Candidates gear up for election
Published 9:40 am Sunday, March 4, 2007
In what promises to be a full county election race, the five positions of county supervisor have the most challengers.
With six candidates vying for the spot, the race for supervisor of District 1 is the largest.
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Incumbent Sammy Cauthen, a Republican, said he decided to run again to finish what he and others started, namely enticing industries like Rentech to locate in the county.
“The main issue I’m particularly interested in is getting them situated, getting the names down on the dotted line and getting them in production,” Cauthen said. “We need all the jobs we can get.”
Sitting on several committees around the state, Cauthen said he thought his decades of experience on the board and connections in Jackson and Washington, D.C., would continue to help the county.
“I feel I’ve done a fairly good job, and I feel I have something to continue to offer the county,” he said.
One of Cauthen’s opponents, Charles Lazarus, a Democrat, said he thought his experience as a businessman and a volunteer prepared him to be an effective supervisor.
“I deal with people every day,” said Lazarus, who owns his own business. “I’ve been here my whole life. Being a supervisor is going to cost me money, but it’s something I feel I need to do.”
Lazarus said he would try to recruit both tourism and manufacturing industry to the county.
Another issue he said he wants to focus on is recreation.
“We need to expand our ball parks and soccer fields,” he said. “You can do that without spending a lot of money. And we need an Olympic-size swimming pool where we can hold meets to bring people in to town.”
Mike Smith, a Democrat, is another District 1 hopeful who said his business experience would help him manage county finances. He and his wife co-manage a radio station, and Smith served as a combat engineer in the army for six years.
“I consider myself a successful businessman who understands the meaning of hard work,” he said. “I’ll listen to all the people not just a few. And to give back to the community, because they’ve been good to us.”
Smith said people in his district contacted him asking him to run for supervisor.
“I live in the county, not downtown,” he said. “I think that’s important for the people who I’ve talked to.”
Smith said his number one priority was bringing jobs to the county.
“This area needs jobs,” Smith said. “Tourism is great, I’m all for tourism, but we also need industry to try to get back to where we were.”
Clarence Love, a Democrat, said he, too, hoped to bring industry and jobs back to Natchez-Adams County. Love earned his masters in library science from Tennessee State University and has lived in the county for 27 years. He serves as a deacon at Christian Hope Baptist Church and works as director of Alcorn State University’s Learning Resource Center.
“I think I can do something to help this town reverse this trend of dying industry-wise,” Love said. “Something has to be done. I feel I have some knowledge to reverse the trend.”
Love said he would try to entice high-tech industries to town. He said he would work with Alcorn to develop training for people interested in those jobs.
“Once we get them trained, they will be available to work for those industries,” he said.
District 1 candidates Paul Brooks, Republican, and Audley Carter, Democrat, could not be reached for comment.
District 2 new comer Joe Eidt, Republican, is active in the community, serving on the city recreation board for 15 years and being active in youth sports.
There’s no doubt that experience helped him develop skills to work with people and achieving goals, he said.
“I hope I can bring my experience through working with the city into this position and create some harmony between the city and the county,” he said said.
For Eidt, jobs and unity topped his list of priorities if he was voted into office.
“Right now, the county needs jobs,” he said. “I’ve got two college-aged kids, and I’d love for them to have an opportunity to come back and raise a family here, but there are not very many opportunities.”
Uniting the county and city governments was necessary to recruit businesses, he said.
“My goal is for the whole government to pull in one direction, to try to stay positive and thinking forward,” he said. “We need to learn from the past, but we have to move toward the future.”
Candidate George Souderes, Democrat, and incumbent Henry Watts, Democrat, could not be reached for comment.
Souderes, who currently serves as county civil defense director, has said in the past that his experience working with the county would help if he were elected.
He has said that in the course of his nearly 30 years for the county and with the city, he has learned the departments’ responsibilities and functions.
Watts has said in the past his priority was fiscal responsibility and serving the people. He has regularly brought up financial questions in supervisor meetings. He recently moved the county ask its departments to report finances and cut back on spending for the rest of this fiscal year.
District 3 Supervisor Thomas “Boo” Campbell, Democrat, said he had planned to retire from his position but didn’t want to leave a project unfinished.
That project was making prospective industries a reality, Rentech among them, he said.
“We were so close, I thought it would be nice to stay on to complete this thing,” Campbell said. “It makes a difference when you’re so close to accomplishing something.”
Campbell said he supported bringing in a correctional facility, a prospect that has been raised recently.
Other industry projects are in the works, he said. And Campbell said he and other supervisors had already built a relationship with industry players.
“Anytime you get new people in, you have to start all over again,” he said.
Campbell, who has four opponents, said he didn’t mind people running against him for the supervisor seat.
“Everybody has a right to run for office,” Campbell said. “It’s the people who put people in office. No particular position belongs to anybody. The bottom line is, it’s up to the people.”
One such opponent is Britton J. Gibson, Democrat, who said bringing in jobs and family activities were on his agenda.
