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Clay County candidates rally on courthouse steps

Delta Sigma Theta and the Growth Alliance sponsored a candidates’ forum July 21. The forum, held on the steps of the Clay County courthouse, offered candidates in state and local races the opportunity to speak for up to three minutes.
The master of ceremonies for the rally was Chancery Clerk Robbie Robinson, who is not seeking re-election.
‘This is the first election that I’ve just really enjoyed,” he quipped, drawing laughter from the crowd.
[Not every candidate for each office was on hand to speak. I also omitted some races where the candidates were unopposed. – Brian Jones]

State Representative – District 36
District 36 covers parts of Clay, Lowndes and Monroe counties.
The first candidate to speak was Jimmy Davidson.
“I’m running because I care for District 36, both its present and its future,” Davidson said. “Because I live and work in this community I have seen firsthand what’s needed to keep this area moving forward. I understand the needs of this community, and what you, the voter, demand. I welcome the opportunity to serve you. I will work tirelessly and be accessible to all citizens and responsive to your phone calls and letters. Most of all I will listen to you, the voter.
“In the 1950s and 60s people across the state organized for equal rights,” he said. “Our struggle today is for the future of our children, making sure that every student has access to a quality education and access to programs similar to those in other parts of the country. We cannot continue to fund education at an adequate level. I will vote to fully fund education not one time, but every time. Everything must be excellent, including funding, teaching and overall expectation. It takes a community to raise a child, and it’s the parent’s responsibility to train a child, but are we as a community going to stand by with our hands in our pockets and watch our schools crumble?”

David Gibbs is the incumbent representative.
“I have represented this district for the last 19 years,” Gibbs said. “I’d like to thank you for the trust you have placed in me for that time. I have been involved in all the progress of West Point for the last 40 years. I’m currently serving as chairman of County Affairs in the House of Representatives, and I serve on Appropriations, I serve on Apportionment and Elections and I serve on Agriculture. On all of those I have been successful because I have become part of the House leadership. You become chairman of a House committee when you have seniority. I have the experience, I have the training and I have the know-how to make the best representative I can be.”

Sheriff
Incumbent Laddie Huffman is not seeking re-election.
Edward Houston was the first sheriff’s candidate to speak.
“I have been going around with my campaign and trying to meet everybody,” he said. “I want to explain to you some of the things I want to do as your sheriff. I left West Point in 1985 and joined the National Guard. I stayed there for 24 years. I joined the special forces, and I have done two tours, one in 2003 in Afghanistan and one in 2007 in Iraq. One thing I’ve learned is that I love my country. I wanted to do my part for my country. I joined the Mississippi governor’s counter-drug task force. I joined that in 1992. I learned the value of being a leader and taking care of people. I want to bring the experience I gained to the office of sheriff. I want to bring fairness. I learned about fairness through being a deacon at Strong Hill. I want to bring fairness and I want to take care of people. I love everyone. I know the sheriff’s department under Laddie Huffman has done an excellent job, but I want to take it to another level. I’ve built a network up, and I have people that I can go to that know that I want to learn and that I have learned, and when I call on them they will come and I will help.”

Chief Deputy Eddie Scott was the next to speak.
“I started with the sheriff’s department part-time in 1998 and went full-time in 1999,” Scott said. “I graduated from the law enforcement academy in 2000. Since then I’ve worked my way through the ranks. I started as a dispatcher, a patrolmen and criminal investigator, and I’ve had the honor of serving as chief deputy for the last four years. As a criminal investigator it was my job to investigate felony crimes against the good citizens of Clay County. My job was to gather the facts and evidence and present this stuff to a grand jury and follow these cases through our circuit court system and get these criminals off our streets. It’s very important that these investigators do what they’re supposed to do. It’s a waste of taxpayers’ money if the investigators are not doing their job.
“As chief deputy it’s been my job to carry out the directives of the sheriff and manage the day-to-day operations of the sheriff’s department,” Scott said. “What I’m bringing to you is my experience and service over the past 12 years. I know one thing we see is drugs and what they do to our community. We know what it’s doing to our society. We need to concentrate on the traffickers. That’s one reason why in 2010 our county was number two in the state in drug seizures. Five hundred kilos of cocaine was seized in Clay County. That comes out to about 1,100 pounds of cocaine. There’s a drug problem, and if I’m elected sheriff I’ll concentrate on that.”

