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District 2, 3 supervisors races advance to November

Aug. 27’s runoffs yielded low voter participation in Monroe County and results determining who will advance to the districts 2 and 3 supervisor races for the Nov. 5 general election.

For District 2 Democratic runoff, B.R. Richey defeated Bobby Camp, Jr. Richey received 442 votes, or 64.71 percent, compared to Camp’s 240 votes, or 35.14 percent.

Richey will advance to face Randy Minor, who is running as an Independent.

The District 2 supervisor race had eight candidates leading into the Aug. 6 Democratic party primary.

For the District 3 Democratic supervisor runoff, incumbent Chip Chism was defeated by Wayne Faulkner. Chism received 257 votes, or 45.09 percent, compared to Faulkner’s 305 votes, or 53.51 percent.

For the Republican runoff for the District 3 supervisor race, Brian Atkins defeated Carol Crawford. Atkins had 440 votes, or 62.68 percent, to Crawford’s 256 votes, or 36.47 percent.

Atkins and Faulkner will face Independent candidate Rubel West in November.

For the Aug. 6 District 3 supervisor primaries, there were three candidates running as Democrats and four candidates running as Republicans.

In terms of supervisor races, District 3’s voting district encompasses the Aberdeen 3rd, Athens, Bartahatchie, Greenwood Springs, Hamilton and Lackey precincts. District 2 is comprised of Amory 2nd, Becker, Parham, Sipsey and Williams, as far as supervisor goes.

Countywide, there were 3,227 voters who participated in last week’s runoffs, according to unofficial results.

Supervisor districts 2 and 3 were the only areas involving a county runoff. By state law, those who voted Democrat in the Aug. 6 primaries could only vote Democrat in last week’s runoffs. The same principal applied for the Republican ticket.

Monroe County Republican voters participated in three state office runoffs – governor, attorney general and Mississippi Northern District Transportation commissioner.

Local voters mostly followed the same trend as far as winners on the larger scale.

In Monroe County, Tate Reeves had 1,321 votes, or 67.4 percent, compared to Bill Waller, Jr.’s 639 votes, or 32.6 percent for the governor’s runoff. Statewide, Reeves won by receiving 54 percent to Waller’s 46 percent. Reeves will advance to face Democratic winner Jim Hood, Constitution party candidate Bob Hickingbottom and Independent candidate David Singletary in November.

For the attorney general’s race, Lynn Fitch received 1,124 votes, or 59.47 percent, in Monroe County compared to Andy Taggarts’ 762 votes, or 40.32 percent. Statewide, she received 52 percent to his 48 percent.

Fitch will face Democrat Jennifer Riley Collins in November.

For the northern district transportation commissioner’s race, Geoffrey O. Yoste had 1,086 votes, or 57.83 percent, to John Caldwell’s 792 votes, or 42.1 percent. The majority of North Mississippi counties’ returns showed Caldwell as the winner, however, with 56 percent to Yoste’s 44 percent.

Caldwell will face Joe “Joey” Grist (D) in the November election.

For the Nov. 5 general election, absentee voting begins in circuit clerk’s office on Sept. 23.

The deadline to register to vote in the circuit clerk’s office for the general election is Oct. 7 at 5 p.m. The postmark deadline to register to vote by mail for the general election is also Oct. 7.

Aspiring singer-songwriter gets nods for independent artist awards

GREENWOOD SPRINGS – Leah Rose Duncan has been mumbling tunes since before she could talk. Adding to that, she used to get in front of the TV screen at home when “American Idol” was on and perform for her parents, stealing the spotlight from notable artists in the making.

The 18-year-old Smithville High School graduate is hopeful to have her due time in the spotlight as a singer-songwriter, and three Josie Music Award nominations are a good step in that direction.

“I was a little shocked. I’ve had a lot of people say they like my songs and think they’re good, but for Josie to recognize you… She has a lot of connections in Nashville and Pigeon Forge,” she said.

