District 5 Adams County Supervisor candidates address issues in election

Published 12:15 am Saturday, July 6, 2019

Today The Natchez Democrat profiles candidates vying for the Adams County District 5 Supervisor seat.

Incumbent candidate Calvin Butler, a Democrat, faces three Democratic Party challengers, including Kelly Thompson, James H. Berry Jr. and Warren C. Gaines Sr.

Challenger Cleotha Marsaw is running as a Republican and challenger Lee Blanton is running as an independent candidate.

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 authority to regulate the county’s affairs within the limits of state law. Supervisors are delegated with 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.”

All other 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.

Marsaw did not return answers in time to be included in this story.

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

James H. Berry Jr.: I look around in this world and I see other cities, even in Mississippi, booming. I mean growing by leaps and bounds, but we haven’t moved forward at all. Vidalia right next door has gone from the small town across the bridge in Louisiana to become an example for us to follow (growth). You see, if you’re not growing and moving forward, you’re really, literally, being left behind. We keep putting the same people in the same position who are set in their ways and very complacent, not doing anything. We need change, and we need it quickly. I bring that change.

Lee Blanton: District 5 voters need a supervisor that will be fiscally responsible, pro-active in addressing problems, and always accessible to them. I am that candidate. After my first tour of duty in Iraq in 2005, I returned home to work with my family’s construction business. I know what it takes to run a business, work with people, stay within a budget, and use creative solutions to solve problems. I believe that with hard work and dedication, we can begin to solve Adams County’s problems. This will take hard work every day, not just every election cycle. Recreation, roads and rural fire protection are just a few of the things that have been promised every election cycle, yet never delivered. I believe these things are possible. When elected, I assure you, if it can be done, I will get it done, for all of us.

Calvin Butler: I would first like to thank my constituents for the opportunity to serve them for eight years as their Supervisor of District 5, which encompasses the most rural areas of Adams County. In 2012, I worked with our board to revise a 4-year road plan. Since 2014, I worked with the road department to fully implement this plan and invested $1.2 million for the improvement of the roads and bridges in District 5. The relationships that I have established on the state and national level give our county an advantage when we are lobbying for funding. These professional connections have helped secure over $8 million in funding for projects throughout Adams County. I will continue to support education, recreation, job creation and improving the infrastructure of our roads and bridges. My experience and knowledge of county government will help our district and county continue to move forward.

Warren C. Gaines Sr.:  The constituents of District 5 should elect me because I am fair, trustworthy, and I am concerned about the direction Adams County is moving toward. I am a lifelong resident of District 5, so I have watched the decline of businesses, recreation, population and employment opportunity. As a resident of District 5, we share many of the same concerns. I decided to seek the position supervisor for this District to put forth my best effort to make positive changes for Adams County. I will be accessible by phone and in-person contact. I will do everything state law allows for all the residents of District 5. If elected to this office, I am dedicated to be a voice for the people.

Kelly Thompson:  Adams County needs a change, and I know that I am capable of helping to bring about that change. The board of supervisors needs accountability, honesty and integrity, and I possess all of these qualities based on my experience as a successful business owner, dedicated family man and an upstanding citizen in my community. Over the years, I have volunteered my time, skills, and supplies to build the children of Adams County much-needed playgrounds. Now, I am ready to help Adams County on a larger level as District 5’s Supervisor to maintain good infrastructure, recruit good jobs and dispense with wasteful spending.

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

James H. Berry Jr.: The biggest issue in my district I feel is 100% concern for the physical district. I realize we are on a unit system, but we as taxpayers expect 100% supervision of the district and of the county as a whole. The supervisor has to be all over the district on a constant bases supervising the day-to-day operations, getting to know the workers and getting to know the taxpayers in the area, not leaving it up to the road foreman to deal with it. Now define the word supervisor. It is a person who supervises … A supervisor shouldn’t just sit back and wait for the taxpayers to call and ask for help, or call and complain. That only means that you are not supervising. But as a taxpayer if I have to call in every concern and complaint in my area that means there is no supervising going on, and/or supervisor present.

Lee Blanton: There are many “big” issues. We need to start with getting good members on our public-school board. We need a public education system that does not fail us. We need to get a vocational school program running again. Many good-paying jobs require skill sets that can be learned through vocational programs, yet we no longer offer this. Residents deserve better fire protection. This can be done through building and properly staffing fire departments in the county. We need to repair our roads and bridges correctly and not keep “patching.” We need to quit talking about recreation, and come up with a plan and put it into action. Most importantly, we need to continue to work on economic development to provide the best jobs possible for our residents. We also need to cut out wasted spending so that we don’t tax our residents at a ridiculously high rate.

