(These are statements from political candidates that participated in the CLOPAC forum held at the Columbus Municipal Complex on October 25th. Comments from Lowndes County Prosecuting Attorney Candidate Chuck Easley were accidently left out last week but will be included this week along with the seven supervisor candidates and three county school superintendent candidates)
Lowndes County Prosecuting Attorney candidate Chuck Easley, a Democrat, said he offered his 30 years as a lawyer (26 of those in public service) to citizens. Easley served on the Mississippi Supreme Court for 8 years. He said that he wrote a critical opinion on when life begins while serving. Easley said he is ‘pro-life’. He said he was the only one who joined in on that opinion other than now-Chief Justice Bill Waller Jr. Easley said he was a lifetime member of the National Rifle Association (NRA). Easley said he was also an assistant district attorney in Chickasaw County for three and a half years. During the three and a half years, he said he convicted thousands of criminals. He says he’s tried hundreds of cases, both felonies and misdemeanors. He said he had over a 90% conviction rate, and never lost a murder trial. Easley also said he was the Commitment lawyer for 14 years here in Lowndes County, helping people with alcohol, mental and drug problems.
Responding to a question about assuring safety in the county schools, Democrat Lowndes County school superintendent candidate Cliff Reynolds responded that he would work with the board of education and in conjunction with the school principal’s to insure that safety is priority #1 each and everyday of school. He went on to explain that meant good communication with the sheriff’s department and insuring that resource officers had the resources that they needed and training that was necessary. Reynolds said that the safety training should include all school personnel. Reynolds said that school principal’s, assistant principal’s and other personnel being prepared and staying abreast of safety issues can insure that children and parents remain confident. Reynolds is the current principal at West Lowndes High School. He said that he attended New Hope while growing up. When asked if the county school district should be realigned to better proportionately reflect racial diversity, Reynolds said, “I think the greatest strength in the county school system is what we accomplish when we are unified.” But, Reynolds was against any realignment along racial lines.
Republican county superintendent candidate Lynn Wright was next up. When asked about racial realignment of county schools, Wright said, “I don’t think we should make any decisions based solely on race. The lines should be drawn up to accommodate the people that live in those area’s and attend those schools. A schools’ environment is also a community environment. And those people that live in that community are stakeholders in that school.” Another question asked, “How important is it for the superintendent to be actively involved and informed of what is actually going on in the classroom, to be personally open and available to teachers and to routinely visit the classroom?” Wright responded, “I think it’s not only important, but it’s imperative that the superintendent be involved and visible…as the old saying goes, nobody cares how much you know till they know how much you care!” He said the more a superintendent is involved and getting feedback from the students and faculty, the easier it is to find solutions to problems.
Independent superintendent candidate Rusty Greene said, “I’m a lifelong resident of Lowndes County. 20 years of public education, 17 years within the Lowndes County school district. Within the Lowndes County school district, I’ve been an administrator, a teacher, a coach, a bus driver, a parent. I’ve just about worn every hat that you can imagine in the district. I’ve seen it from all levels…the good things that we do, I’ve also seen the area’s we need improving in. I know the West Lowndes community, I know the Caledonia community and I know the New Hope community. I’ve been at the high school level, I’ve been at the middle school level and I have connections at the elementary level. I think I know this district…I hope that the knowledge and experience gives me the background to be your superintendent of education, thank you for your support.”
District 1 supervisor candidates were next up, beginning with Republican incumbent Harry Sanders. Sanders was asked, “Would you support zoning in Lowndes County?” He answered, “That’s one of those question that you’d love to just straddle the fence on. But, it gets to the point where you can’t do that. And you have to make a decison and you have to decide one way or the other which you want. One side of me says my Constitutional right, my private property and things like that, I don’t want government to tell me what to do with it. I ought to be able to do whatever I want to with my own property. But then again, I’ve got my neighbor next door, and all of a sudden he decides he’s gonna put a hog farm next door to my house, three feet from my swimming pool…I can’t stand that. So, there has to be a happy medium somewhere and one of the things that involve zoning is that you have to have a comprehensive plan with the county first before you can even think about zoning. And Lowndes County does not have one. I think we need to go ahead and see if we can get a comprehensive plan. We’ve started that before, and the election got in the way. I think we need to start it again.”
District 1 Democrat challenger Willie Petty was asked, “Do you favor privatizing public works departments…why or why not?” Petty answered, “That’s a question that I don’t have very much knowledge of. I know that privatizing has been mentioned where everybody’s not available to it.” Petty was then asked, “Now that a new hotel project is in the works for the downtown area, should the Trotter (Convention Center) be expanded or a new facility built in another location in order to attract large conventions and meetings?” Petty said, “With the new hotels and projects that’s going on, the expansion that you’re talking about, everybody has already put there take in on who would have control over that. But I think we have to look at if we have anything in Lowndes County that was large or too large for facilities that we have now. And if we have, and it’s a constant thing, then we have to look at the revenue it would generate. If it’s not something we’re gonna have happen all the time, then why waste money for something that might happen. But, it goes back to your other question, what happens 10 years from now. We would hope that Columbus would grow where we have to expand.”