The annual Josie Music Awards is part of the Josie Network LLC brand, which is owned by Josie Passantino and Tinamarie Passantino. The awards spotlight independent artists in genres ranging from blues to rap to metal to country.

Leah is nominated for Rising Star Vocalist of the Year, Modern Country Song of the Year and Video of the Year. Overall, there were 23,000 applications for the Josie Music Awards, which is the world’s largest awards show to celebrate independent artists.

The awards ceremony will be held Sept. 21 in Dollywood’s Celebrity Theater in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee.

A guitar riff she wrote when she was 13, “Good Old Days,” earned her the nominations. Like many of the 100-plus songs in her catalog, she co-wrote it with her father, Robert, and it was inspired by a daytrip to where he grew up in Detroit, Alabama.

“I told her about all the things I did when I was younger, and she said, ‘Let’s write a song about it.’ She showed me the guitar lick she wrote. She wrote it when she was 13, and that lick set the tone for the song.”

The single was released last August, and the video, released last December, was filmed in North Carolina.

The nominations add to an already impressive musical run. In 2014, she performed with alternative music artist Jack White and Lorrie Carter Bennett, niece and Johnny and June Carter Cash, at Livingston, Alabama’s Sucarnochee Revue. She has since performed at singer-songwriter festivals, music venues, open mic nights and benefit shows.

“If you give, God’s going to give back,” she said of performing at benefit shows.

Playing a benefit show in Memphis for a sick 1-and-a-half-year-old child led to an invitation to play at Darryl Worley’s annual Tennessee River Run at Pickwick Lake Labor Day weekend. Performing with 7 Days for the Troops in Tupelo led to an invitation to perform with the concert series in Jackson, Texas and South Carolina.

“You hear about a lot of wounded veterans who can’t get health care, and that’s who we need to do something for,” she said, adding her father and former guitar teacher, Johnny Frank Turman of Amory, are veterans.

The more she performs, the more networking she does with people in the industry, and the Josie Music Awards is going to be another opportunity. There will be a pre-party, red carpet event and after-party with several music industry representatives.

She said the nominations led to her music video being sent to the senior producer of “American Idol.”

The sound of her life

Following the April 27, 2011 tornado, which happened when she was in fifth-grade, Leah’s parents decided studying music may be a good way to get her mind off the devastation and change in Smithville.

She started taking lessons from Kit Thorn for a short time before Turman saw her perform at a Relay for Life event in Amory and said he wanted to work with her. He ultimately became a grandfather figure in her life.

“A few times we would play for four hours, go eat and play for another four hours,” she said. “He taught me tabs, chords, theory and even Irish jigs to teach my fingers dexterity.”

Although she hasn’t had much life experience to add to her songs’ inspiration, tragic events a couple of years after the tornado prompted her to write her first song.

“It was another bad year for me. Two of my grandparent passed away and a puppy I had was attacked and killed by another dog. I went to my room one day and cried and wrote “Nothing Is the Same.” I wrote it about the puppy, and it turned out to be a lot of emotions from that year.”

As her music flourished, she began working with Judy Rodman of Nashville, who won the Academy of Country Music’s Top New Female Vocalist Award in 1986.

As far as her shows, she mixes her originals along with covers of artists such as Miranda Lambert, Jason Aldean and Carrie Underwood into her setlists. Her parents said they’re also trying to improve equipment to add to the stage presence.

“We don’t have a living room. It’s actually a stage show,” said her mother, Michelle.

You can check out Leah’s music at and follow her on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube.

Federal disaster assistance programs help farmers after weather events

HAMILTON – Monroe County has 325 farmers utilizing 145,000 acres of land, which includes forestland. With the increasing frequency of volatile weather and droughts, producers will most likely experience some sort of agricultural loss in their careers.

