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Lowndes Republican candidates introduce themselves at Republican Executive Committee meeting

by Ron Williams

The Lowndes County Republican Executive Committee held a meeting at the Lowndes County Courthouse March 28 for the purpose of certifying Republican candidates for all local offices who will be running in the upcoming election.       Nan Lott, Republican Executive Committee Chairwoman, welcomed the many candidates (Superintendent of Education candidate Edna McGill wasn’t able to attend). Many members of the Republican Committee were in attendance and voted to certify the candidates that were present (as well as McGill).  After some routine business, Lott allowed candidates to stand and say a few words to the crowd.

Lott said that 21 Republican candidates were running for various offices in Lowndes County. She then asked the candidates to stand and asked for a motion (from committee members) to certify and a second, and then attending members certified the candidates with no opposition.

Lott started with Lowndes sheriff candidates (in alphabetical order) and called on Mike Arledge to start things off. Arledge stood and said, “I’m Mike Arledge, candidate for sheriff.  I’ve probably spoken to most of you a couple of times already. I have about 31 years of experience in law enforcement, and that experience is in about every major field of law enforcement from narcotics to criminal investigations to patrolman.  I’ve also been elected to two terms as justice court judge, from which I resigned recently to run for sheriff. I’d appreciate your consideration.  I feel like I’ve got the experience, the qualifications, the passion and compassion to make a good sheriff for Lowndes County.  Thank you very much.”The next sheriff candidate to speak was Joey Brackin.

“I’ve been in law enforcement for over 30 years,” Brackin said.  “I’m still in law enforcement; currently I work for the sheriff’s department…been with them for 20-plus years. I’ve been involved with just about every aspect of running the sheriff’s department from budgeting to personnel supervision and handling grants. I think that my experience with the sheriff’s department will allow me to come in and run the sheriff’s department and provide the same protection that I’ve provided the citizens of Lowndes County for years without any delays in transition since our current sheriff is retiring. I appreciate the fact that you let me speak here tonight and ask for your support, and also appreciate the fact that you realize that being an appointed public servant for the last 30 years I could not really be involved in politics up until this point. Thank you.”Barry Goode, a Columbus Police Department Officer, was the next sheriff’s candidate to speak.

“I’ve been with the city for 22 years doing different things, mainly in the patrol division, which operates with the public every day,” Goode said.  “I’m a shift leader, which operates running a shift on either the night or day shift, and I’ve been to numerous schools and classes over the years. I just appreciate your support.”

The final sheriff’s candidate to speak was Bo Harris, who ran for sheriff four years ago as well.

“I’m Bo Harris, and I’ll be 54 years old next month,” he said.  “I ran the last time for sheriff. I feel I have the technical, the human and the conceptual skills to run this office and take it to a higher level.  In my duties as a game warden, we had to have a very broad scope of training above and beyond most of the law enforcement because of what we had to encounter oftentimes. I was often put in a position where I had to take care of five cameras, ten men and all of their equipment and everything like that, so, I know about budgeting. Being a successful businessman for the last three years, I do know about money and how to do a business and operate and stay within budget and stay alive in tough times. I appreciate ya’ll who supported me last time and hopefully this time again.”
Lott then moved on to superintendent of schools candidates. First up was Sam Allison.

“I’ve been in public education for the past 17 years,” Allison said.  “I’ve been in administration for the last six years. My goal of wanting to run for superintendent goes back to this being home, and I want home to be the best. I think I work in a good district, a great district. I enjoy going to work every day, but I see so many things that we can do better and so many things that we can let the public see that we are doing. So the main thing I want to do if I do become superintendent is kinda unite all of our schools…kinda be a part of every facet of the process of improving it. So, I thank you for your support and I thank you for your invitation tonight to be here.”

Lott announced that Edna McGill would be next, but couldn’t be at the meeting because of prior obligations. The next superintendent candidate to speak was Lynn Wright.

“I’ve had 35 years of experience in education, 28 years as an administrator, 25 of those I also served as an athletic director and head coach,” Wright said.  “I spent my life in education, it’s something I really hold dear. There are a lot of goals I’d like to see us reach in Lowndes County. One thing that I’d really like to work toward is a centralized vocational school to give a lot more of our students opportunities. They’re limited right now to what they can take at each campus, and a centrally located location would greatly enhance the development of their abilities. Another thing is the kindergarten program. My years of experience has been from kindergarten to the twelfth grade, most recently up until three years prior to this, I served as principal at New Hope High School. Thank you.”

Next up was Constable District 1 candidate Wayne Crowson.

“I ran four years ago and was not successful and may not make it this time,” Crowson said.  “I served three years in the U.S. Army as a military policeman. I was a deputy sheriff – y’all may remember M.C. Edwards (sheriff).  I was a deputy for him for two years.  Appreciate y’all’s help in November. Thank you.”