District 1 independent challenger Joey Pounders was next up. When Pounders was asked the question about possibly privatizing services he responded, “Well, I guess the biggest issue would be money. How much money would we save?. Personnel…dealing with the road department, I don’t think you need to privatize it. However I do believe there needs to be some critiquing done. I work for the road department and I see a lot of money that we spend…and it doesn’t make a lot of sense. I think that we need a change in management in the road department. And that would fix the issue with the money. Because you wouldn’t spend money that you don’t need to spend. We did have an A+ rating, but, there’s no telling how much more money that we spent…more than what we should have. So, I guess…looking at it, I would not privatize it. I would keep it at the road department.” To the question of expanding the Trotter, Pounders said, “If you can expand it, maybe add to the parking…other than that, I think it’s fine.”
District 3 supervisor candidates were up next, beginning with Republican incumbent John Holliman. Holliman was asked, “Do you view the public disagreements the board has had in the past years as a negative, or just a part of government?” Holliman said, “Yes, definitely…in the past, there’s been a lot of animosity and confusion on the board, although in the last four years, we have come together, working together better than any boards that I know of in the past. We’ve accomplished a lot in the last four years…in fact, a lot more than any other boards’ have. We’ve done a lot of projects and that’s because of coming together and being able to work together.” Holliman was also asked, “South Lehmberg Road is split between two districts and is one of the more heavily-traveled roads in eastern Lowndes County. What would you do to make it safer, I.e. stripping, reflectors, wide-shoulders, and so forth?” Holliman said, “We have already begun to widen the shoulders on it. I’ve also talked with Jeff (Smith, Dist 4 supervisor) about paving it in the next couple of years, too. In District 3, we have one-eighth of a mile on South Lehmberg. I’ve told Jeff I’d be willing to get with him and help him and work together to improve that road.”
District 3 supervisor independent challenger Mike Smith was next to speak. When asked the same question about board disagreements in the past, Smith responded, “No doubt it’s a negative. But it’s also part of government, you have democracy. I think that’s what’s wrong with Lowndes County right now. We’ve got too many men trying to be their own boss and own dictatorship. But somehow, if I’m elected, I hope we can create an atmosphere of leadership and communication that will work for all people of Lowndes County. When I was on the board four years ago, we implemented the infrastructure needs for the health department, community centers and stuff…we had a vision. And we need to concentrate on visions more that sitting up there and arguing about whose district gets this and whose district gets that. I think with leadership and being able to communicate with each other, we’ll have better harmony on the board.” Responding to the “Lehmberg Road” question, Smith said he would also work with District 4 Supervisor Jeff Smith on getting the road widened. He said he believed that South Lehmberg should be a state-aid road.
District 5 supervisor candidates were next. Democrat incumbent Leroy Brooks was asked, “What is the top priority in your district?” Brooks answered, “I think the top priority is to continue to provide the kind of leadership that is necessary to build a coalition of people that are willing to not only follow leadership but to take part in improving the quality of life in the community. I think all too often, people are willing to just be elected and hold a chair at the table. What sets me aside differently is, I try to be a leader in the community to help affect change. So, I’ll continue to work with citizens of District 5 to provide leadership and to be a voice for those that cannot access the system.” To another question, “What steps are you going to take to curb spending in order to live within the county’s budget?” Brooks answered, “I think we’re gonna continue to do what we’re doing. I think the Lowndes County Board of Supervisors have worked very competently to make sure that we don’t spend money that we don’t have, that we are very frugal about the resources…we work diligently to try and insure that we don’t raise taxes, and at the same time, provide services.”
District 5 independent challenger Roger Larsen was next. Larsen was asked the question, “What advantages do you see in merging city and county services, such as city and county school administration, law enforcement and other agencies?” He responded, “Basically, I don’t think it’s going to happen. I don’t think the advantages would be that great, speaking of law enforcement specifically, I’ve heard the most talk about in recent years…consolidation. I’d like to have some separation there. You might have one department, either the sheriff department or police department go broke, some way…and then you’d have a check and a balance. I’d prefer to have it like that. Say, have a state Legislature like Nebraska has. Sometimes it’s better to have two houses and let them knock heads a little bit. As far as the road department and that sort of thing, I don’t think it’s gonna happen.” In Larsen’s closing statement, he reminded voters that he’s been to most of the supervisor meetings over the past 20 years…knowing the issues and dealing with the different personalities. He said District 5 is a diverse district. He said he’d listen to everyone and represent everyone.