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Supervisors races will lead the Aug. 27 runoffs

Two weeks from now, voters will finalize the Republican candidates for the supervisors’ races in the 1st, 3rd and 5th districts, and decide the winner of the 2nd District race.

Runoffs for last week’s Republican and Democratic primary elections are set for Aug. 27.

Turnout for the Itawamba County’s Aug. 6 primary elections was expectedly low, with only 20.54% of the county’s 30,728 registered voters making it to the ballot box. According to the unofficial results released by the Itawamba County Circuit Clerk’s office, 6,313 voters cast ballots on election day.

With seven unopposed races on the ballot – the lowest number of contested races in decades – including all but one countywide race, most eyes were on the four contested supervisors races.

The most highly contested race in the 2019 county election was for 1st District supervisor. Eight candidates were seeking the position, held for years by Charles Horn, who did not seek re-election.

Fairview resident Toby Williams led the race with 379 votes, or 33.19% of the total ballots cast. He works for Itawamba County Road and Bridge.

Williams will face Donnie Wood, resident of the Banner/Bounds area and owner of Wood’s Trailer and Repair, LLC, in the runoff. Wood garnered 23.03%, with 263 votes cast in his favor.

The winner of the primary runoff will face Democratic candidate Darryl Ray in the Nov. 5 general election. Ray ran unopposed in the primary.

Other vote getters in the Republican race included Ricky G. Johnson with 191 votes, or 16.73%; Tony Graham, with 108 votes, or 9.46%; Todd Ladewig with 96 votes, or 8.41%; Johnny Adams with 83 votes, or 7.27%; and Chris “Hooch” Robbins with 22 votes, or 1.93%

In the 2nd District, incumbent Cecil “Ike” Johnson will face Rod McFerrin in upcoming runoff.

Johnson, running for his third term, received 667 votes, or 45.25%. McFerrin, a Mantachie resident, received 283 votes, or 19.2%. He is Water and Waste Water Operator for the Town of Mantachie.

With no Democratic candidate in the running, the winner will be determined in the primary runoff.

Other vote getters in the 2nd District race included Marty Dickinson with 267 votes, or 18.11%, and Joe Michael Wilburn with 256 votes, or 17.37%.

With Steve Moore deciding not to seek re-election for 3rd District supervisor, five candidates vied for the spot.

Terry Moore led the race with 433 votes, or 40.47%. Directly behind him was George Allen Stewart, who earned 419 votes, or 39.16%. The two will face off on Aug. 27.

Jeff Wilburn also ran in the in Republican 3rd District Supervisor race. He received 218 votes, or 20.37%

The winner of the Republican runoff will meet Democratic candidate Philip Blackmon in the general election. Blackmon easily defeated his opponent, Violet Branch, in the Democratic primary. Blackmon received 130 votes to Branch’s 24, or 83.33% to 15.38%.

The margin was narrow in the Republican 5th District supervisor race, which turned out to be the biggest upset of the night when incumbent Steve Johnson didn’t make the runoff.

Roger Johnson received the most votes – 392 – or 34.97%. Johnson is a resident of the Mt. Pleasant Community and works for the Mississippi Department of Transportation.

Bill Sheffield followed closely behind with 376 votes, or 33.54%. Sheffield resides at Lake Itawamba and is Operational Manager for Thompson Gas.

Incumbent Steve Johnson received 351 votes, or 31.31%.

The winner of the primary runoff will meet Democratic candidate Marie Johnson in the November 5 general election. Johnson ran unopposed in the primary.

Most local primary races were unopposed. These included the races for 4th District supervisor, circuit clerk, chancery clerk, tax collector, county attorney, coroner and both justice court judge positions.

Incumbent sheriff Chris Dickinson will meet Fulton resident Glenn Jenkins in the November general election. Both ran unopposed in their respective primaries.

Finally, both of Itawamba County’s incumbent constables will be returning to office after winning their primary elections. East side constable Terry Johnson ran away with 2,535 votes, or 83.44% His opponent, Tim Lewis, earned 502 votes, or 16.52%.

In the west side constable’s race, incumbent Doug Lesley earned 1,576 votes, or 59.98%. Challenger David W. Perry received 943 votes, or 35.29% of the total ballots cast. Russell Hollis received 152 votes, or 5.69% of the total votes cast.

Local law enforcement agent asked to speak at national negotiator’s seminar

An Itawamba County law enforcement officer has been invited to speak at a hostage negotiator’s convention due to his role in ending December’s 32-hour standoff in Golden.

Capt. Mike Newlin with the Itawamba County Sheriff’s Department has been asked to be among the guest speakers during the 41st Annual Hostage Negotiation Seminar in Baltimore in February. The event is hosted annually by the Baltimore Police Department. An estimated 800 hostage negotiators and other law enforcement officers from across the United States and Canada are expected to attend.

Although details are still being finalized, Itawamba County Sheriff Chris Dickinson said the Baltimore Police Department has offered to pay for Newlin’s travel and expenses. All he has to do is show up and speak.

Newlin’s hour-long portion of the seminar will focus on his experience during December’s 32-hour standoff at a home on Alice Hall Road in Golden. Newlin was the primary contact between suspect Nathan Shepard, an unnamed 10-year-old hostage, and local law enforcement agents. During the standoff – the longest in state history – Newlin and Shepard communicated 42 times. Their calls ranged from just a few moments to nearly a half-hour in length.

Prior to the beginning of the standoff, Shepard is believed to have shot and killed his hostage’s father.

Shepard was shot dead by law enforcement agents after he released his hostage to use the bathroom. The young hostage was uninjured.

Representatives with the Baltimore Police Department told Newlin the length of the standoff, its successful outcome, and Newlin’s inexperience with hostage negotiation prior to the standoff make for an unique story, one they felt would benefit participants of their annual seminar.

Asked what he planned to speak about, Newlin said he wants to be honest about what he considers to be the successes and failures during the standoff.

“What went good; what went bad. What worked; what didn’t work,” he said.

Although inexperienced, Newlin continued to negotiate with Shepard following the arrival of agents with the Mississippi Bureau of Investigation and the Special Weapons and Tactics Team. He was instructed to continue communicating with Shepard and his hostage because of the rapport that had developed between them.

It was an extraordinary situation, though Newlin is quick to downplay his role.

“For me, I was just doing my job,” Newlin said.

Newlin will be just one of many speakers during the two-day seminar. He expects to return to Itawamba County with information that could prove invaluable should another standoff occur.

“It can happen right here,” he said. “It’s one of those things that happened, and I hope it will never happen again. But if it does, I hope to have all the knowledge I can.”

Newlin said he was honored to be asked to speak as part of the seminar, although he acknowledged being somewhat intimidated by the invitation. No doubt, he’ll be speaking to law enforcement agents more experienced in hostage negotiation.

“You’re talking about 800 of your peers,” he said. “This is what they do daily.”

It’s a nerve-wracking proposition.

Although he know knows he won’t be the most experienced speaker there, Newlin’s hoping his fellow law enforcement officers will leave his presentation with a greater sense of resolve. If there’s one thing he took away from the standoff, it’s how to roll with the punches.

“[S]tay with it and stick to it, even through the highs and lows,” Newlin said. Don’t give up.

“If you do that, good things can happen,” he said. “In our situation, a little 10-year-old girl was able to live the rest of her life.”