All candidates for office in Union County from both parties, whether opposed or note, were given the opportunity to provide some personal information and respond to questions concerning their respective offices.

Information about those who chose to respond, along with their comments, appear below.

 

 

 

SHERIFF 

Name:Jimmy Edwards 

Age: 53

Occupation: Sheriff  

Office Sought: Sheriff 

Political party affiliation: Democrat

If incumbent, how many years in office: 8 

 

I, Jimmy Edwards, am a lifelong resident of Union County. I am married to Larissa Edwards. We have three children and four grandchildren. We are members of Harmony Baptist Church. I have worked at the Union County Sheriff’s office for the past twenty years; serving as Deputy, Narcotics Investigator, Criminal Investigating, Chief Deputy and I am now serving as Sheriff for Union County. 

 

(1) How is the best way to effectively cover an area as wide as Union County with limited funds and manpower? 

Often times you have to prioritize situations in the event of multiple calls at the same time. We have over 400 square miles of roads to cover in our county. With budget restrictions, it makes it difficult. We have and are always asking for and seeking more funds to add more patrolman to each shift. 

(2) What technology could best be added to the department to improve effectiveness? 

More dash cameras and body cameras would be a great asset to have to be able to resolve conflicts in some situations. We have looked into the cost of purchasing these items and have plans of doing so. 

(3) What works best in dealing with drug problems in the county? 

Education- teaching children at an early age the dangers of drug use is one of the best ways to start. The Dare Program is the only program that I know of that is being taught concerning the issues of drugs. Drug courts have proven to be successful in some cases, but ultimately strict law enforcement and zero tolerance on the ones that choose to sell and use drugs within our county is what has to be done. 

(4) Should law enforcement in Union County have more diversity and, if so, how could that be implemented? 

Yes, especially with the different cultures and backgrounds. We need to be able to help anyone in need no matter who it is. Diversity in law enforcement helps us understand that all kinds of people are needed in this job. If there is diversity in the agency, citizens will likely trust an officer knowing he or she is for them and for the community. 

We have a diverse work place with equal opportunity employment. We welcome all applicants and are willing to interview qualified people when we have openings. 

 

Name:  Brandon W. Garrett

Age:  38

Occupation:  Law Enforcement

Office Sought:  Union County Sheriff

Political party affiliation:  Republican

If incumbent, how many years in office:  

 

A life-long resident of Union County, Garrett has had a law enforcement career of over 15 years. He has a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice and has served in Lee County, Tupelo, and New Albany. He is the only candidate who is a certified investigator and has extensive experience in criminal investigations and advanced forensics training. He has led task forces targeting crimes against children, taught classes training officers, and served as a supervisor in numerous departments, managing personnel, work load, and budgets. 

 

How is the best way to effectively cover an area as wide as Union County with limited funds and manpower?

Providing service to all citizens of Union County is one of the most important functions of the Sheriff Department.  It is my opinion that the county is frequently understaffed, which dramatically slows down response times to calls and lowers the quality of service our citizens need.  In response to the question, I would strategically place deputies in designated zones across the county to patrol and reduce long response times.  I will also create a Reserve Program that will allow volunteers to receive training and become a Reserve Deputies.  These Reserve Deputies will ride along with Full Time Deputies during peak call volume nights and provide assistance with calls for service.  This will increase manpower and allow deputies to respond to multiple calls at the same time. 

 

What technology could best be added to the department to improve effectiveness?

 

In this day and time, technology has become a staple in society.  Law Enforcement must adapt to the advance in technology and utilize these tools to our benefit.   In my opinion cameras for the deputies and vehicles is a must have.  Unfortunately, Law Enforcement has become a target for certain hate groups and has created a huge liability on local governments.  If our Deputies are documenting encounters with the public it will reduce liability and allow a new level of professionalism for the county.  As the saying goes, “the camera doesn’t lie,” I will use this as a training tool and ensure the deputies are representing me and the department that I want to build.  Also, by adding computers and report software to patrol vehicles, will keep deputies out in the county instead of them being at the office completing paperwork.  

What works best in dealing with drug problems in the county?

The drug epidemic is a real problem.  Not just elsewhere in America, but here in Union County.  I will have a zero tolerance policy for drug activity in our county.  I understand the importance of having well-qualified and experienced Narcotics Investigators that will be ready to combat this problem on day 1.  Also, our City and County Law Enforcement Officers should be sharing intelligence and working together.   I will work with the New Albany Police Department, The Mississippi Bureau of Narcotics and the DEA to create a Union County Drug Task Force to coordinate efforts in removing these dangers from our community.  

Should law enforcement in Union County have more diversity and, if so, how could that be implemented?

In my career I have worked in departments that were very diverse and I believe people from all walks of life have something to contribute to our community and to our Sheriff’s Department.  I will select the most educated and qualified people to represent and serve our community regardless of their demographics.  

 

Name: William Ashley Kidd

Age: 36 years old

Occupation: Police Officer\School Resource Officer at New Albany Police Department 

Office Sought: Union County Sheriff 

 

Born/Raised: Union County

Mother: Kathy Chism Willard

Father: William “Buddy” Kidd

Wife: Katie Jackson Kidd, 10 yrs

Daughter: Bella, 11 yrs old

Education: 

W.P. Daniel Graduate 2001

NEMCC 2002-2003Major:

Sales & Marketing

Police Academy Graduate 2009 

 

Question 1) How is the best way to effectively cover an area as wide as Union County with limited funds and manpower?

