TUPELO • Mike Smith, a Saltillo Republican, hopes for re-election to his seat on the Lee County Board of Supervisors, but faces a challenge from Democrat C. Richard Cotton.
A cattle farmer, Smith is completing his first term as a supervisor representing District 2. Cotton is a journalist and small businessman, and is making his first run for elected office.
District 2 includes northwest Lee County, including much of Saltillo, part of Guntown and some central areas of county seat Tupelo.
Smith is running on his record in office and promises to help maintain the longstanding economic prosperity of Lee County, with its history of manufacturing jobs and industrial recruitment.
“I want to continue to keep Lee County a leader and a great place to live,” Smith said.
His message is very much centered on a “more of the same approach” and sees little need to shake up county government.
“There’s not much I think we need to change,” Smith said.
There are roads in need of improvement, Smith acknowledges, but he also thinks that the infrastructure in his corner of the state fares better than elsewhere.
“Drought messes them up, rains mess them up,” Smith said of roads. “As a general rule, we have pretty good roads.”
Cotton said he feels some roads in the district are “absolutely horrible” and urged a proactive approach to infrastructure maintenance, suggesting that election year politics play an outsized role.
“The year of an election is not the time to send out the crews and work on the roads and work on the drainage,” Cotton said. “That should be a four year thing.”
Providing a boost for local volunteer firefighters is also a policy priority for Cotton. He has emphasized a plan to pay county volunteer firefighters $300 every year around Thanksgiving.
“It’s a small token of our appreciation,” Cotton said. “They are the protectors of the community and they aren’t paid for it.”
Both men do share a leeriness about the prospect of big spending related to any renovations or replacement of the long-ailing Lee County Adult Jail.
The jail received significant attention from supervisors in 2017, but no decision was reached on the matter.
“The reason I didn’t push for it real hard is because I had about half the people wanting a new one and half didn’t want to do anything with it,” Smith said. “The will of the people had me sitting on the fence last time.
The District 2 incumbent suggested no progress will be made on the jail until local officials can “act like a bunch of grownups or business people instead of whining.”
Cotton said he favored some kind of renovation or expansion of the jail and opposes “a whole new Taj Mahal.”
A freelance journalist who has been based in Lee County since 1992, Cotton’s writing has appeared in the Commercial Appeal in Memphis, The Advocate in Baton Rouge and many other publications, including the local weekly the Lee County Courier. He also has experience in the construction industry.
Within the political arena, he also chaired the Lee County Democratic Party for a time.
Cotton hinted that his run for office was in part motivated by a disagreement earlier this year between Smith and Supervisor Tommie Lee Ivy about Ivy’s attendance at a meeting of minority supervisors from across the state.
“I saw where there were divisions within the county supervisors board that did not need to exist, and I thought, we should be way past this type of thing,” Cotton said. “This county has always been a fairly progressive county. There’s just no room for that kind of contention.”
Otherwise, neither Cotton nor Smith had much comment about each other.
“I don’t want to make it a personal attack,” Cotton said. “We all have faults. Hopefully mine are few.”
Smith said he had “not a thing” to say about his opponent.
“I’ll let him speak for himself,” Smith said.
Elections are next week on Tuesday, Nov. 5.