Federal disaster assistance programs through the U.S. Department of Agriculture are there to help in such times of need for commercial operations, which sometimes may only require filling out one or two forms. Monroe County Farm Service Agency (FSA) is available to assist people in such a crisis.

Danny Holloway, who owns Holloway Farms in Hamilton, witnessed the first major disaster in his 46 years of farming after April 13’s EF-2 tornado caused more than $600,000 in damages between his home, outbuildings and farm equipment. He said the tornado actually formed in a field behind his farm.

“You think you have enough insurance but you don’t. People don’t think about outside structures,” he said. “I’ve gone through droughts and had cotton that has been affected by a hail storm. That’s not that minor, but it is minor compared to this.”

Monroe County FSA Executive Director Penny Fair said the county is awaiting word from the USDA about approval for an assistance program related to April’s severe weather outbreak.

“It would be a super help, especially putting our buildings back up to put our equipment in. Equipment goes down fast if it’s left in the weather. I’ve got someone to put a building up this fall, but that’s $100,000 I’ve got to come up with,” said Holloway, who was recently re-elected to his third term on the county FSA’s board.

Holloway Farms specializes in growing cotton, corn, soybeans and peanuts. Although the tornado, itself, hasn’t effected this year’s crop quality, it has effected the time Holloway has had to work on it.

“The buildings are one thing, but the time cleaning up, getting windows fixed on combines and pickers and finding the time to plant your crop puts a big burden on you,” he said. “The main thing it’s done is taken so much of our time. Getting things back in order and planting, it takes all of your time up.”

Asking for help

In the aftermath of a weather-related disaster, the process of requesting disaster assistance entails an emergency board meeting with local FSA, Natural Resources Conservation Service and Extension service representatives to discuss the event to see if there’s a need to request emergency funds.

Review of a map of the damaged area is part of the process.

After the message is conveyed, commercial farmers present their lists of needs, and representatives of the Monroe County office project how much funding is needed before sending the request to the state office in Jackson. From there, it is sent to Washington D.C. to await approval. If funding is made available through the USDA, there’s a 30-day sign-up period.

“I’m not saying we can help everyone, but you don’t know unless you try,” Fair said of the need for producers to ask for needs. “Once we get approved, the money is guaranteed but not until they sign up. The biggest thing people need to do is come by and tell us what their problem is, and we can see where to go from there.”

She said many farmers don’t take advantage of the disaster assistance program. The most common disaster assistance programs made available for Monroe County have been the Emergency Forest Restoration Program (EFRP), the Emergency Conservation Program (ECP) and the Emergency Assistance for Livestock Honeybees and Farm-Raised Fish Program (ELAP).

According to a fact sheet about the programs, the EFRP provides payments to eligible landowners of rural non-industrial private forest land to carry out emergency measures to restore forest health on land damaged by natural disasters. It applies to fire, hurricanes, flooding, blizzards, tornadoes, excessive winds, drought, hail and earthquakes.

The ECP provides funding to rehab farmland damaged by wind, erosion, floods, hurricanes, among other natural disasters, and for carrying out emergency water conservation measures during times of severe droughts.

The ELAP provides payments to eligible producers of livestock, honeybees and farm-raised fish to help compensate for loss due to diseases and adverse weather conditions.

There are several other programs such as the Noninsured Crop Disaster Assistance Program, Livestock Indemnity Program, Emergency Loan Program, Livestock Forage Disaster Program and Tree Assistance Program.

“A lot of people are looking for something for free. I don’t mind a low-interest loan, but a lot of people don’t want to fool with it,” Holloway said.

With the ECP, for example, funding is meant to restore something of urgency needed for farm operations.

“To figure out the ECP request, we survey the damage. They’ll show us where they are on the map and may say, ‘I had 1,500 feet of fencing that needs to be replaced,’ and we’ll survey everyone’s damage,” Fair said. “We’re getting the minimum amount just so we could get it back up.”