Answer - The most effective and cost free solution would be to make sure all officers are deputized no matter what agency they work for. This will ensure that if there is an immediate call for help that the closest officer can respond. 

Also I have plans to hire Auxiliary Deputies that will volunteer their time and patrol the county. This will cost the department nothing more than the extra fuel cost of having more patrol cars on the road. I have 4 volunteers already, and they are all either former military or current first responders. These auxiliary deputies will be trained and part-time certified. 

Question 2) What technology could be added to the department to improve effectiveness?

Answer - The most important piece of equipment needed is body cameras for all the officers and investigators, as well as in-car cameras with audio and video capabilities. 

There are also tools like the Ecite program that come with map click tools that will help when responding to calls. It also has a report writing feature that will allow officers to do reports on site. 

All of these systems require a laptop, so second to purchasing body cameras, this would be one most important tools that could be utilized to better our department. 

Question 3) What works best in dealing with drug problems in the county? 

Answer - One of the first things needed is an active narcotics TEAM that works with city and state departments. This county is far too large and rural for one person to try to control the drug-related crime. The next thing needed is a good working relationship with the citizens of Union County. If the drug problem is going to be effectively controlled, then it will take a team effort from the officers, investigators, and the general public. 

Question 4) Should law enforcement in Union County have more diversity and, if so, how could that be implemented. 

Answer - My answer would be an astounding YES. Diversity is desperately needed within the entire department to help better the relationship between the department and the public. 

The answer for this problem is very simple. Hire more minority candidates not just for the jail, but for active patrol. Then make sure they are placed on each patrol shift. 

 

CIRCUIT CLERK

Name: Phyllis Stanford

Age: 60 

Occupation: Union County Circuit Clerk 

Office Sought: Union County Circuit Clerk 

Political party affiliation: Democrat 

If incumbent, how many years in office: 15 years 

 

Phyllis Stanford, widow of Billy Stanford, has two children. Bridget Spencer (Witt) and Laden Stanford. The daughter of Marjorie Stepp and the late Charles Stepp, Phyllis has two granddaughters Ivery and Corinne Spencer. She and her family are members of First Baptist Church and is a life-long resident of Union County. I am very honored and thankful to have served as your Union County Circuit Clerk for the past 15 years. I am blessed to be able to serve you the voters of Union County for the next 4 years. 

 

What goal do you have to improve the service of your office to the people of Union County? 

I will continue to serve the residents of Union County in a courteous and profession manner. My friendly staff and I will work diligently for the people of this county who are always welcome in the Circuit Clerk’s Office. 

What is the biggest change you would like to see in the function of your office? 

One of the biggest challenges our office has right now is in continuing to preserve old marriage records. The oldest marriage records date back to 1878. Last year as funds were available I began sending books to a company who scans these marriage records and has downloaded them to our current marriage license data base. Not only will this give us faster access to the files, but also, having scanned images of the files will insure they are preserved and protected. 

 

TAX ASSESSOR-COLLECTOR

Name: Tameri Dunnam

Age: 52

Occupation: Union County Tax Assessor/Collector

Office Sought: Tax Assessor/Collector

Political party affiliation: Democrat

If incumbent, how many years in office: 2 yrs

 

Widow of Randy Allen Dunnam (son of Allen and Lavon Jackson Dunnam)

Daughter of Willie Ann Barkley Bryant and the late Sammy R. Bryant

Children – Jordan D. Murry (Ryan), and Sam Jackson Dunnam, and Olivia Dunnam 

Granddaughter - Mary Eason Murry

I was an educator for 25 years and then switched roles.  February 7, 2017,  I was appointed to complete the term for my late husband, Randy Dunnam.  The two years have been challenging but I have acquired certifications as an Assessment Evaluator and Collector of Revenue.  It is an honor to work alongside the deputy assessors and deputy collectors in this office.  They are very knowledgeable and help provide efficient service for our county.

 

What goal do you have to improve the service of your office to the people of Union County?

I would love to see the tax office set up with the technology to accept on-line payments for land taxes and tag renewals.  Many taxpayers find it difficult to visit to the courthouse during their busy days.  People with physical handicaps have a difficult time entering the courthouse or waiting in line.  

What is the biggest change you would like to see in the function of your office?   

More integration of technology for assessing property and collectingtaxes for the county.

 

DISTRICT 1 SUPERVISOR

Name: Sam Taylor 

Age: 51  

Occupation: Operator of Taylor Cabinet 

Office Sought: District 1 Supervisor 

Political party affiliation: Democratic

If incumbent, how many years in office: n/a

 

I am Sam Taylor, a lifelong resident of Union County, seeking your vote for first district supervisor. I operate Taylor Cabinet Shop, and I am married to Terri Sing Taylor. 

We have one son, Luke, daughter-in-law, Brooke and grandson, Jett Jumper. Vote for me to be your voice. 

 

Do you think the beat or unit system more effectively serves your constituents? 