Chancery Clerk
Incumbent Robbie Robinson is not seeking re-election.
County Comptroller Amy Berry was the first to speak.
“I have worked in the clerk’s office for the past 11 years as deputy chancery clerk and comptroller of the county,” Berry said. “During this time I have seen firsthand what it takes to run the clerk’s office. I understand the value and importance of the services provided through that office. I am a graduate of Mississippi State University with a degree in accounting. As comptroller, my duties have been to manage the county’s money and to oversee the general accounting duties of the county, to prepare to monthly financial statement and to manage the account containing all the grant money this county receives. Each year I work with the board extensively to prepare the county budget.
“I want this opportunity to continue serving the people of Clay County,” she said. “I enjoy working with people and I understand that the needs of others is what public service is all about. That’s what we’re here to do.”

Melissa Bobo Calvert is also seeking the office.
“A change makes a difference,” she said. “When I speak about change, I’m not talking about a change in Clay County, but a change in the people who are elected to serve in office. At election time I’ve experienced politicians coming to my door, shaking my hand and making a speech and asking for my vote. After they are elected, when the people who got them in office need their help, they are nowhere to be found. If I’m elected my goal is to treat people the same as they treated me during this campaign. I also pledge to be honest and have a positive attitude.”

Tax Assessor
Incumbent Tee Rupert is not seeking re-election.
Becky Coe was the first to speak. Coe is running as a Republican, and does not face a primary opponent.
“I appreciate your consideration and your vote,” she said. “I have four years of experience in this office. I held it from 2004 to the end of 2007. I would appreciate your vote on November 8.”

Former District 1 Selectwoman Linda Hannah spoke next.
“I’ve been serving West Point for over 30 years,” she said. “Help me continue this legacy by electing me as your next tax assessor on August 2. Bettering Clay County has been my passion. I served on the city board for 24 years. I’ve been in banking for over thirty years. I worked for BankCorp South and from there I’ve gone to Bank First, where I am presently employed. Helping people is something that I want to continue to do. I have worked at all levels of banking, and I feel that I am qualified for this position.”

Paige Dendy Lamkin was the next candidate to speak.
“I’m a lifelong resident of Clay County, and I am currently employed at Sally Kate Winters Family Services, where I am the office manager and book keeper,” she said. “I am responsible for all financial aspects of our program. My goal is to be fair and consistent in everything I do.”

The final candidate to speak was Deborah Myers.
“I’ve worked in the chancery clerk’s office for the past 15 years dealing with delinquent taxes, land records and all aspects of the record keeping of the county,” she said. “I enjoy working with people, and I want to see a friendly tax office. When you come in I want to be able to help you.”

District 3 Supervisor
[Both the District 1 and District 2 supervisors are running unopposed. – Brian Jones]
Incumbent RB Davis was the first to speak.
“I don’t care how many times you get up here in front of a crowd, if you don’t have butterflies in your stomach…” Davis said, to some laughter from the crowd. “I want you to know one thing for sure: I love Clay County. I consider all of you’re my neighbors. I have spent all my life loving and assisting the people. I chose as young man to stay in Clay County to contribute however I could to see that we have a good place to raise our children. Being District 3 Supervisor has given me the chance to contribute to the community. You have allowed me to serve two terms, and it has been tremendously rewarding to me and my family.
“I consider the entire county when I cast my vote when conducting county business,” Davis said. “We must be conservative in our approach to government, and I have worked to keep county taxes low and the millage rate for District 3 at a reasonable, steady rate. In the past eight years we have replaced six bridges in District 3 and are currently replacing the bridge on US Davidson Road.” [Davis was interrupted by scattered applause at this point. – Brian Jones]

Richard Deanes Jr. introduced himself to the voters.
“I have a dream for a better community,” Deanes said. “When I say a better community, I’m talking about the city and the local government coming together. Where are the jobs in West Point? It broke my heart when Bryan Foods eased away, and B&W is on the verge. Navistar is creeping away. I want to go to bat for you, your kids and your grandkids. I want to help education by putting together scholarship funds to educate our young kids.”