Owner of Carpet Sales, Gibson said his experience with finances would help in a county capacity, too. A Kiwanis board member and vice president of Cathedral School, his community leadership provided experience, too, he said.
“I’m also on the (Cathedral) finance committee,” he said. “(These activities) give me a genuine interest in the community.”
His family and business give him perspective, he said.
“I’m a lifelong resident of Adams County, and I have two young children and a business here,” Gibson said. “In order for them to do well I life, Adams County needs to do well.”
Gibson said he hoped to boost business and industry in the area and create a family-friendly community.
“If kids are not in sports, they do not have a lot to do,” Gibson said.
District 3 candidate Leroy Sessions said he felt the need for a change in leadership. Sessions served eight years in the air force and currently works at Georgia Pacific in Gloster.
One of his biggest concerns was finding programs for children.
“Kids are not getting what they need,” Sessions said. “Kids have a lot of excess of time on their hands, time without leadership.”
He said he would like to see what he could do as a supervisor to provide more programs for children.
“I’d like to see us refocused on kids,” he said. “A lot of kids are not getting the guidance they need in schools or after school.”
Sessions said he planned to find out the supervisors’ capabilities before he committed to anything specific, but that he felt he could create change by focusing on the community’s youth.
“We’ve had a chance to do what we need to do, now we have a chance to do something better for our kids.”
District 3 candidates Luther “Brad” Bradford, Democrat, and Raythell P. Smith, Democrat, could not be reached for comment.
James Gavette, Democrat, said he thought his vision of a cleaner, safer and healthier Adams County would benefit residents.
Gavette said he would like to see fewer chemical industries come to the county and more small businesses and tourism.
“I think we ought to capitalize on our education and get research parks here and environmentally friendly industry,” he said. “I don’t want any type of refinery.”
Gavette said he thought a supervisor’s job was less about job hunting and more about helping keep the public safe.
“We should make sure the jobs they get are safe jobs,” he said. “We should make sure the industry brought here is safe and environmentally clean industry.”
He said he would like to see Adams County become a model for clean, small industries and that promotes new types of energy sources.
“If we can coordinate the schools and technical schools with entrepreneurship and people with small environmentally friendly industries, that will be what I stand for.”
District 4 incumbent and Supervisors President Darryl Grennell, Democrat, said he thought his 10 years on the board, half of which he served as president, would bring valuable experience to the county.
“I’m familiar with county government and well-versed in county laws and so forth,” he said.
His government contacts don’t hurt, either, he said.
“I know quite a few individuals on the state and federal level, so the experience alone plays a major role in helping to keep the county moving forward,” he said.
Bringing industries and jobs to the county was at the top of his to-do list, he said.
“I want to make sure Rentech comes to fruition,” he said. “My plans are to continue to help achieve economic prosperity for Natchez-Adams County, to help improve recreational infrastructures and just to continue to make progress for the community.”
District 4 candidates Paul Leake and Anthony McCranie could not be reached for comment.
Ronald Eugene Allbritton, Democrat, said after 30 years as a resident and being involved in organizations like the Freemasons and Stanton Baptist Church, he thought he could benefit the county.
“I never dreamed of being a politician in my life,” Allbritton said.
A self-proclaimed family man, Allbritton said he was against casinos and felt strongly about creating better race relations.
“I just think I’m a better-qualified person than what we’ve been having,” he said.
Allbritton said if elected, he would set up a community committee in his district to gather questions and information and relay those to him.
“Once they decide what they need, then they can come to me and tell me the committee needs that,” he said. “It’s trying to put the voice of the government back in the community’s hands.”
James Berry Jr., Democrat, has no experience in politics. But that’s an asset, he said, not a hindrance.
“I’ve been a resident of Natchez-Adams County all my life, and I’m aware of the problems,” he said. “I know that I would do a good job, my being honest and hardworking.”
Berry has owned his own truck and auto business for 10 years, he said.
“The people in office haven’t been doing what they say they’re going to do,” Berry said. “I want to be a team player. Every time you try to bring in jobs and other things into this community, the vote is 3-2, and they can’t come to an agreement on anything.”
He said he’d like to help create activities for children in the county, like building state-of-the-art baseball fields and basketball courts.
“I feel I’d be an asset to this community,” Berry said. “I’m excited about it.”
District 5 incumbent S.E. “Spanky” Felter said he felt his actions on the board would support him through the race.
“I’ve done my best the past three-and-a-half years I’ve been there,” Felter said. “Because I care about this county — that’s the only reason I’m running.”
Felter said he hoped to cut wasteful spending as he has tried in the past.
“I voted against raising taxes until we got out of wasteful spending,” Felter said. “I can say I have been an asset to the county and not a liability. I don’t charge for travel, I use my own vehicle, I buy my own gas.”
Like others, Felter said getting jobs into the county was priority number one. Felter said had different opinions on the two big prospects, Rentech and the correctional facilities.
“People want Rentech,” he said. “They definitely want the industries. The prisons, I think the people in Adams County have to live beside it. If they want it, fine with me. Just let them have a vote on it.”
District 5 candidate Jessie R. Turner, Democrat, could not be reached for comment.