1) I am in favor of the unit system. It allows supervisors more time to 

tend to business matters of the county, and also allows funding to be distributed to those districts that have a greater need. 

Is it better for the county to rely on a regional industrial developer or have one dedicated to Union County? 

2) A dedicated industrial developer is more suited for the area, being that they would become familiar with our area and it would help establish a great business relationship. 

What would you say is the least effective use of county taxpayers funds? 

3) I feel that taxpayer funds are used effectively in our county. I know that all money goes towards a need that we have, but also believe that budgeting could be changed in some ways to help our taxpayer’s funds be used in the MOST effective way. 

Would you be in favor of funding a community mental health facility? 

4) I would be in favor of funding a community mental health facility, but we would need assistance from programs or our State/Federal Government- to ensure that our County’s current needs are met. 

What is the greatest need Union County has? 

5) I believe that our County needs to be more attractive- to promote further growth of all types of business and industry here, and to also better serve our citizens. 

 

DISTRICT 2 SUPERVISOR

Name: Jim Gann

Age: 38

Occupation: Logistics 

Office sought: Supervisor District 2

Political Party: Republican 

 

My name is Jim Gann and I am 38 years old.  I have been married to my wife Emily Gann for sixteen years.  We have a 13 year old daughter named Madison who attends New Albany Middle School.  I’m currently seeking the office of District 2 Supervisor in Union County.

 

Do you think the beat or unit system more effectively serves your constituents? 

1. I believe the unit system better serves our constituents here in Union County.  The beat system has a history of corruption and favoritism.  The unit system is a more centralized, efficient, and effective approach to governing.  This system allows supervisors to have a county administrator and a road manager to handle day-to-day road and bridge operations. Under this system, the entire five member board has to approve measures where under the beat system the supervisor does not need to seek approval.  The current unit system that we operate under here in Union County is fair for every citizen.  

Is it better for the county to rely on a regional industrial developer or have one dedicated to Union County? 

2.I think it is beneficial to work with both regional industrial developers as well as a local economic developer, such as The Union County Development Association.  No one understands the needs of Union County better than its own business and professional leaders.  This dedicated voluntary partnership does a great job in luring businesses, tourists, and new development to our community.  When you work with both regional and local developers you double the potential for new industries to locate here in Union County.  

What would you say is the least effective use of county taxpayers funds? 

3.The least effective use of taxpayer funds is supervisors voting themselves raises.  I believe this practice in unethical, although its legal.  If elected, I will never vote myself a raise.  I believe that the money used to increase salaries could be better used to help fix our crumbling roads and bridges in the county.  This is a part time position and the pay is more than adequate for the job.  We should be running to be civil servants, not for the money.  

Would you be in favor of funding a community mental health facility? 

4.I would be in favor of funding a community mental health facility.  Mental health patients often have no where to turn when seeking help.  Imagine if you had a physical ailment and could not find a hospital to be treated.  This needs to be addressed so that families have the peace of mind to know that their loved one can get help when needed.  This would provide jobs and a much needed service to the citizens of Union County.  

What is the greatest need Union County has? 

5.The greatest need that we face here in Union County is roads, bridges, and traffic flow.  We need a supervisor that is willing to make the tough decisions when it comes to prioritizing spending and balancing budgets.  We can use the revenue that we currently have without raising taxes to allocate tax dollars properly to address the crumbling infrastructure and traffic flow issues in District 2.  If elected,  I will rely on the relationships that I have built with state leadership in Jackson to ensure that Union County receives its fair share.  

 

DISTRICT 3 SUPERVISOR

Name: CJ Bright 

Age: 31 years old

Occupation: Residential/Commercial Building Contractor, Beef Cattle Producer

Office sought: 3rd District Supervisor

Political party: Republican

 

I am a lifelong resident of Union County and an Honor Graduate of NAHS. I attended NEMCC and BMC majoring in Accounting and Business Administration. I am an active member of FUMC and a married father to three. I am a small business owner and am highly motivated to use my experience in the private sector to ensure the future of Union County for the next generation.

 

Do you think the beat or unit system more effectively serves your constituents?

1) In my opinion the unit system best serves the constituents of the county when it is run in the manner it was designed to. With well-qualified department leadership in place the unit system makes the best use of county funds. The consolidation of multiple departments and limiting the power of each individual supervisor and having the board work together as a legislative body makes it more appealing to me.

Is it better for the county to rely on a regional industrial developer or have one dedicated to Union County?

2) I think economic diversity is the key to a successful locality. We need a strong economy in our region as well as looking out for the best interest of Union County. In short I think both can be effective in contributing to the economic interest of Union County.

What would you say is the least effective use of county taxpayers funds?

3) The least effective use of tax dollars in my opinion is the provision of a vehicle for each individual supervisor. Under the unit system I think there could be a couple of vehicles provided by the county for elected officials to use as needed. Taking three vehicles out of circulation could save the county thousands of dollars each year in maintenance costs, fuel, insurance, etc.

Would you be in favor of funding a community mental health facility? 

4) Although there is a great need for mental health care in Union County I don’t think the tax base of our county can solely support a facility for that purpose. We do need to do what we can to ensure that our residents have the resources available to maintain their mental health with state or federal assistance.

