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In their own words: District 1 Adams County Supervisor candidates address issues in election

Today The Natchez Democrat profiles the two candidates vying for the Adams County District 1 Supervisor.

Both candidates are running as Democrats so the election will be decided in the August Democratic party primary.

The Adams County Supervisor’s duties are outlined below as summarized from Mississippi state statutes by the Mississippi State University Extension service.

“Boards of supervisors have the authority to regulate the county’s affairs within the limits of state law. Supervisors are delegated a variety of public duties. They have full authority over county roads, ferries, bridges, county law enforcement, collections, fines, and levying taxes. The board of supervisors appoints some county officials. The board is responsible for guiding and establishing policy for the complex multi-million dollar budgets of county government.

Supervisors make decisions that directly impact economic development, public health, safety, and welfare of county citizens.”

Both candidates submitted responses to the same five questions given to them by The Natchez Democrat. Candidates’ answers were limited to no more than 150 words.

Why should Adams County voters elect you to serve as the supervisor in your district?

Mike Lazarus: I am the most qualified candidate. I have served in the position for the last 12 years and am the senior member on the board. I know this job inside and out.

I am very involved and active as your supervisor working on a daily basis to make sure the county is run in an efficient manner. I have the leadership and a proven track record. I have lowered tax millage twice since being elected. I have always made sure taxpayer money was spent wisely. I have worked to find ways to save the county money while increasing services and efficiency. I make myself available to the people of Adams County and will always answer my phone and be there for my constituents to solve whatever problem they may have.

County supervisor is the most important position in county government. This is not a position to be taken lightly.

Wes Middleton:  As a lifelong resident of Natchez, after receiving my college degree from Delta State University, there was no doubt that Natchez was where I was going to set my roots. If you have paid attention over the past 12 plus years, Natchez and Adams County are not trending in a direction that makes either me or the majority of our residents proud. Our public school system, recreation, availability of jobs, and quality of life are all tremendous issues that have not properly been addressed. I ran for this office four years ago and did not win. Here I am again asking for an opportunity to serve the residents of Adams County because we deserve better.

What is the biggest issue facing the Adams County voters in the district you are running in?

Mike Lazarus: Putting people in Adams County to work. On a daily basis I have someone looking for work only to find out they are not qualified for the jobs that are available. Matching employers with potential employees is a major hurdle we need to overcome.  I am hoping to work with our local community colleges and industrial leaders to offer dual enrollment for manufacturing courses. Now that we see a rise in manufacturing jobs we see a weakness in our workforce. We need to make it a priority to train our workforce so they will have an opportunity for a better and more productive life.

I give credit to Natchez, Inc./Ruth Nichols for the job they are doing on workforce development, we have work to do. This is a good thing because we have jobs and we have people we just need to make it work.

Wes Middleton:  I strongly believe that as a supervisor you do not only represent your district but you represent the entire county as a whole. Under the current administration, in this district, I have been told that there are parts of District 1 that have been and continue to be overlooked. Not one district is more important than any other, and it is the duty of the supervisors to work together for the betterment of Natchez and Adams County as a whole. With the industrial park/ port being located in District 1, it is very important to have someone in office who is able to sell Natchez. This is where my 13 years of sales experience will come into play for our benefit.

What are the two main objectives you would want to accomplish if elected to the Adams County Supervisor position you are seeking?

Mike Lazarus: We need to continue to expand our recreational opportunities for our young and old which will in turn improve quality of life for all citizens.

We need to continue to address our infrastructure needs such as roads and bridges. When roads are paved it increases property values and also spurs economic development. Good roads and bridges are a priority. This is one of the most important roles of County Supervisor. We are in the planning stages of building fire stations in north and south Adams County which will save the residents of the county a substantial amount of money on their insurance premiums.

Wes Middleton:  I will begin working on day one with the current leadership in our public school system to implement a vocational program tailored to and, hopefully, partnered with our local industries to strengthen the workforce for our community with our younger generation. This program, along with the dual enrollment that Co-Lin has been offering for fifteen plus years, would be a tremendous draw to industries looking to locate to our area. Secondly, the people of Adams County spoke years ago about supporting a recreational complex. Well, guess what? Here we are four years later, and it still has not come to fruition. I will make sure that I exhaust all efforts on a daily basis to ensure our residents live in a community that they are proud to call home.

What experience do you have that uniquely qualifies you for the Adams County Supervisor position you are seeking?

Mike Lazarus: I have a unique understanding of the county budget and the budgeting process. I have been part of the team that kept the county in good financial standing for the past 11 1/2 years.  Last budget year the Board of Supervisors had a four million dollar cash balance. I have to work with all departments, department heads and other elected officials. Sometimes we have to make tough decisions about where to spend tax dollars. Having built my business from the ground up has taught me a lot about hard work and sacrifices and what it takes to be successful.

Also, I have built relationships with officials in Washington, D.C., and Jackson that have been a great asset for Adams County. I have a background in construction where I have built or played a part in building many of the existing roads in Adams County. Having knowledge about road construction is a major asset to the supervisor position.

Wes Middleton: Coming from a long lineage of public servants of our community, I know what this job entails. I can assure the voters that if given the opportunity to serve, you will never look back.  As a 2006 Graduate of Delta State University with a degree in Commercial Aviation, and with thirteen years of business experience as Vice President of Big M Supply, I bring something to the table that cannot be matched in this race.  On a daily basis, I deal with real-life business situations that require many tough decisions.  Operating a small business in today’s economic situation is no easy task. This along with the fact that my wife, Lauren Biglane Middleton, and I are deeply committed to turning things around so our children, as well as yours,  have the opportunity to raise a family in this wonderful town.

The city and county have been presented with several options for consolidating governmental services. Do you favor consolidation, and if so, in what form?

Mike Lazarus: Yes. The city and county have already consolidated quite a few services but according to the experts, total consolidation in Mississippi would be very hard to achieve. My opinion, after hearing from the experts, is to continue efforts going forward with the progress we have made. We need to sit down with the city and set priorities to see what makes sense and what does not.

We need to identify what we expect from consolidation. Is it saving money, enhanced services or maybe a combination of both? We have experienced benefits from some of the services that have already been consolidated. For instance, custody of prisoners, E911 Dispatch, fire protection.

As your current supervisor, I feel as though I have consolidated in the form of paving city streets because the way I see it I represent the citizens of the city just as much as I represent the citizens of the county.

Wes Middleton: After attending both forums in May, sponsored by the city and presented by The Stennis Institute of Government, it proved that consolidation is not allowed in the Mississippi Constitution therefore the road to complete consolidation would be a lengthy process. With that being said, consolidation of some services would be the first step in the right direction. My thoughts are not that consolidation is going to be a tremendous savings of money, but what it will do is drastically improve the efficiency of local government.  The current administration in my District has had twelve years to build a good working relationship with city leaders, and that is another issue that has not been accomplished. This election is very critical to the future of OUR COMMUNITY, and the time for a change has never been more apparent.