Larry Smith was the last District 3 candidate to speak.
“I’m retired from the railroad, and I’ve been in Clay County since 1990,” Smith said. “I worked with the largest labor union in the United States and Canada. I have operated heavy equipment during my years, and I would like to let you know that I’m a candidate for supervisor and I would like to ask for your consideration.”

District 4 Supervisor
Charles Collins was the first candidate to speak. Collins is currently the selectman for Ward 3 in West Point.
“I believe that our tax dollars determines our economic progress,” Collins said. “I believe that our tax dollars reflect on our community. If elected, I promise to advocate for our tax problem, which means more jobs indirectly and has social and recreation activities and provides our schools with the things they need so our kids can learn. Through your tax dollars we can get back to the lifestyle that we enjoyed for many years.”

Incumbent Shelton Deanes asked for another term.
“I am supervisor, and I have been serving you for the last 19 years, six months and 21 days,” Deanes said. “I try to make a difference for everyone in this county, not just in District 4. I have a board I’ve been working with ever since I’ve been here. I’m asking for another round. Four more years in District 4 to continue to make a difference. In District 4 we’ve got a walking track, a softball field and now we’ve put up a pavilion. We are trying to find some kind of way to entertain our children and get them out of trouble. What we’re trying to do is make a better Clay County. What we’re trying to do is support education. I want District 4 to be a better district for everybody.”

District 5 Supervisor
James “Rock” Crawford pledged to improve the community.
“I was born in West Point and raised in District 5,” he said. “I, like many of my classmates, had a vision of graduating high school and leaving West Point, but I did not. I stayed and raised my family in District 5. This is home for me. Just like a home, you must constantly improve it to raise its value. When I look around District 5 I realized that it was time to make things better. It’s time for better roads, better fire protection, better police department and better education. It’s time for community activities for our youth and for better jobs. It’s time to join together to make District 5 the best district in Clay County.”

Jesse Ivy was next to speak.
“My reason for wanting to serve is to stimulate job growth, assess whether there is a need for an inmate work force in the county, stop the establishment of private prisons in Clay County, implement balanced hiring in the county, work with the newly elected board to allow citizens who are present the opportunity to support or oppose a vote by the board prior to the adoption of a cost to taxpayers,” Ivy said. “I want to ensure that any complaint to the board is documented and spread upon the minutes. I support the establishment of a constituent services position, which the current board voted to oppose. [This isn’t quite true – the board did not vote to oppose the position. When Mr. Ivy suggested it, they stated disinterest and took no action. – Brian Jones] I would like to explore mandatory combined city and county services where it affords service to the county and the city. I will fight tenaciously for Clay County as a whole.”

Incumbent Floyd McKee was the final District 5 candidate to speak.
“My priorities are God first, family second and Clay County third,” McKee said. “I am a strong supporter of education. This board has worked with the CREATE Foundation to give every child in West Point and Clay County a free two-year education at EMCC. As your supervisor I have worked hard to hold the millage rate down in District 5 over the last three years. I have worked with the Growth Alliance to bring more jobs into the city of West Point. Earlier somebody said Navistar is going down. They’re not going down, they just added 225 more jobs.
“When I took office four years ago, fuel was $1.67 a gallon,” McKee said. “Today it’s around $3.92. Asphalt was around $50 a ton, now its $87. We have very little money to repair roads, much less built new ones. I see the needs out there, but some things have been out of my reach because the needs outweigh the funds we’ve got.”

District Attorney
Incumbent Forrest Allgood was the only candidate present Thursday night.
“What we’re doing is working,” Allgood said. “All across this district the number of cases we’re sending to the grand jury is shrinking. In Lowndes County in the mid-90s they were giving 600 cases to every grand jury several times a year. This grand jury we just had had just over 180. We’re doing better. That’s the good news. The bad news is that violent crime is up, but I can’t solve that particular issue.
“If you’re the victim of the crime you’re going to want someone to take care of you,” he said. “One of these days you may be in that courtroom wondering what’s going on and wanting someone to take care of you. You’re going to need someone with experience, and I’ve got more of it than everybody else.”

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