What is the greatest need Union County has? 

5) Union County is not in need of just one specific thing, but the development of a comprehensive plan for the future that includes planning for economic growth, development and maintenance of new and existing infrastructure, improvements for the quality of life for current and future residents, also maximum support of local education and law enforcement is what I feel are some of the most important things the supervisors need to address. Also the supervisors must continue to seek out ways to deal with inefficiencies in all areas that are under their control to ensure that all taxpayers are getting the most from their local government.

 

Name:David Kitchens

Age:61

Occupation:Union County Supervisor District 3

Office Sought:Union County Supervisor District 3

Political Party:Republican

Years in Office:Four

 

I have four years of experience serving as your Supervisor of District Three Union County. I serve on the PUL Alliance Board of Directors and the UCDA Board of directors.  I am married to Trisha Kitchens and we have three children Ben, Sam and Mary Katherine and four grandchildren.  I graduated from W. P. Daniel High School and received a Bachelor’s Degree in business from Mississippi State University in 1980.  I am a member of First Baptist Church and serve as a deacon and Sunday School teacher.

 

Do you think the beat or unit system more effectively serves your constituents?

The unit system serves the citizens of Union County the most effectively.  It enables the county to streamline road equipment, manage employees more effectively, and creates a central purchasing department that saves the county time and money.  All of these advantages save the county money so that more of the taxpayer money can be allocated to its roads and bridges.

Is it better for the county to rely on a regional industrial developer or have one dedicated to Union County?

I have been involved with the Union County Development Association for over 15 years and have experience with both a regional developer and one dedicated to only Union County.  It is my belief that a regional industrial developer is the best for Union County for several reasons.  First, it’s more economical.  The last dedicated industrial developer we had at the UCDA the salary package was about $35,000.00 more than what we pay for a regional developer.  Secondly, we have access to more personnel with a wide range of knowledge and contacts in the industrial development arena (TVA, MDA ARC). Thirdly, the results speak for itself.  Within the last three years S and A Industries has built a 45,000 square foot building, adding 40 employees and over a  4 million dollar investment.  We have seen several plant expansions creating more jobs and Union County has received over 1.8 million dollars in grants to build an industrial access road at Martintown North and construct a 200,000 square foot building pad in order to build a 100,000 square foot spec building for prospective industries at Martintown South.

What would you say is the least effective use of county taxpayers funds?

When the current board took office in 2016, for the first two budget years we were responsible for (2016-17 and 2017-18) your supervisors went over the budget items line by line with a fine tooth comb.  We reduced spending in some areas, moved money from one line item to another and increased spending in other areas.  All this was done to spend the taxpayer money in the most effective manner and not to spend more money than we took in.  I said this to say that your Board of Supervisors is spending county taxpayer money at a high rate of efficiency without waste or deficit.

Would you be in favor of funding a community mental health facility? 

The mental health needs of the citizens of Union County need to be addressed. At present, we have the services of Lifecore Health Group (Northeast Mental Health Commission, Region III) available to provide these services, which Union County helps fund. Lifecore served 435 Union County residents from June 2018 to May 2019.  However, these services are not adequate and their offices are in Tupelo.  I believe that Union County needs a mental health facility but I also believe that Union County cannot afford such an endeavor on its own.  The most practical solution to this is to find a medical institution such as Baptist Memorial Hospital to partner with to provide quality mental health services.

What is the greatest need Union County has? 

In my opinion a highly trained skilled workforce for the high tech advanced manufacturing jobs is our greatest need.  Industries are looking to locate in areas where there is an ample supply of these employees.  Workforce training needs to be a high priority and is an important piece to the industrial development puzzle. 

 

DISTRICT 4 SUPERVISOR

Name: Randy Owen. 

Age: 63 

Occupation:  County Supervisor 

Office Sought: County Supervisor 

Political party affiliation: Democrat. 

If incumbent, how many years in office: 12 

 

Randy Owen and his wife Christy, have two sons, Brett (Eva) and Jess (Katie) and four Grandchildren. Randy is a 1973 Graduate of W P Daniel High School and is now completing 12 years as your Supervisor. His previous employment included 30 years in the Transportation Business and as a Partner in Owen Auto Sales. Randy and Christy have been members of Hillcrest Baptist Church for 30 years. Randy is a devoted family man who loves his family and is especially proud of his Grandchildren. 

 

Do you think the beat or unit system more effectively serves your constituents? 

The Citizens of Union County voted the Unit System in as the System they wanted and we have done our best to provide them with the best service possible under that system. From a financial standpoint, it would appear to be the most effective system for our citizens. With a County Road Manager and Assistant Road Managers in each District addressing the day to day road issues, it does give the Supervisors more time to work on other County Government issues. 

Is it better for the county to rely on a regional industrial developer or have one dedicated to Union County? 

The Regional Industrial Developer program is working well for Union County and is much more cost effective than one dedicated only to Union County would be. We currently have one of the lowest unemployment rates in the state and we have plans to increase employment opportunities for our citizens. 

What would you say is the least effective use of county taxpayers’ funds? 

Fortunately we do not have that problem in our county as we are very conservative with our tax dollars as our Millage Rate will reflect. 