Calvin Butler: We can agree that the infrastructure and continued maintenance of our roads and bridges is a continuing matter that requires constant work and attention as short and long-term goals. I will continue to work diligently with our road department to ensure that every year, we revisit and revise our road plan so that all infrastructures in District 5 receive on-going preservation and improvement. There are two on-going issues in which I receive calls from my constituents: Unleashed viciously aggressive dogs are roaming neighborhoods and attempting to attack people on their own property. One of my objectives is to work within the legal and humane realm of government, while respecting the rights of animal lovers, and construct an ordinance to protect all homeowners. The other issue is regarding abandoned properties, where landowners do not provide structural upkeep or lawn care for these properties.

Warren C. Gaines Sr.: Infrastructure is by far the biggest concern of the voters of District 5. Road maintenance has been the No. 1 issue. Drainage problems and regular road maintenance have been a huge issue. I understand paving roads is expensive, but some roads can be paved and others can be on the four-year road plan. If elected, when money is available, roads will be paved in District 5 as scheduled. Drainage problems, potholes and road maintenance will be addressed. I will ensure road maintenance will be done in all areas of District 5. I will seek programs that will provide other sources of revenue to aid with the high cost of infrastructure. I will answer calls, address concerns and critique a plan to resolve the issue. I will also ensure that legal actions have been followed and allowed assistance has been provided.

Kelly Thompson: In District 5, for the past seven years, there has been a lack of communication with the supervisor and residents. Complaints from residents in the district have not been addressed. The streets and roads in our district have not been maintained when needed. The drainage systems are in much need of repair. There is a desperate need for trash cleanup in our district. Overall, district 5 has not been maintained, and I want to make a positive change.

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

James H. Berry Jr.: My two objectives are simple. No. 1, I’m going to work for the people. My goal is to bring District 5 up to equal standards as every other District of the five districts Adams County has. District 5 should be just as pretty, just as clean, just as presentable, just as growing, as any other district in not just Adams County but as any other district in the state. We can set the pace. I plan to encourage them to understand my concern for District 5 and do the same for their districts. That way we can catch up first and then pass the rest of the state. I stand and wouldn’t it be nice to have better roads better drainage, nicer neighborhoods, new and improved schools, more industry, just plain old proud of our town.

Lee Blanton: I want to see the board of supervisors be more accountable for the “commissions” that they have created (port, airport and recreation). It is the job of the supervisors to properly handle taxpayers’ money, not delegate it to someone else. If we ensure that our tax dollars are spent wisely, we will find that we can do more for our residents and possibly lower taxes. We should work every day to try to accomplish these two things. The other main issue is infrastructure. Roads obviously are contingent on securing funding, but district 5 has many roads that are in desperate need of work.

Calvin Butler: One of my main objectives is the continued support of Natchez Inc. and the business community, which invests in the recruitment of jobs for our area. I would like to continue to work with our legislators and our delegates, for their support, to increase opportunities for Adams County and Southwest Mississippi. The recruitment of small or large-scale industries, allows skilled workers to return to Adams County and provide opportunities for residents to remain and encourages others to relocate to Adams County. As a member of the board of supervisors, I would like to see money allocated for students to take the ACT Work-Keys, which will support the vocational programs at the local high schools. This objective will help more students to graduate from high school with a vocational certification and be qualified for incoming jobs. Education and jobs are critical components to a better quality of life.

Warren C. Gaines Sr.: I would like to promote more industry to come to Adams County. Creating more jobs will create a positive movement for the economy. Industry will create jobs for residents, generate tax dollars for Adams County and help local businesses that are already established. Tax dollars create more opportunities to pave roads, improve recreation and increase salaries for employees. I would work toward improving our educational system. All children should have the right to a proper education in a non-hostile environment. Education is the most powerful weapon, which you can use to change the world. Vocational training is also an avenue that will attract industry to Natchez-Adams County. This will produce a qualified work force for our county. I would like to see the area businesses partner with the high schools and local colleges to employ students from their vocational programs. Working together in Adams County is vital to the growth and success of Natchez and Adams County.

Kelly Thompson:  One of my main objectives as supervisor in district 5 will be to fix the roads and to do a major cleanup of the county’s drainage system and county’s bayous in this district. I will research for any grants or funding that will help me to accomplish this objective. My other objective is to help maintain the budget and be efficient without wasting taxpayers’ money.

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

James H. Berry Jr.: Business owner for many years right here in Adams county, family man (always have been and always will be), the Love of Natchez/Adams County (parents and grandparents all from this area), I was born and raised, raised my kids and now grandkids are being raised and schooled in the local schools. I’m a believer of God and attend church at New Hope Baptist Church. God loves Adams County, and he will work through me to show his love for us.

