The Columbus Exchange Club began a series of political forums September 15 with the candidates for District 1 supervisor. Incumbent Harry Sanders and challengers Rev. Willie Petty and Joey Pounders were each given about six minutes to speak.
Petty, who is running as a Democrat, was the first to speak. He began by giving a summary of his personal history.
“I was born here in Lowndes County,” he said. “I went to Crawford Elementary School, which no longer exists, and I graduated from Motley High School, which most of you probably now know as West Lowndes High School. My mother has nine children – seven boys and two girls – and she raised us herself after she and her husband separated.
“My education outside high school was Mary Holmes for two years, and then I went to Holly Springs and graduated with a degree in mathematics,” he said. “I graduated summa cum laude. I was drafted by the pros to play baseball in 1978 but I chose not to play because it was a AA club and they told me as long as I was there if I didn’t make it I wouldn’t make any more money. I went for the federal government, the Department of Defense, for nine years in St. Louis. Then I worked for the postal service in Mississippi and the USDA in Alabama. If I tell you all the places I worked you’ll probably think something’s wrong with me. I worked for East Lowndes Water, for United Technologies, for Bryan Foods, Beneke, which is not Sanderson Plumbing, Weyerhaeuser, CECO and I was a bailiff at the courthouse. I worked for the city schools since 1988. I started as a teacher but I had to become a sub because of this thing with separation of church and religion. I’m a minister and it’s hard not to talk about God. I worked at Petty Cleaning Service, I’ve worked in retail. I am now pastor at Jerusalem. I’ve been a volunteer chaplain at the hospital for 23 years now.”
Petty said that he feels it’s time for a change in District 1.
“I feel I have a different perspective,” he said. “Really need to enhance our roads, our security, so our citizens will not be afraid to leave home. We need to make sure our property is being protected. I’m looking at things from a different perspective and different goals. Together we can make this county a better place to be.”
The next speaker was Joey Pounders, who is running as an independent.
“Some of you probably know my family,” he joked. “I don’t know all of them myself.
“I was born and raised in Caledonia,” he said. “I came up big on family, big on outdoors and big on sports. I was brought up like that. I came up playing baseball and football, and on account of my leadership skills I was captain of both baseball and football teams. I went on to college and played baseball, and played my sophomore year for a national championship. When I was in school I said I was going to go into nursing. Then I said I was going to go into physical therapy. I changed my major so many times, I just didn’t know what I wanted to do. I finally went into criminal justice.
“I couldn’t decide what I wanted to do, but one thing I do know is that I like helping people,” Pounders said. “I like helping people in their jobs, and I like to do anything I can to help somebody. I’ve seen some things, and people come to me and ask me why we’re doing this or why we’re doing that, and I don’t have answers for them. But I do have an answer to what we should be doing, and that’s helping people. Let’s not do something for one person, let’s do it for everybody. These things actually hurt our budget. We do things for certain people, and in the long run it doesn’t help the person up the road. The road department needs major change. With that being said, I think other things need to be changed.
“I’m 28 and I’m going to look at things a lot differently than other people do,” he said. “I have a different perspective. I’m just getting my feet wet in politics, and I don’t know everything. People are going to ask me things today and I’m not going to have the answer for you, but I’m not going to lie. I’ll answer as best I can with the knowledge I have.”
Sanders, the incumbent, spoke last.
“I’ve been the District 1 supervisor for 12 years,” Sanders said. “I’ve been president of the board for the past eight years. I think we’ve got a pretty good track record. The board of supervisors is probably the most important group of elected officials in the county. We’re in charge of the budget, and of all your taxes. Most of the time people take the board of supervisors for granted. Nobody thinks about the juvenile detention center, the adult detention center, the chancery clerk, the circuit clerk, the justice court, the garbage pickup. They take all those things for granted. It’s something you need to think real hard about when you decide to who to vote for.
“Most people think the most important thing the supervisors do is the road department,” he said. “I can understand that, because everyone rides on the roads some time during the day. That’s not the only thing the supervisors do. This morning we just finished approving the budget. It’s been a long, drawn-out process. We’ve been working on this for the past several months. We’ve got to make hard decisions about what to do with the money we have. We did not raise your taxes. We’re going to have a deficit budget of $900,000, and that’s because we’ve built up a surplus of $5 million and we’re going to use some of that because it’s too much money for us to be sitting on. It was there for a rainy day.
“When you go to the polls you need to think real hard about who you’re going to vote for,” Sanders said. “There are only a few of you in here who live in District 1, but you’ve got to vote for supervisor. Your choice should be well thought out. You should vote for who you think can do the best job. It shouldn’t be a popularity contest.”
The candidates briefly fielded questions.
One audience member asked where and when the supervisors meet.
“There was an editorial in the paper a week and a half ago saying the board of supervisors randomly chooses when they meet and that nobody knows and nobody can get on our agenda,” Sanders said. “That is absolutely untrue. We post every board meeting every year in advance. We meet the first Monday in every month, unless it’s a holiday, and then we meet on the following Tuesday. We meet on the fifteenth, unless that’s a weekend, then we move it up to the fourteenth or thirteenth. And we meet the last day of the month unless it’s a Thursday or Friday. We send the agenda to the newspaper every single month and they elect not to publish it. The meetings are at 9 a.m. in the courthouse. The meetings are televised, too. [I believe the list of meeting times is also posted in the courthouse. – Brian Jones] If you want to be on the agenda, call Rowena Sykes or the county administrator and tell them. You have to let us know two days in advance. It’s crazy to say we don’t let people on the agenda.
“I don’t know why (Dispatch editor-in-chief) Birney Imes says we’re trying to hide the budget hearings,” Sanders added. “We have to pay him $600 to advertise it in the paper. Seems to me like he’d put it in there on his own as a public service.” 0