Would you be in favor of funding a community mental health facility? 

This would require a tremendous financial commitment from our Citizens and I would certainly want their input before undertaking such 

a commitment. As you know, the State of Mississippi has had to curtail the services of several Regional Facilities so I would be very cautious in our County undertaking such a commitment without a great deal of research and study. 

What is the greatest need Union County has? 

Through hard work and the cooperation of many North Mississippi citizens, we were able to locate Toyota Manufacturing in Union County. This has enabled Union County to have the third lowest unemployment rate in the State of Mississippi at 4.60/0. Now we need to provide opportunities for those folks in our county who want to secure high paying technical jobs, who do not plan to obtain a four-year college degree but who would like to live and work in Union County rather than leave our area to find employment. To do this, we need to expand our Technical School capabilities to train our citizens to be computer operators, electricians, licensed plumbers and other high paying technical jobs. We can expand our curriculum in our High Schools and encourage attendance at Northeast and ICC Community College Technical Schools so that we can retain our greatest asset, our Union County Children. 

 

JUSTICE COURT JUDGE WEST POST

Name: Chris Childers

Age: 40

Occupation: Attorney

Office Sought: Justice Court Judge West Post

Political party affiliation: Democratic

If incumbent, how many years in office: 14

 

I am a member at Macedonia Baptist Church.  I am married to Jennifer Street Childers and we have two children, Natalie age five and Lawson age one. I graduated from the University of Mississippi School of Law and have been an attorney practicing in New Albany for fourteen years.

 

What goal do you have to improve the service of your office to the people of Union County?

Justice Court is sometimes referred to as the people’s court.  Most individuals that have cases in Justice Court do not have an attorney to represent them.  I will continue to explain the procedures that they will need to follow and my rulings so that those individuals understand how the proceedings work and the outcome of the case they are involved in.

What is the biggest change you would like to see in the function of your office?

As a judge I am bound to follow the constitution, statutes and court procedures. Because of this there is not much room for changing the function of the office I currently hold.  In the fourteen years that I have been a Justice Court Judge there have been many changes to the laws and procedures for both the criminal and civil cases that I hear.  The Justice Court Clerk, Deputy Clerks and Judges have stayed on top of these changes to make sure the procedures are followed and the most accurate decisions are made for each case that goes through our court.

 

WEST POST CONSTABLE

My name is Ronnie Goudy. I am 36 years old and currently serve you as your West Post Constable. I would like to say that it has been my honor and privilege to serve the great citizens of this county. I am seeking re-election for West Post Constable in the Democratic Primary on August 6, 2019. I have been serving you for the last 3 ½ years as the West Post Constable, and I have strived to do the best job that I can. I will continue to do the same!!! 

 

As a Constable of Union County I work directly with the Justice Court system. I serve civil papers, warrants, subpoenas, and various other court documents. At a local level I don’t believe there is much more that can be done to improve the collection of unpaid court fines and fees. The Justice Court system has to follow state guidelines that are set forth by State Legislature. If someone has an outstanding balance on fines owed then it is turned over to a collection agency.

As the Constable I believe that most people do not understand that a Constable’s job is delivering, what many may consider as bad news. I have strived to help and explain the process to many of the defendants that I have encountered over the years. I know this information does not make the papers that I deliver any easier to deal with, but hopefully it gives each individual that I make contact with a little insight on the process to come. 

In closing my family and I would like to ask for your continued support for re-election as your West Post Constable. If anyone has any questions or concerns, and would like to speak to me, I can be reached through the Union County Sheriff’s Department non-emergency number 662-534-1941.

 

DISTRICT 13 REPRESENTATIVE

Name: Steve Massengill 

Age: 52

Occupation: Big M Transportation, Facilities Management, Family farm

Office Sought: State Representative District 13

Political Party Affiliation: Republican 

How Many Years in Office: 8

 

Steve Massengill is a sixth generation north Mississippian from a family of dedicated educators. He has been a blue-collar worker all his life and has served as State Representative for eight years. He is married to wife Dina and has two sons.

 

Should public money be used to fund private schools?

No

Would you vote for an increase in gasoline tax to help fund road and bridge improvements?

Across the state we have 5,000 road miles and 400 bridges that need upgrading, repair or are closed entirely. Even though we continue to find new sources of revenue for these projects, it is never enough. I support a reasonable fuel tax increase or a tax swap that would eliminate either the grocery tax or income tax as long as every penny of that increase goes directly to road and bridge improvements.

Should the state accept federal funds to support the state’s health care.

Yes, we do accept federal funds that support the state’s healthcare.

Would you be in favor of a statewide WiFi system and, if so, how would it be funded?

Although there is no one entity that currently can provide statewide high-speed internet, House Bill 366, also known as the Mississippi Broadband Act, allows Electric Cooperatives of Mississippi to offer broadband services to their customers. The 26 electric power associations in the co-op will have to decide independently if adding broadband services is economically possible. The law appropriates no state funds for broadband infrastructure projects, but federal funds are available to help electric cooperatives begin projects. 

How best can the state attract more industry?

Mississippi already offers businesses economic incentives, but we don’t have as strong a skilled workforce as competing states. The legislature has recently passed funding for work certification programs for students as part of the Education Works Program (SB2658). Better prepared workers for both manufacturing jobs and for 21st century jobs that require a completely different skill set will be vital in attracting new businesses to Mississippi.