In cases such as fencing needing to be put back up to keep livestock in pastures, farmers may elect to go ahead and do the repairs themselves. If funding is awarded and they fill out a survey, they can turn in paperwork indicating the number of hours spent on the repairs, costs incurred and equipment used for reimbursements.

With programs such as EFRP, the government offers cost-share payments of as much as 75 percent.

Fair said those who receive funds will still pay taxes on them and everyone awarded funds is given a 1099 form.

Fair recommends people with further questions and with forestland and farmland to update owner records with the county’s FSA office, located at 517 Hwy. 145 N in Aberdeen. The office can be reached at 369-0044 ext. 2. For more information, check out

I’m Brownie, a white and tan 3-year-old female who came to the shelter in July 2016. I’m very friendly and looking for a good home. For more information, call 369-2188.

Monroe County EPA takes steps to further study the possibility of rural broadband

AMORY – Following an Aug. 20 community meeting in Becker regarding Monroe County Electric Power Association (MCEPA) members’ pleas for progress regarding rural broadband availability, steps have been taken by the electric cooperative’s board of directors to further study the possibility of providing an affordable solution.

MCEPA members at the community meeting wanted at least three board members to sign an agreement that would allow for the formation of an 11-member advisory board of cooperative members to research broadband options, an amendment to the MCEPA charter to allow for the sale of broadband services and to authorize a second feasibility study, according to Monroe Journal coverage of the meeting.

The MCEPA Board of Directors held a special-called meeting Aug. 27, and the decision was made to mail out a survey to the entire membership to tabulate the prospective number of customers willing to subscribe to broadband service through MCEPA and ultimately determine the success of the project. Members will be requested to reply prior to Nov. 1.

“The information concerning the survey will be posted on MCEPA’s Facebook page or website [] as soon as that information is available after first being tabulated by our auditors,” said MCEPA General Manger Barry Rowland.

According to a post from the electric cooperative’s Facebook page and website, the survey will include questions regarding current broadband service in customers’ areas, if the electric cooperative should provide the service and the willingness of cooperative members to enroll in the service if it’s offered through the MCEPA.

A separate online post states the MCEPA Board of Directors is committed to take necessary steps in amending its charter if the survey is successful and the feasibility studies and survey are positive.

The electric cooperative’s board of directors’ agreement to pursue feasibility studies regarding broadband traces back to early this year, shortly after the passage of House Bill 366 by the Mississippi Legislature. The bill gives electric cooperatives across Mississippi the authority to provide broadband services for their electric service customers.

Rowland said that during the Feb. 5 board of directors meeting, the board made the decision to obtain two feasibility studies not to exceed a total cost of $22,000.

The first study, conducted by Conexon, provided a fiber-to-the-home business model to be built in two years at a cost of $29 million.

The MCEPA Board approved a request during its Aug. 6 meeting for a modification of the estimate to extend the build-out calendar to four years instead of two, which board members thought would be a more realistic approach regarding both construction and cost. The electric cooperative is still awaiting findings from the revised study.

According to MCEPA board attorney Scott Hendrix, a waiting period of 45 to 60 days is expected before receiving a reply. Rowland said the MCEPA entered into an agreement on Aug. 26 with another company, Fiber Rise, to conduct the second feasibility study.

Another matter related to Aug. 20’s community meeting was MCEPA board member Rickey Camp’s resignation. The district he represented covers much of the central part of the county, generally from a northerly line even with County Barn Road in Amory to a southern boundary in the vicinity of Center Hill Road near Hamilton.

Rowland said interested members living in that part of the county are invited to contact a board member to be placed in consideration.

The board members will meet to appoint another member to serve out Camp’s unexpired term per the bylaws. Rowland said the window of time for this process is at the discretion of the board.

According to Section 6 of Article IV of the bylaws, “a vacancy occurring in the Board of Directors shall be filled by the affirmative vote of a majority of the remaining directors for the unexpired portion of the term.”

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