Loss of a public servant in Sturgeon

Published 12:01 am Tuesday, October 16, 2018

On Nov. 6, voters will go to the polls to cast ballots for candidates in two U.S. Senate seats, the U.S. House of Representatives 3rd Congressional seat and in several local judge positions.

The race for Circuit Court Judge District 6-2, however, will be no contest after candidate Holmes Sturgeon died unexpectedly last week as a result of a sudden illness.

The other candidate on the ballot, Debra Blackwell, will be the winner by default.

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Blackwell is an experienced assistant under Sixth Circuit District Attorney Ronnie Harper and will by all accounts make a good circuit judge.

Sturgeon, however, was running a strong race and his years of experience as Wilkinson County’s prosecuting attorney made him an excellent candidate for the judge’s position as well.

Both Sturgeon and Blackwell had recently shared their thoughts in interviews with me for a story on several recent plea arrangement cases in the area that had resulted in repeat offenses within two years of the offenders’ releases.

Both candidates understood the circumstances that lead prosecutors and courts to accept plea deals and lamented the high incidents of such cases, as well as the number of offenders who perpetuate a seeming revolving prison door.

Sturgeon had taken a bit of a hard line on the sentencing and had advocated making sure suspects serve the maximum time under law, even under plea arrangements and viewed the stiffer sentences as a deterrent to offenders committing later crimes upon release.

“I plan to be stiffer on those,” Sturgeon said for the story published Sept. 30. “Stiffer sentencing will send a message and make a dig difference.”

I was fortunate to have met Sturgeon a couple of times. He stopped by my office not long after I moved to Natchez in March to personally introduce himself to me and to welcome me to the area.

Sturgeon was a personable and likeable man and served his community of Woodville and Wilkinson County and the Miss-Lou in the best of public service tradition for more than 30 years.

His son, Walker Sturgeon, after his death likened Holmes Sturgeon to George Bailey, the main character in the favorite Christmas film, “It’s a Wonderful Life,” in his love of community and wanting to help make his community a better place.

That is the very heart of public service, working to make the community a better place for everyone.

Holmes was continuing his pursuit of bettering the Miss-Lou up until he had an asthma attack combined with a case of strep throat that deprived him of oxygen long enough to damage his brain.

He survived in a coma on life support at Ochsner’s Hospital in New Orleans for a week before his family made the difficult decision to remove him from life support. He died last Wednesday.

Debra Blackwell now is running uncontested and therefore will be the next District 6-2 Circuit Court Judge by default. I’m sure she will do a good job in that position, and she has the experience necessary to do so.

As for the other races on the ballot, however, we owe it to people such as Holmes Sturgeon to go to the polls and cast our ballots in the other races on Nov. 6.

Holmes Sturgeon believed in the system and represented the best of the tradition. I’m sure it would make him happy if people go to the polls and exercise our civic responsibility by voting for the candidates of our choice in all the other races on the ballot.

Scott Hawkins is editor of The Natchez Democrat. Reach him at 601-445-3540 or scott.hawkins@natchezdemocrat.com.