What does the state need to do to improve it’s national image?

I am proud to be a Mississippian. 

 

DISTRICT 14 REPRESENTATIVE

 

 

The following response to the New Albany Gazette's Election Q&A by Robbins Ellis Rogers for the office of State Representative District 14 was mistakenly left out of the the Wednesday, July 31 issue. We apologize for the error and have posted it here in full.

 

 

 

Robbins Ellis Rogers

 

Age: 33

 

Occupation: Public School Teacher, School bus driver

 

Office Sought: State Representative District 14

 

Political Party Affiliation: Republican

 

How Many Years in Office: 0

 

Robbins Ellis Rogers is 33 years old. His parents are Margaret Ellis Rogers and Fred Rogers. His grandparents are Nancy Ellis and the late Dr. David Ellis, Jimmie Rogers and the late Herbert Rogers Jr., and the late Catherine Rogers. He and his wife Jonna have two daughters and twin sons. He graduated from New Albany High School and Ole Miss. He has served as a public school teacher for 10 years and also drives a school bus.

 

Should public money be used to fund private schools?

 

No. As a school teacher I am a strong supporter of the public school system. Our focus should be on providing an equal opportunity for every child to receive the highest quality education possible. Keeping public money in public schools assures that every education dollar available is going into a system that is available to everyone and that every school, every classroom and every teacher is held to the same high standards.

 

Would you vote for an increase in gasoline tax to help fund road and bridge improvements?

 

I would certainly consider voting for a bill that helped to pay for the repair and improvement of the roads and bridges in our state, which are so vital for both our citizens and our commerce. I would have to read the bill carefully and be assured that all money collected through an increased fuel tax would be used specifically for that purpose.

 

Should the state accept federal funds to support the state’s health care?

 

Yes.

 

Would you be in favor of a statewide WiFi system and, if so, how would it be funded?

 

I know that the legislature passed a bill known as the Broadband Enabling Act that gives members of the Electric Cooperatives of Mississippi (ECM) the ability to offer broadband to its customers through an affiliate. This opens the door for wider broadband coverage throughout the state. Currently the funding of those projects would be the responsibility of the cooperatives.

 

How best can the state attract more industry?

 

Tax incentives help to attract new business to Mississippi. Beyond that, we can also work to offer our workforce more opportunities to acquire the skills that businesses are looking for.

 

What does the state need to do to improve it’s national image?

 

Our state legislature is charged with passing legislation that best serves the people of Mississippi.

 

Sam J. Creekmore IV is a businessman and landscape architect in New Albany.  Sam is married to Warner Poindexter Creekmore of Inverness, MS and they have three children, Callie (Bridger), Josh (Anna) and Lewis who is a junior at NAHS.  The Creekmore’s attend First Methodist Church and are very active in the community. 

 

Should public money be used to fund private schools?

No. In Mississippi public schools are not adequately funded according to the state’s own formula, the Mississippi ADEQUATE Education Program.  Therefore, funding for public education should not be diverted to private schools.  As a member of the New Albany City School Board, I have personal knowledge of the budget struggles in the school system.  Fortunately, in New Albany and Union County, the public schools benefit from the generous funding of the communities.  Children in other school systems are not receiving an adequate education due to lack of state funding and lack of community support.  Public education in Mississippi is in crisis due to the lack of state funding; there is a teacher shortage as neighboring states offer higher teacher salaries.  State funding to support public education needs to be enhanced.

Would you vote for an increase in gasoline tax to help fund road and bridge improvements?

In 1987, the Mississippi Legislature passed an unprecedented $1.6 billion long-range highway bill, commonly known as the “1987 Highway Program.” New Albany’s own, John David Pennabaker, championed this incredible program through the legislature.  At the time, it was one of the most comprehensive in the country.  It also established a funding mechanism for construction in the form of 18.4 cents per gallon fuel tax. Unfortunately, the “1987 Highway Program” did not address funding needs to preserve Mississippi’s highway system into the future or account for inflation in the construction of additional roadways. Over the past 30 years, rising construction costs with no increases in funding has forced MDOT to shift to a maintenance only approach and focus on system preservation.  Today, 32 years removed from the Highway program our per gallon fuel tax is 18.79 cents per gallon.  This tax does NOT account for 32 years of rising cost of living and inflation.  Our neighboring states are at 20.9 cents, 26.4 cents, 21.8 cents and 20.01 cents.  Mississippi currently has the 3rd lowest gas tax in the country.  It is imperative to reassess the state gas tax to repair and improve the state’s roads and bridges for the safety and welfare of all citizens and to attract new industry.      

Should the state accept federal funds to support the state’s health care.

