Four candidates campaigning for District 5 seat

Published 12:08 am Friday, July 22, 2011

NATCHEZ — District 5 supervisor candidates have jobs on their minds, in more ways than one.

With the primary elections coming up Aug. 2, Calvin “Jyrodd Buford” Butler, Moe LeBlanc, Grady B. Wilson and Incumbent Supervisor S.E. “Spanky” Felter are ready to make themselves heard.

Calvin “Jyrodd Buford” Butler

Calvin Butler

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Butler said he decided to run after seeing the current leaders failing to work together on major issues facing the community.

“When it comes to voting as a board of supervisors, there should be a lot of unanimous votes on concerns that affect our community,” he said. “When everyone is on the same page, you have a better opportunity to succeed.”

By working through a number of organizations, such as the AJFC Community Action Agency and mentoring young men at Robert Lewis Middle School, Butler said, he’s seen many aspects of the community.

“Being involved with different organizations allows me the opportunity to see how the community needs people who are going to step up to the plate,” he said.

It’s no wonder Adams County is facing job shortages, he said, because the whole United States is facing job shortages.

However, he said, Adams County might be able to thrive if it had something to show to industries.

For example, if a business was looking for a new location and saw that Natchez had an industrial park equipped with infrastructure, water, sewage and communication capability, it would be a lot more likely to settle down in Adams County, he said.

“We have a lot of land for sale, and these people who own the land are local business people,” Butler said. “We could sit down with the business people and enter the idea that they may be able to get a tax break for land purposes if they allow us to get the land we need to start the development of an industrial park.”

They would save money on a tax break, he said, and once you start adding in industry, houses that are now on the market would sell to new employees, so it’s a win-win situation for everyone.

While Butler said he supports the proposed recreation complex, he would not support a tax increase to fund it.

“A lot of citizens and a lot of taxpayers would not be able to utilize a recreation complex,” he said.

And it’s not fair to make a retired citizen, for example, who is on a fixed income with no children or grandchildren pay for something he or she can’t use.

Instead, the solution would be to recruit bigger tournaments to allow the facility to pay for itself, he said.

S.E. “Spanky” Felter

Spanky Felter

Felter said he decided to run for re-election because he cares about the county and he knows he can be an asset.

“I do work hard, and I know who elected me,” he said. “I’ve had eight years experience in dealing with the role of supervisor, and I’ve been self-employed for the past 25 years dealing with the public I represent.”

Felter said the county is on the right track with supplying new jobs through Elevance and offering tax incentives on roads, railroads and bridges.

“Every county and every state is hustling industry, and one of our roles is to try to give (industries) the best tax incentives that we can to attract them, and we’re very fortunate to get Elevance,” he said.

Felter said he thought the county was moving in the right direction.

“We’re doing the best we can with what we’ve got,” he said.

Once more jobs are created, Felter said, everything else, like the proposed recreation complex, will fall into place.

“I support recreation 100 percent,” he said. “I’ve said that from day one. But I do not support raising taxes to build it for $5.5 million. It’s just not the right time.”

It’s important that every person have a quality education available to him or her, Felter said, and the board of supervisors are working to make improvements.

For example, he said, the board has been petitioning the legislature to have the Natchez-Adams County School Board elected instead of appointed.

Moe LeBlanc

Moe LeBlanc

LeBlanc said he decided to run after being a Natchez resident for 11 years and seeing no progress.

“I just feel that I can make a difference with a new set of eyes and a new way of looking at things,” he said. “I can improve and help and be someone there for the voters.”

The number one issue facing the county today is education, LeBlanc said, and that’s “top priority.”

“The problem, I feel, is not with educators, it’s in the home,” he said. “It begins with the parents. If they don’t discipline their children and teach them right from wrong … and help them, then nothing will change.”

To fix the problem, LeBlanc said, a sort of incentive program would need to be set up. For example, he said, if children scored well on tests and didn’t miss school for a certain amount of time, the school board could potentially give them credit for one uniform.

LeBlanc said he’s seen a turn around in economic development in Adams County, and Natchez Inc. is the vehicle to move Adams County forward.

“At the forum last week, there were two incumbent supervisors saying they don’t create jobs, they just approve what economic developers suggest and recommend,” he said. “I just think supervisors need to be more involved in giving (Natchez Inc.) tools and resources they need to bring industry here.”

The other opportunity Adams County hasn’t utilitized to its fullest is the port, he said.

LeBlanc called the proposed recreation complex “something like a double-edged sword.”

“Voters already approved the building of the recreation center,” he said. “I’m not in favor of raising taxes, but if there’s a last resort, if that’s what needs to happen, I will support that, but I think there are plenty of ways to get funds available without raising taxes.”

For example, he said, if Adams County has a yearly budget of $27 million, taking 1 percent of that would total $270,000, and that could be subtracted out of costs like overtime and equipment from all county entities.

“If we just take $250,000-$270,000, (the complex) will be paid for in about five years time,” LeBlanc said. “I don’t think taxes need to be raised anymore.”

Grady B. Wilson

Grady Wilson

Wilson said he decided to run for office because he doesn’t like “where Adams County is headed,” especially as far as education goes.

“Our community isn’t the community it used to be,” he said. “I think I can make a difference.”

Loyalty, commitment, honesty and determination are just a few of the things that make him qualified to be a leader in Adams County, Wilson said.

Unemployment and problems in education are the main issues the county is facing, he said, and the first steps to fixing those are improving the value of the community.

“We need to be able to attract better businesses,” Wilson said. “The only way to do that is to have a viable (and) valuable labor pool.

“We have to increase scholastic scores and be more presentable to companies.”

Since community and education go hand in hand, he said, the school board must be held accountable.

“They should make sure the whole system is running properly, because that’s what it’s all about,” Wilson said. “That’s where it’s got to start. It has to start at the bottom and go all the way to the top.”

If there’s not a good education system set up, he said, bigger businesses wouldn’t want to move to Adams County.

“Businesses that come to Natchez want to have a choice about where they can send their kids to school,” Wilson said. “A lot of people are struggling to send their kids to private school, because they don’t trust the public school system.

“That’s a big deal for a lot of businesses. Not everybody can send their kid to private school.”

However, Wilson said, the county is on the right track in its efforts to recruit businesses, especially with private and government systems working together.

“It’s not the sole responsibility of the mayor or the board of supervisors to go out and solicit companies,” he said. “You can put the private sector on it in a hands-on basis, and I believe you’ll get more information.”

Wilson said he supports the proposed recreation complex, but he thinks Adams County has more important things to worry about for now.

“Natchez has a lot of problems, and I don’t think the recreation center is going to change that,” he said. “I think we can make it happen right now, no doubt we can, but I think we have a lot bigger issues.

“In a year or two years from now, the conversation might be different, and I hope it is.”

Regardless, he said, he would not support raising taxes to fund the recreation complex.