Six candidates in the running for jury position being vacated by Blaney

Published 12:00 am Thursday, October 9, 2003

VIDALIA, La. &045; With incumbent Charlie Blaney deciding not to run again, the Concordia Parish Police Jury’s District 3, Place B seat is up for grabs, with several candidates touting their solutions from attracting jobs.

Ronnie Cox

Candidate Ronnie Cox isn’t sure what powers police jurors have, but he knows one problem he would work to help solve &045; the lack of jobs in the area.

Email newsletter signup

&uot;There’s got to be a way&uot; to attract businesses, Cox said, adding that &uot;I’ve got my kids and grandkids here,&uot; and he wants to them to be able to stay.

Two problems that need addressing to improve the parish’s quality of life and ability to attract businesses are overgrown lots and dilapidated buildings, a problem Cox said he would work to address.

Cox said 15 years’ experience in construction work and road maintenance has given him practical experience that would be useful on the jury.

&uot;And I believe in prayer and hard work,&uot; he said.

Cox said he won’t make empty campaign promises, especially since he’s unfamiliar with what a police juror can control.

But he said he would work to address each problem brought to him by a constituent.

&uot;If you call me and have a problem, I’ll go out and talk with you and see what needs to done,&uot; Cox said. &uot;My heart goes out to the people, and I want to go to bat for them.&uot;

John C. &uot;Sparky&uot; Evans

The key to attracting and retaining businesses is to improve the overall quality of life, including roads, drainage and recreation, said candidate John C. &uot;Sparky&uot; Evans.

Continuing the sewage improvement program that is already under way is key to that effort, as is keeping close tabs on recreation funds, Evans said.

&uot;The recreation districts have people who work hard and do a good job,&uot; but the jury oversees the boards and should make sure funds are spent correctly, he said.

In addition, Evans said he would work toward getting out-of-state tuition waived at Copiah-Lincoln Community College and Alcorn State University’s Natchez campuses waived for parish residents. &uot;Education is the most important thing&uot; when it comes to attracting industries, he said.

Beyond that, the Police Jury can work with existing economic development officials and organizations to bring in new businesses, he said.

Evans said he would also push to get police jurors’ salaries rolled back to $800 to help save taxpayer funds. In addition, he said the maturity to make sound decisions and business experience make him a good candidate for juror.

Tanya Smith Richardson

If elected, Tanya Smith Richardson said she would push for the development of a Vidalia port as well as a study on the feasibility of railroad service in Concordia Parish.

Those, she said, are two big obstacles to attracting industries to the parish. &uot;And the top issue we face would be lack of jobs and the inability of our young people to stay here,&uot; Richardson said.

Jurors also need to &uot;sell&uot; to industrial prospects the things Concordia Parish already has going to it, such as its school system, its road system and the proximity of the river.

&uot;We need to publicize those things and take the initiative to find out who is looking for a new facility&uot; or what businesses, large or small, would be a good fit for the parish, she said.

Richardson said that her experience as an engineer for Mississippi River Corp. has made her aware of what industries look for in a location and of what can be done to control water treatment, energy, landfill and sewage costs.

With regards to parish finances, she said she would take a look at the budget to make sure the parish can make ends meet. &uot;There’s not going to be a surplus, Š so we’ve got to budget carefully,&uot; she said.

Whest Shirley

The way to get businesses into Concordia Parish is to address the problems that keep them from locating here, said candidate Whest Shirley.

One problem Shirley said he would work to address is out-of-date flood maps that make the insurance bills of businesses and residents too high.

&uot;Companies aren’t going to pay high flood insurance rates to locate in a zone that doesn’t floor any more,&uot; he said. &uot;And a lot of people are elderly or on fixed incomes and afford (such bills), either.&uot;

Shirley said he would work to compile a prioritized list of the parish’s needs so funds can be spent where they are most needed. Some serious needs include drainage and road improvements and, in other areas of the parish, better drinking water, he said.

Problems with water lilies and water levels are among concerns of Old River residents, and Shirley said he also hopes to work on those problems if elected.

Shirley said he believes approachability, his community involvement and his experience working at the Police Jury barn in college are attributes that would make him a qualified candidate.

Frank Webb

Frank Webb said that, if elected, he wants work in harmony with other police jurors to address the problems that Concordia Parish faces.

Those problems, which Webb said voters have mentioned to him as he campaigned door to door, include a lack of jobs and drainage and road issues, especially in the Vail Acres and Airport Road areas.

&uot;This district has two jurors, so the first thing I would have to do is get with him or her and work toward helping our area our,&uot; Webb said.

&uot;In the past, there’s been a lot of dissension and bickering. We need to sit down like grown adults and discuss these things,&uot; he said.

Webb said he believes his 25 years as a police officer has given him the ability to &uot;be able to sit down and talk with people.&uot;

Webb said he would like to see the riverfront in Vidalia developed even further, as well as an industrial park area south of town.

&uot;Whether it’s mom-and-pop or a major operation,&uot; the area needs more businesses, he said.

As far as Police Jury finances are concerned, Webb said he would work to make sure the jury has someone well-versed in budgets overseeing funds &uot;and see that we had checks and balances on that person.&uot;

Candidate Donald Manchester would not comment.