Estes named Alabama Arts Alliance Legislator of the Year

Representative Tracy Estes is shown with his award for being named the Alabama Arts Alliance’s Legislator of the Year.

Special to the Journal Record
BIRMINGHAM – Rep. Tracy Estes (R-Winfield) has been honored by the Alabama Arts Alliance as the statewide organization’s Legislator of the Year, based on his dedication to arts education in schools and his love and devotion to the students served as a result.
The second-term lawmaker was recognized in a banquet setting at the Red Mountain Theater in Birmingham on Thursday, March 14, before being asked to address the membership at the annual conference the following morning.
“How many times is a lawmaker recognized simply for loving his students?,’’ Estes responded when asked about being selected. “Naturally, I do not make every single artistic event in House District 17 due to scheduling conflicts, but I certainly attempt to honor each invitation. I love my students and I cherish the opportunity to witness their exploration of their personal talents and gifts.’’
The award is presented to the lawmaker who has consistently advocated and supported the arts culture sector and arts education in Alabama. Estes was nominated by the Hamilton arts community, the students and parents.
Alabama Arts Alliance Executive Director Donna Russell commended Estes for his dedication to arts education, as did state alliance board chairman Melissa Hughey and Hamilton Middle School Assistant Principal and Arts Coordinator Benja Jackson.
“The arts community in Hamilton is so blessed to have the support of Rep. Estes,’’ Jackson said. “We believe he embodies all that a legislator should be. Rep. Estes has been a strong supporter of the children and the arts program since its inception. There has never been a time when he did not respond to an invitation or a request for financial assistance.
“His support is visible and tangible, as he has attended every performance, speaking in support of the arts and sharing the benefits it has for both the children and community alike: Improving education, quality of life and serving as a recruitment tool for business and industry. He always takes the time to speak with the students and their parents, sharing words of encouragement and praise following their performance and is, often, one of the last ones to leave following the performance.’’

Front row supporter
Presenting the award at the ceremony, Hughey offered her own heartfelt remarks.
“This is really a love letter to a politician,’’ Hughey began. “Most of you would never say that, but you don’t have Tracy Estes as your representative. He serves House District 17, but he is Hamilton’s representative and we love him. He truly is an advocate for children. In our first performance, he even served in our community chorus. No matter what, he always comes. He sits in the front row and he tells those parents how blessed they are to have this program.
“He and his wife Christina sit on the front row and they lead the standing ovations. And the children notice and are surprised at how a person in his position can be so supportive. We need to have arts education supported the way our representative does. Tracy, we love you and our community loves you.’’

Loves all 8,101
of his students
Since taking office in 2018, the legislator has established a reputation for visiting local schools all across the district on a regular basis, including athletic, academic and artistic events. His service also includes periodic stops in his schools simply to visit with administrators, teachers and students. He often accepts invitations to speak to full classrooms about the importance of school attendance, participation and how various levels of government operate.
In his acceptance speech, Estes stressed his personal love for his students, “all 8,101 of them,’’ as the legislator represents four school districts: Marion County, Lamar County, Haleyville City and Winfield City. He stressed the importance of arts education, as these opportunities often reach students who otherwise would not participate in extracurricular activities.
“The arts often allow students to discover a part of themselves they never knew existed,’’ Estes added. “They find or expand on talents rarely, if ever, used while opening the doors to opportunities at their current age and for years to come. These students are changed by the arts, gain strength and confidence from their time on stage and in front of large audiences. Changes and improvements in their lives due to arts education may never fully be measured. And allow me to express my love and appreciation to my teachers who lead my students through this wonderful journey.’’

Proud of students,
grateful for
Prior to his acceptance of the award, members of the Hamilton Middle School's arts program performed musical excerpts from their recent performances of the classic play, “Beauty and the Beast.’’ Those in attendance were visibly moved by the talent on display. The following morning, attendees were greeted by a brief performance by the dance unit from the school. Estes was in attendance for each with his words obviously expressing his pride.
“If I am being honest, I wiped away tears each time,’’ Estes said as his voice briefly cracked. “To see these students in my rural Alabama district having such opportunities means more to me than I could ever express. My wife and I attended the 'Beauty and the Beast' performance in Hamilton back in February and will be attending a Haleyville High School band performance of jazz selections in April. I have not missed a single theatrical performance in Hamilton or a band performance in Haleyville since I assumed this new role. And there have been others where I have accepted invitations and do my best to attend when notified in advance.’’
The lawmaker also pointed to the artistic talent on display in Winfield through the Self Express Productions team, directed by Josh and Casey Kauffman. The husband and wife team have been providing community theater in the area for more than a decade to rave reviews. Estes praised this organization and its leadership for changing the lives of so many from not only Winfield, but the surrounding communities which are always represented in the productions. He also attends the Self Express events…

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