We already accept federal funds, in the form of Medicaid and Medicare, to support the state’s health care.  I am committed to protecting one of OUR (Union County) already GREAT assets and that is our medical community.  We have a TOP 100 ranked hospital in the entire United States.  Our hospital achieved this ranking while many of our states hospitals (some very close in proximity to ours) are struggling financially.  This is a subject that is close to me as my father, Dr. Sam Creekmore, has been in family practice in New Albany since 1972.  I have spoken with my Dad as well as others in the medical field already about a plan called Mississippi Cares. Mississippi Cares will pump more than $1 billion per year into Mississippi’s economy and create 19,000 jobs.  Hospital investments and member payments fund the premiums for Mississippi Care with NO state funding required!  This is a non-partisan proposal that will help all Mississippians. This plan would essentially be an insurance policy paid for by hospitals along with a modest contribution of $20 or less for those adults falling under 138% of the federal poverty level.  In Mississippi, this is about $17,000 per year for an individual or about $34,000 per year for a family of four.  Hospital investments and personal premiums for plan members would help fund the needed 10% state share to match the 90% federal share.  Visit www. MississippiCares.com for more information. Community-based hospitals and access to adequate health care are foundational to the overall health and well-being of all Mississippi citizens.

Would you support a statewide wifi system and how could it be fundsed?

State WI-Fi sounds like a good idea, but it would be putting the government in direct competition with traditional network carriers and I would NOT be for that.  Our state has just recently removed barriers to allow for companies to compete to supply wifi to rural areas.  As a conservative, I believe that free enterprise is the key to success and prosperity.  Free enterprise will solve the wifi accessibility problem.  I believe it is the government’s job to allow free enterprise to thrive and not compete or over regulate it.    

What does the state need to do to improve it’s national image?

National publications already rank Mississippi high as a business friendly state. But national rankings consistently rate us at or near the bottom in health status and educational achievement.  To attract more industry and population we need to raise our education rankings and national perception.  This is not a new concept, the Mississippi Republican Party Platform states under the Education section – “Education is a key to economic growth, opportunity, and quality of life. Our global and competitive marketplace requires an educated and well-trained workforce to further economic opportunity.”  

We are making some progress as high school graduation rates and some NAEP scores are up. But, teacher shortages have reached crisis stage and constant news and bickering about adequate funding of education create a negative perception.  Better education will bring more industry!

Well, I truly believe our image perception, when distilled down to the core gets back to EDUCATION AND FAMILY VALUES!  But instead of continuing to go down that path there are other areas that we can work on now that will help our image!  I believe we need to promote our strengths, especially here in Union County, where we have great resources and the BEST people.  What are some of our strengths? Here are a few: low cost of living, a warm climate, kind people, clean air, low land, low housing cost, low energy cost, a rich and diverse history.  Many, if not all, of these traits will appeal to the growing sector in our nation and that is retirees.  Appealing to this group of people will help increase our population and wealth as well as grow the retiree and tourism business.  Promote what we already do well and commit to a 12 year plan to abundantly fund education.  This will change the outsider’s view of Mississippi.

 

DISTRICT 3 SENATOR

Name: Jeff Olson

Age: 50

Occupation: Businessman / Restaurant & catering

Office Sought: State Senate District 3

Political party affiliation: Republican

If incumbent, how many years in office: n/a

 

Jeff Olson is a graduate of W.P. Daniel High School (New Albany) and Mississippi State University with a degree in Business / Marketing. He was married to the late Tracy Futato Olson of New Albany. He has one daughter, Kristen, who is in graduate school at the University of Mississippi. Jeff is an active board member with Boy Scout Troop 17 where he earned the honor of Eagle Scout. He currently serves on two committees for the city of New Albany…New Albany Sustainability Advisory and the New Albany Next (comprehensive plan committee).  Jeff has previously served on the boards for the Union County Heritage Museum and Magnolia Civic Center.  Jeff and Kristen are members of the First United Methodist Church in New Albany.

He currently assists in running a dynamic local restaurant and catering company, Tallahatchie Gourmet, with locations in New Albany and Oxford. Prior to Tallahatchie Gourmet, he was Business Development Manager for Baskin-Robbins Ice Cream for 13 years in west Tennessee and Mississippi territories.  He was elected and served three terms as Ward 1 Alderman for the City of New Albany.

 

Should public tax money be used to fund private schools?   

No.  The concept of “school choice” is very appealing, but the reality is that vouchers are a transfer of taxpayer funds from a public school to a private school. We need to focus on strengthening our public schools and that means increasing teacher pay, demanding excellence from all our school districts, and putting the needs of our children first.

Would you vote for an increase in gasoline tax to help fund road and bridge improvements?

We need a tax system that allows us to compete for jobs with our neighboring states. Tennessee, Florida, and Texas, for example, all have zero state income tax. So before we talk about increasing any taxes, I would be for first eliminating the state income tax to help make Mississippi a job creation destination. If we do that first, I would then be open to increasing user fees like gasoline taxes to pay for a comprehensive highway and bridge plan for our current and future needs. Currently, our infrastructure is in dire need of a major upgrade and expansion for the safety for our citizens.  By swapping the current tax income tax with a gas tax it will allow ALL individuals who use the transportation system to pay into the program.

Should the state accept federal funds to support the state’s health care?

I am in favor of evaluating any program that provides funding that would improve access, enhance the health and wellbeing of our communities, improve health literacy, improve health outcomes, and lower the amount of uncompensated care being provided by our community hospitals.

Would you be in favor of a state-wide wifi system and, if so, how could it be funded? 

