allow me to share the story of two great Jefferson County/Alabama political legends.
Alabama Supreme Court Justice Mike Bolin is retiring at the end of the year from the state’s highest judicial tribunal. Bolin is a young 72 and would not have retired and would have sought and been elected to another six-year term if it were not for an antiquated state law that disallows someone running for a judgeship in the state after age 70. Bolin is one of the most popular and well respected judges in Alabama.
He is a big man, physically and figuratively. He is beloved throughout the state but especially in his native Jefferson County. Bolin was born in and is a lifelong resident of Jefferson County. He attended elementary and high school in Homewood, and graduated from Shades Valley High School in 1966, with honors. He stayed in Homewood for college, graduating from Samford University with a degree in business administration in 1970. He then continued on and got his law degree from Samford University’s Cumberland School of Law. He graduated from law school in 1973. He was on the Dean’s list and was associate editor of the Law Review.
Bolin was a practicing attorney in Birmingham from 1973 through 1988. In 1988, he was first elected Probate Judge of Jefferson County and was reelected in 1994, and again in 2020. He served in that position until his election to the Alabama Supreme Court in January 2004. He began serving on the supreme court in January 2005. Thus, at the end of his tenure in six weeks, he will have served 18 years on the high court.
Bolin and his wife Rosemary have one daughter, Leigh Anne. Mike is known and respected for his integrity, humility and kindness.
Another Jefferson County legend, Tony Petelos, retired from public service last year. Tony is a lifelong resident of Jefferson County and is a real American and Alabama success story. Tony Petelos has carved out a niche in Jefferson County and Alabama political history.
His parents are first generation immigrants. His family fled Greece when Mussolini and later Hitler invaded and decimated Greece. His father fought in the Greek Army and then later became a member of the United States Army. Tony is the youngest of nine children. He had five siblings born in Greece, and one died in the war. His father made it to the United States in 1947. His mother arrived in 1950. They had four sons born in America. His father and mother settled in Ensley. Tony’s father was in the construction business and became quite successful. Tony and his three older brothers joined their father in the family business. He earned his college degree at UAB while working during the day. He met his wife Teresa while both were studying at UAB. She became a Jefferson County Circuit Judge and served 18
years on the bench.
Tony began his political career in 1986. He defeated an incumbent and became one of only 14 Republicans in the 105 member House of Representatives. He was reelected in 1990 and again in 1994. In 1997, after 11 years in the House, Governor Fob James named Tony Commissioner of the Department of Human Resources for the State of Alabama. He was reappointed by Governor Don Siegelman in 1998 and served through 2001.
In 2004, Tony Petelos was elected mayor of the City of Hoover, one of the state’s largest cities. He served eight years as mayor and earned a reputation as one of the state’s premier municipal administrators. In 2011, the Jefferson County government was in chaos to say the least. The county commission lured Tony away from Hoover to be the administrator of Jefferson County’s government. He cleaned up the corruption and financial problems and spent 10 years in that position. He retired about this time last year at 69. He and his wife are doing well. They live in the same home they have lived in for the last 24 years in Hoover. They have two adult daughters, who they are very proud of. Tony’s story is a great Alabama political success story.
Steve Flowers is Alabama’s leading political columnist. His weekly column appears in over 60 Alabama newspapers. Steve served 16 years in the state legislature and may be reached at steveflowers.us.
See complete story in the Journal Record.