Education, jobs on lips of Rep. candidates

Published 12:02 am Saturday, July 30, 2011

Eric Shelton/The Natchez Democrat — Rep. Robert Johnson, left, and Natchez Alderman James “Rickey” Gray spoke to a crowd of approximately 30 people Friday morning at the Natchez-Adams County Chamber of Commerce’s second Friday Forum.

NATCHEZ — The audience at Friday’s forum was tighter lipped than the crowd at a similar forum last week, but with Tuesday’s elections rapidly approaching, the House of Representatives District 94 candidates had no problems sharing their feelings on economic development and education reform.

The Natchez-Adams County Chamber of Commerce hosted the forum Friday morning at the Natchez Coffee Company, and approximately 30 people attended.

Incumbent Representative Robert Johnson said increasing the value of education in Adams County would ultimately affect its economy.

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“You don’t change education just with money,” he said. “The best way to change anything is to have a strong economic foundation.

“We’ve got to create some jobs, because then people have that future hope and the understanding that they don’t have to worry about so many other things.”

Johnson’s challenger, James “Rickey” Gray, who serves as Natchez alderman for ward two, said it’s important to find out what kind of jobs the community needs, because some parents currently have to work two or three jobs in order to provide for their children.

“I feel like we have some intelligent kids, but for some reason, their minds are distracted,” Gray said.

And when industry comes to Adams County, he said, it’s important to make sure parents will be able to spend time with their children.

“You can think you can go to the bank on Monday and put in $100 and go back on Friday and get out $150,” Gray said. “If nobody is instilling anything in (the children), you can’t get anything back out of them.”

Johnson said creating a sense of prosperity in the community is key.

He asked the audience whether they’d ever had a conversation with someone who was in the second or third generation of a family who received welfare.

“They understand that complicated program, because the welfare system is very complicated,” he said. “You take them and you train them in a job, and I guarantee you, you’ll have the best workers.”

The majority of people don’t want to sit around not working, Johnson said.

“But they need opportunities,” he added.

The Chamber of Commerce will host another forum Friday from 8-9 a.m. at the Natchez Coffee Company on Franklin Street to discuss health care in the community.