I am committed to finding a solution to lack of broadband in rural areas of Mississippi and remain hopeful the private sector can identify wireless and wireline options to ensure more Mississippians are connected to the internet.  Partnerships between electric cooperatives and telecommunications providers is an obvious first place to start.

How best can the state attract more industry?

(Please see the response to next question as the two questions go hand-in-hand)

What does the state need to do to improve its national image?  

In order to attract additional industry for years to come and to improve on our national image we need to focus on: 

1) INFRASTRUCTURE: As I stated earlier, it is imperative that we have a comprehensive highway program in place that prioritizes projects throughout the state and allocates monies that will fund them to completion in a timely manner.  We also need to expand our options on air travel that will open us up to more tourism and improved economy.  

2) HEALTHCARE- projects that mitigate social determinants of health in our state including health literacy.  

3) EDUCATION/JOBS we must focus efforts on improving both academic and skilled/technical training opportunities and create jobs where all generations can thrive and want to live.  This includes capitalizing on what makes Mississippi great and attractive to industries and its people. 

4) TECHNOLOGY- Improve our fiber networks and ensure all citizens have access.

5) TAX REFORM – Elminate state income tax and reform the rest of our tax code to compete with the rest of the Southeast for jobs and growth.  

 

Name: Kevin Walls

Age: 53

Occupation: Small Business Owner

Office Sought: State Senate - District 3

Political party affiliation: Republican

If incumbent, how many years in office: N/A

 

Kevin Walls served seven years in the Mississippi Army National Guard. He was a fleet manager for UPS and now owns a small business in North Mississippi. With experience in budgets, his priority is to address the budget problems facing education, roads, and jobs in senate district three.

 

Should public tax money be used to fund private schools?

I would not support using public tax money to fund private schools at this time. I am a product of the Mississippi public school system, and if sent to Jackson I will do all I can to fully fund those schools and make sure our teachers and students are better taken care of financially. The citizens of district three can have confidence in me to appropriately vote for the legislation that will support the public school system. We need to cut state administrative overhead and apply more funds to front-line educators working harder than ever to educate our next generations.

Would you vote for an increase in gasoline tax to help fund road and bridge improvements?

Our roads and bridges connect the economically growing region in which we live, and without them our hometowns would be left jobless and ill-equipped to promote new business opportunities. I believe that there is money in our state budget that should be allocated towards up keeping and constructing roads and bridges before a gasoline tax is discussed. A tax increase levied on citizens should never be the first offer brought up in a funding proposal. Wasteful spending is a threat to our local wellbeing, and that is why I believe my experience building large and conservative budgets would benefit my potential constituents.

Should the state accept federal funds to support the state’s health care?

Much of our state is lagging behind in access to quality healthcare, but the people of district three have benefitted from many great opportunities for care such as those offered by North Mississippi Health Services and Baptist Memorial Health Care facilities. There is a lot of work that needs to be done at the state level to increase access to hometown healthcare, and I feel as a legislator I would be able to negotiate those needs into solutions. As a state senator, I would never turn down a solution supporting Mississippi’s healthcare even if it came from the federal level. I would entertain all options and work towards creating the best deal for my potential constituents; even if it meant a possible combination of funding sources inside and outside of our state. 

Would you be in favor of a state-wide wifi system and, if so, how could it be funded?

Access to affordable and dependable wifi has become necessary to survive as a business owner in our day-in-age. In my own small business, we are dependent on our wifi and phone services to communicate and do our best job for customers. I was happy that, during the last legislative session, the legislature approved the electric co-operative programs to sell internet services across Mississippi. Some local co-operatives are already using the success of similar legislation in Winfield, Alabama as a model to providing lower-cost and higher-speed internet services in our own region. I am hopeful that this legislation will prove to be beneficial to the rural areas in district three. 

How best can the state attract more industry?

The Northeast region of Mississippi has experienced unprecedented industrial growth in the last few years. Upon the additions of Toyota Motor Manufacturers in Blue Springs, Ashley Furniture Industries in Ecru, and Southern Motion in Pontotoc, district three is primed and ready to become one of the most industrially-based senate districts in the state. I am the only candidate in this race who has built successful budgets similar to not only the size of the state’s, but also those similar to the sizes of these large employers in our area. I know what it takes to get them here and to keep them here for the long term. On day one I will be prepared to go to work recruiting and negotiating large business migration into Benton, Pontotoc, and Union counties so that our future generations will have dependable and good-paying jobs for decades to come. District three will have an advocate for business in me.

What does the state need to do to improve its national image?

Mississippi is a great place to raise a family and grow a business. Even during my time away from the state with UPS, I was always thinking about coming back home so that my family would get to experience more of the place that molded me into who I am today. With the influx of new industry in our region and state, Mississippi must be vigilant in promoting a national image that we are educated and we are ready to go to work. In my business, I place great value on vocational and trade-school training. With the “brain drain” that is occurring in the state, we have to find a way to educate and keep our skilled workforce in the Magnolia state. I believe that for Mississippi to accomplish this dynamic that we need to place a higher emphasis on vocational education in high schools, and promote better funded and more diverse trade-school opportunities within our own region. Our community college system does a great job at this, but we need to further support their endeavors and promote this message to employers outside of our own state.

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