Lott then called on Chris Hemphill, Justice Court Judge District 1, but he was not in attendance (Hemphill is running unopposed).

Next up was Justice Court Judge District 2 candidate Ron Cooke.

“My past experience is over 25 years in law enforcement as a Columbus police officer and Lowndes County deputy,” Cooke said.  “I served 29 years in the military, active and reserve. But my best asset is the time I actually served as justice court judge in District 2.  I was elected in 1991 in a special election. I was elected twice after that, then resigned in 2003 to run for sheriff, and lost that race.  But I’ve been an active small businessman ever since that time. But what I’d like to do is put my experience as a former justice court judge back to work for all citizens of Lowndes County as your justice court judge in District 2.”

Lott called on Justice Court Judge District 2 candidate Wyatt Mills.       “I live in New Hope,” Mills said.  “I’ve got 16 years in law enforcement and 20 years in the trucking business. I was the manager of a local trucking business. Any support that y’all could give me, I’d appreciate it. I’m not running as a politician…I’m not that way. Anyone that wants the job for political purposes don’t need the job.”

Lott called on District 1 Supervisor candidate Phillip Atkins.

“I’m seeking this office in response to citizens of District 1,” Atkins said.  “I’ve been in business basically all of my life. I was born into the construction business. I’ve been making payroll for about 35 years. I know a little bit about business. I’m a Lowndes County resident and have been here all of my life. Thank you very much for the support.”

Next up was District 1 incumbent Supervisor Harry Sanders.       “I’ve filled that office now for three terms,” Sanders said.  “I’ve been president of the board of supervisors for the past eight years. I think the county has gone forward and I’d like to continue the direction in which we are headed, so, I appreciate your support and thank you.”          Lott then called on Lowndes County Supervisor District 2 candidate Bill Brigham.

“I graduated from Lee High School here in Columbus,” Brigham said.  “I graduated from Mississippi State and furthered my education with banking courses at LSU. And I also went to the Mississippi banking school at…Ol Witch…have to say that kind of low (laughter)…Many of my friends have asked me ‘why in the world do you want to run for this job…you just retired, you’ve got your wife working (Allegra) and making a living. But I’m not ready to retire. I’m ready to re-start. I feel like banking and finance has prepared me, I’ve been in it for 40 years, and I feel like it has prepared me to make economic decisions. I know how important jobs are. I know how important it is to have unity in our community. And I just feel like I have the ability to make those things better in our community. I also feel like with my boardroom experience, that I can make good and sound and fair decisions that will help everyone in our county and Columbus, and I look forward to being there in the future.”

Next up was Supervisor District 2 incumbent Frank Ferguson.       “I’ve been in this office for about three and a half years now,” Ferguson said.  “I think in this last three and a half years District 2 has shined better than it has in the past. I think you’ll find more roads have been built.  I know a lot of y’all think this is a dysfunctional board many times, but you’d be shocked that we get a 5-0 vote about 90% of the time. And this has been a board that has gone forward and I don’t think…I’d put it up against any board in the last 20 or 30 years. We’ve worked as a team and I think it shows right in this courtroom. This has been recently remodeled and downstairs has been all remodeled. We’ve got a brand new administration building…we’ve got a new public health facility, and we’re working now on a new justice court building. I don’t think anything like that has been done in years and years. So, I feel like I need one more term to complete what I had in mind. And if you drive around District 2, you should be able to see the difference. I’m real proud of District 2 and I appreciate the opportunity to serve one more term. Thank you.”

Next up was Supervisor District 3 incumbent John Holliman.

“I’ve been in this job three and a half years,” Holliman said.  “Like Frank, this is my first term. I’m seeking another term. I think we’ve come a long way from where it was before. Like Frank said, we’ve built more buildings, made more roads and done business better than any board in the past and I’d like one more term, so I appreciate y’all’s support.”

Next, Lott said, “We have a candidate for Circuit Clerk…Justin Shelton.”

“I want this position out of passion for this office,” Shelton said.  “I’ve decided to run to serve this community. And I’m gonna need the help of all you people in facing a 36-year incumbent to the office. [ Ms. Salazar was elected to the post in 1992.  She served as deputy circuit clerk under her uncle, the previous office holder, from 1976 until her election. – Brian Jones]  So, I’ve got an uphill battle but I think I’m on a winning team. I need all of your help.  My family and I want to stay in Columbus and I want to serve this community in this position I’ve chosen to serve as…thank you.”

Next up was Susan Robinson, candidate for Chancery Clerk.

“I have a Bachelor of Science degree in paralegal studies,” Robinson said.  “I work for a local attorney (Chuck Easley), and I see that the chancery court over here is a disorganized mess and a lot of money is being wasted. I would like to step in as a fresh face and take charge and get it organized and get people back in touch with the public over there and save some money. And I’d appreciate your vote and support.”