Lee Blanton: I have worked in the construction industry most of my life. There is much more to construction than shovels and equipment. Every project requires estimating, planning, coordination, budgeting, time management, inspections, codes, safety regulations and employees. These skills along with those that are required to run any business make me well qualified for the position of District 5 supervisor. I also served six years in the United States Marine Corps Reserve. During which time I served two combat deployments in Iraq. I know what it means to serve something greater than yourself. I ask everyone that lives in this county, to please vote this November. Together we can make a difference.

Calvin Butler: As a county supervisor, I have knowledge and experience in county government, guiding and establishing policy, the budgeting process, levying taxes and collaborating on the construction of resolutions and ordinances. I have a Bachelor of Arts in Communication from Alcorn State University. I have worked with WTYJ/WMIS radio station for over 30 years as a radio broadcaster, with 17 of those as operations and sales manager. My experience as a production worker and production supervisor with Johns-Mansville and Tyson Foods has helped me understand the workforce that is needed to operate within a company. Working as a fleet manager for Jordan Carrier helped me understand the logistics of transportation requirements of potential industries. Presently, I serve on the AJFC Board of Directors, past Chairman of the AJFC policy council, Home with Heroes, United Way, and MS Tobacco Coalition. I have knowledge in setting focused goals and adhering to meeting protocols.

Warren C. Gaines Sr.: I have 28 years of work experience in the public sector. My experiences have required cultural diversity, required skills and personable attributes. I understand that we all have differences, but there are many things that we have in common. I am willing to put those differences aside, discuss the things we have in common and work together to move Adams County in the right direction. I am a former employee of Adams County Road Department, where I served a maintenance foreman. I already have experience with county government. I have a degree in business administration. I am a graduate of Penn Foster University. I am also a former student of Alcorn State University. I would work toward providing safe recreation and positive role models for our youth. Where there is unity, there is strength. Honesty, fairness and unity are not just guidelines, but they are ways of life that I follow.

Kelly Thompson: My experience as a business owner for 40 years has provided me with budgeting skills, manual work ethics and communication skills. These experiences will allow me to stay within a budget and get the most benefits from said budget. I am an equipment specialist, who knows what equipment is needed and how much work can be derived from equipment purchases. I have worked with people from all walks of life and I respect others’ opinions and criticism.

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

James H. Berry Jr.: I’m 50/50 on the issue. I understand cutting cost and less expenses, but I also know that you might not pick the president up in a KIA. You see cheaper is not always better, it breaks quicker. But once again I’m not 100% for it and not 100% against it. With so much involved in it, I need the experts to sit down and show me (prove to me) the benefits. I have to make sure it is not just a cost-cutting expense, eliminating mud holes that we will be just spinning our wheels in all over again, getting nowhere. Just plain old Natchez politics, saving money and going nowhere with it does the taxpayers no good.

Lee Blanton: Yes, I favor consolidation. I believe that in today’s challenging economic times, we should always be looking for more efficient ways to manage the taxpayers’ money. County government should be run just like any successful business with the least amount of workforce required to deliver the best possible product or service, at the lowest cost to the taxpayer. So, in any way that we can consolidate to eliminate wasteful spending, or improve services, we should do that.

Calvin Butler: My political belief is that certain services could be consolidated and would be a financial savings to the taxpayers of Natchez and Adams County. Fire protection could be a countywide consolidated service area. The county provides funding to the city for fire protection to rural county areas. This agreement reflects collaboration between the city and county for consolidated services. I strongly support building a county fire station on the south and north parts of town and within close proximity to our industrial park. Another areas to consider consolidating are the city public works and county road departments. The county already assists the city with some services. Staffing these two departments with an adequate number of personnel could provide more efficient services to the constituents of Natchez and Adams County. I have always been dedicated and committed to seeing Adams County progress for future generations.

Warren C. Gaines Sr.: I am not in favor of consolidation. Some areas of consolidated government services would be helpful but many changes will have a negative effect on the citizens of Adams County. Higher taxes for better services, loss of jobs and all major decisions in the hand of one person. Citizens move to rural areas for many different reasons and I support citizens having choices of where they would like to live. Adams County needs more jobs not a decline in jobs. We need diversity to make decisions for the majority of the citizens. City and rural are totally different; therefore, I wouldn’t support the same ordnances for both. I would be willing to work with the City branch of government on ideas for the advancement of Natchez and Adams County in its entirety.

Kelly Thompson:  I believe that some departments would benefit from consolidation, but it has to be implemented whereas it will benefit both the county and city. I believe that law enforcement should remain the same whereas, the police serves and protects the city, and the sheriff’s department serves and protects the county and the city when needed. Adams County should have only one jail because it is most efficient and other cities are now moving in the same direction. Overall, the city and county should remain two separate entities.