Thursday’s night meeting of the Columbus-Lowndes Political Action Committee allowed voters the opportunity to hear from candidates running for election in the county.
Alison Kizer, a candidate for County Prosecutor, was the first to speak and told the crowd of not only her experience in the judicial system, but her passion for it as well. Kizer ended her two minute speech by telling audience members “I am running for this position for the best possible reasons: Because I want it, I’ll be good at it and not because I need it. The County Prosecutor is not a prize to be won. It’s a job to be done and I’m here to do it.”
Her opponent Shane Tompkins then took the floor and touted his years of experience telling the gathered crowd “I’ve won more cases in justice court and juvenile court than my two opponents combined. I’m here to be your next County Prosecutor.”
Next to the floor were the candidates for District Attorney. Incumbent Forest Allgood took to the stage and began to tell a story about a case he had years before. According to Allgood, a frustrated opposing council asked him “Why do you care? None of the other DA’s I work with care.” Allgood seemingly got choked up before saying “I still think that’s the best compliment I’ve ever gotten.” That’s why I want to be your District Attorney. Because I care. Always have.”
Allgood’s opponent, William Bambach was unable to attend the evening’s event due to a previous engagement.
The forum then moved on to the group of candidates for Lowndes County Superintendent. Candidates in the primary election will be Sam Allison, Edna McGill and Lynn Wright. After given two minutes for opening remarks, the candidates went into a question and answer period where moderator Sid Salter asked the candidates “With the economy being strained and school budgets being cut, what are some alternatives to reducing jobs?”
McGill was the first to respond and used her current position as Assistant Superintendent to drive home the fact that she was familiar with the finances at the central office. “In the budget process we begin the school year by asking for input from the principles. We begin by looking at staffing needs based on enrollment and projected enrollment. We begin by looking to see if there are excesses in the budget that can be cut. It has been my belief that maintaining small class size and keeping our teachers is the most important part of the budget.”
Sam Allison was the next to respond saying: “First off, it’s very important that as a district we get the most out of our money because our money is your money. Forty-two percent of our budget comes from taxes paid locally. No matter what leadership role you’re in, as Superintendent you need to encourage all your leaders to look for areas we can cut back on. Things that will not affect instruction and things that will not affect the classroom but might be in excess.”
Allison then went on to add that perhaps a way to cut costs would be by combining similar programs and working so they can successfully co-exist.
Lynn Wright then responded to the question of budgetary constraints by saying “You never want to touch cutting out teacher jobs if at all possible. But sometimes we may have to look at teaching positions and making sure that all the core courses are covered. Making sure that we have all the bases that are necessary for a person to have a quality education. We may have to cut out some of the frills, the electives that some teachers are teaching. That would be one way. The other, well there’s always proration. You hate that you have to use that but you’ve got x number of dollars to spend and you have to ensure that each student gets a quality education.”
After the final round of questioning, the candidates each then gave a closing two minute speech.
Lastly on the agenda for the evening was the closely watched upcoming Sheriff’s race. Mike Arledge, Joey Brackin, Barry Goode, Bo Harris, Anthony Nelson and John Pevey, all law enforcement affiliated, then took to the stage prepared to give their opening remarks. Two candidates however, were not at the forum. Selvain McQueen, also fellow law enforcement, was unable to attend the night’s event because he was working and Sherman Vaughn told the members of CLOPAC that he did not wish to be involved.
Each candidate had the standard two minutes for introduction but most notably was Nelson when he boomed “My name is Anthony Nelson and no disrespect to my fellow candidates but I am your next Sheriff. I’ve already claimed it.”
John Pevey was the next to introduce himself and said “I’m not up here to try to blow my own horn to let you know what I’ve done but I think it’s important and that you need to know. I was instrumental, not the only person but instrumental, in bringing down one of the biggest gambling cases in the sate of Mississippi, right here in Lowndes County. I was the one instrumental in bringing together the Chief of Police and the Sheriff of Lowndes County sitting at a table, together, in the same room to allow us to start a new operation and that was combining the city and the county narcotics division. I just simply say, I’ve got experience over 33 years, let experience lead the way.”
When asked how the department would be under his leadership, instead of how it is under current administration, Barry Goode said “First off, I want to say we have a good Sheriff’s Department. There are good people down there.”
He then continued by saying “What I want to do is make sure deputies are getting out and relating to the public. As long as you’re doing that, you’re not the opposition. You the public are what helps us fight crime. If it wasn’t for you, we can’t do it.”
Joey Brackin responded to the same question by saying: “One thing that I would see doing different is, I think I would take the narcotics unit in a little bit different direction that they’ve been working in the last several years. We need to concentrate more on major drug dealers, the dealers, the traffickers that are bringing in large amounts into our area and it does happen everyday. Rather than on the number of arrests that we can make.”
Brackin went on to further explain how he would apply for more grants to aid the department.
When Bo Harris was asked “If elected, do you plan on getting out and speaking to various organization and groups to keep them informed, how the staff is functioning and ask what the community needs from the Lowndes County Sheriff’s Department” he told the crowd: “My campaign slogan from three years ago up til now has been Your Personal Sheriff. If you can’t come to my office, I’m going to come to your house and sit on your couch and talk to you. If you’ve got a problem, we’re going to help you through that problem. I’m not going to throw you under the bus. If it’s something that’s not even related to the Sheriff’s Department it’s my duty, it’s everyone else’s duty, to help you through that problem. It don’t take but just a little time.”
When asked “As you know, drugs, gang activity, burglary and other crimes are taking up many hours in Justice and Circuit Courts. What measures would you take to ensure your officers are fully prepared to testify when they are subpoenaed? What oversight would you employ?”
Arledge began his answer by telling of a mock courtroom situation that he participated in during his time as a Justice Court Judge. Arledge said officers got to be on the “hot seat” or the witness stand and be grilled by attorneys Tim Hudson and Rod Ray to learn what it was like to be a witness during a felony case. Arledge then went on to say “I think the best thing to do would be as the Sheriff to find which officers have strengths and which officers have weaknesses in that. And if they have some weaknesses, they need to have some schooling or some training to get them up to date on this.”
After the nearly two hour question and answer session, the forum came to a close. The next CLOPAC forum will be after the August 2nd primary.0