The next candidate to speak was Allison Pritchard Kizer, candidate for County Prosecuting Attorney.

“I am a lifelong resident of Lowndes County,” Kizer said.  “I graduated from Mississippi University for Women where I attended on a basketball scholarship…I was much taller then (to much laughter). I went to Ole Miss law school and returned to Columbus and at that time I completed an internship with current County Prosecutor Tim Hudson. Since that time I’ve worked closely with Tim in youth court and around Lowndes County. In addition to practicing law I’ve also worked in business with my husband.  We started that business on our own in 1999. I’m married to J.D. Kizer and have two children. I am seeking this position because I think I can continue to serve, as I have in youth court with abused and neglected children.  I think I can do the same for all citizens of Lowndes County, and I ask you for your support.”

Next up was another candidate for County Prosecuting Attorney, Shane Tompkins. Lott asked Tompkins to explain what the position of county attorney entails.

“First of all, the position that Allison and I are both seeking is county attorney,” Tompkins said.  “Some people get it confused, and I probably would, too, if I wasn’t an attorney.  We are not in any relation to the board attorney that works with the supervisors…that’s Tim Hudson, he will remain in that position as county board attorney. Additionally you have a city prosecutor who is appointed by the city council, that’s also Tim Hudson. Tim Hudson is retiring, as Allison said, he’s retiring from this position (county prosecuting attorney) as of January when a new county attorney will be elected. The county attorney position handles, basically, youth court and justice court. You prosecute all misdemeanors in justice court in the county…DUI, trespass, anything of that nature. In youth court it’s any misdemeanor or any felonies for a minor who is under 18. There’s a few exceptions…if you have a gun involved in the minor if he’s over a certain age it would be up here in Circuit Court, but generally all the matters with minors are handled in youth court.

“Briefly about me, my name is Shane Tompkins and i’ve been practicing (law) here for almost 10 years,” he said.  “My wife, Julie, works for BancorpSouth over here in the mortgage department. I have two children. I guess when you speak of experience there’s only two areas I can speak of on that.  The first one is from the standpoint of justice court and youth court.  I’ve just basically been in the trenches of those two courts for the last five or six years. I’ve handled every kind of case you could handle from Lee County all the way down to Meridian.  Every justice court and city court and a lot of youth courts in the northeast part of the state, I’ve been in. Along with that, about five years ago when it became evident that Tim wasn’t gonna seek re-election, I went to the justice court and the youth court and asked them if there was any capacity I could serve in, I’d do it. I’ve been justice pro-tem in justice court, special prosecutor in youth court, special public defender…a lot of different capacities in a lot of different cases. I really look forward to speaking to as many of you as I can over the next 120 days till the primary

“I’m not a lifelong resident here,” he added.  “I’ve been here ten years, this is my home. My wife and I own a house on Southside and she is gonna die in that house on Southside (laughter), but, she loves it and I’m getting excited about this position and I look forward to speaking everyone of you between now and August 2…thank you.”

Coroner Greg Merchant (who is unopposed) was the next to speak.

“I’ve been coroner for seven and a half years,” Merchant said.  “We’ve set the bar up from what we had in the past. We’ve got the model for any county across the state. I appreciate y’all’s support through the years. And the opportunity for four more…I appreciate it.”

Next up was Steve Wallace, candidate for District Attorney.

“I’m a native of Lowndes County and Columbus, though I live towards Caledonia now,” Wallace said.  “I went to Ole Miss and MUW and the University of Mississippi School of Law. My little girl asked me this morning why I wanted to run for district attorney and I told her because I can and because I think some changes need to be made. I’m humbled by the opportunity to do it and ever mindful of the citizens of Lowndes County. The District Attorney’s office, as you’re aware, is the chief law enforcement official of Lowndes County, working in conjunction with the sheriff, chief of police, all law enforcement to bring alleged crime to the grand jury and to seek either indictment or a no-bill. If it’s indicted and it’s brought to Circuit Court, or as it’s known on the street as the ‘big court’, then it’s settled from there.

“I’ve practiced law in Columbus since 2000,” he said.  “Before that I was Senior Vice President of Gates Construction Company, so I have a heavy-duty business background, and in my mind the D.A.’s office is little more than a big business.  It handles a lot of money, works a lot of people and needs to be run efficiently. I was married to the former Tina White of West Point, we have two children.  She passed away about this time last year. So I’m now a single parent to a little girl that’s got a talent contest at 7 o’clock and the city prosecutor is mad because I’m not in city court right now. So my life is just about as the way it always is. But I appreciate the opportunity to talk to y’all and if you have a question about anything, I’m wide open. My office is open.”

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