Headlines – 10/11/2005

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, October 11, 2005

The Panolian: HEADLINES – October 11, 2005

  From the 10/11/05 issue of The Panolian :                    

‘Outside’ sheriff candidates call for quicker response
     Eight candidates are the "outsiders" in the current race for Panola County sheriff. They are (left to right) Jamie Tedford, Kelvin Taylor, Steve Chancellor, Gary Thompson, John Rodgers and Antonio Daniel.
     Not pictured are Noel Aldridge Jr. and John Hardy.
By Billy Davis

Improving the public’s faith in the Panola County Sheriff’s Department is just one of several issues eight sheriff’s candidates are talking about as they run for office from outside the walls of the law enforcement agency.

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The eight candidates – the so-called "outsiders" in the race – are Noel Aldridge Jr., Steve Chancellor, Antonio Daniel, John Hardy, John Rodgers, Kelvin Taylor, Jamie Tedford, and Gary Thompson.

Calling the candidates "outsiders" could be a misleading term, however, since five of the eight candidates are running with law enforcement experience. Three of the eight have experience in politics and campaigning.

The sheriff’s election is Tuesday, November 8.

Aldridge: the ‘ketchup and mayonnaise’ candidate
  Noel Aldridge Jr., 54, said he is running a low-key campaign after unsuccessfully attempting to unseat the late sheriff David Bryan.

A former Quitman County supervisor, Aldridge also ran against Quitman Sheriff Jack Harrison before unseating another District 1 supervisor for that Quitman County seat.

Aldridge said he is depending largely on his recognition from the last sheriff’s election to help him take the office this time.

"Politics is a popularity thing," Aldridge said. "You’ve got to be familiar to the voters, like the ketchup and the mayonnaise in the ice box."

The candidate said the most important issue of the sheriff’s race is an improved reaction time to 911 calls.

"There’s no excuse to take an hour or more to get there when you’ve got 15 to 20 deputies," Aldridge said.

Reminded that the sheriff’s department is operating with 10 deputies, Aldridge said the deputies’ reaction time should be quick regardless of their numbers.

"When something happens, go to it," Aldridge said.

Aldridge owns and operates a scrap metal business in Oxford. He and his family live in Batesville.

Chancellor: department needs to treat public with respect
  Mississippi Bureau of Investigations (MBI) employee Steve Chancellor, 50, is making his second run for Panola County Sheriff.

Chancellor ran against Bryan in the late sheriff’s last campaign, pulling in about 3,200 ballots and one-third of the vote. The pair faced off in the general election since Chancellor ran in that race as a Republican candidate.

Chancellor is coordinator of the MBI’s Cold Case Unit.

The second-time candidate said the main issue of the race is "response," meaning how the sheriff’s department dispatchers interact with the public and how the department pursues crimes reported to its deputies and investigators.

"The public is not treated the way it deserves to be treated, which is in a professional manner," Chancellor said.

Daniel: change, add deputies’ shift schedule
  Como resident Antonio Daniel, 35, has temporarily left his assistant police chief’s job at the Como Police Department as he runs for Panola County sheriff.

A former Panola sheriff’s deputy, Daniels is making his first run for public office after 11 years in law enforcement. He also worked as a patrolman at the Senatobia Police Department.

If elected, Daniel said he would improve deputies’ coverage in the county by changing the department’s two shifts into three shifts.

The sheriff’s department currently operates on two eight-hour shifts, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. and 5 p.m. to 2 a.m., and deputies take turns being "on call" during the 2 a.m. to 8 a.m. time slot.

"We need more deputies and a quicker response time," Daniel said.

Rodgers: new sheriff must unify fractured department
  Batesville banker John Rodgers, 49, is making his first run for public office in his pursuit of the sheriff’s office.

A vice president and loan officer for First Security Bank, Rodgers believes "unifying the department" will be the most important job of the new sheriff.

The candidate said he believes reports that the sheriff’s department is splintered since three of its employees are running for office and other employees are choosing sides.

"Before you can fight the war on drugs you’ve got to work as a team and be on the same page," Rodgers said. "If I’m elected sheriff, I’m going to say, ‘I respect you and love you, but I’m the sheriff and let’s move forward.’ That’s just common sense."

Taylor: pursuing a lifelong dream
  Sardis police officer Kelvin Taylor is living a longtime goal by pursuing the office of Panola County Sheriff.

A former sheriff’s deputy, Taylor, 42, said he has served as a full-time Sardis patrolman for about two years.

"I started out as a patrolman and made (police) chief. The sheriff’s office is as high as you can go," Taylor said.

If elected sheriff, Taylor said his main goal would be equal and fair treatment of Panola County’s citizens.

Taylor is also making his first run for public office.

"I don’t like politics, I don’t like politicians, and I don’t ever want to be one," the Sardis officer said.

Tedford: sheriff’s department needs to modernize
  Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) agent and former Batesville police officer Jamie Tedford, 30, is the youngest candidate seeking the office of sheriff.

When speaking to voters, the candidate rattles off a list of ideas – designating patrol areas for deputies, beginning a SWAT team and crisis team, implementing a rank structure for deputies – that he believes would improve the professionalism of the department.

"We need to modernize the department for the times we’re living in," Tedford said.

Tedford is assigned to the Oxford office of the DEA, an assignment chosen for him by the late sheriff while Tedford was a member of the Panola County Drug Task Force.

He also plans to address the reportedly splintered sheriff’s department if he’s elected sheriff.

"Every man has a family and bills to pay, and right now there’s no leadership," Tedford said. "If I’m sheriff, I will look them in the eye and say they can do the job with me or there’s the door."

Thompson: department needs to improve public perception
  Gary Thompson is pursuing the sheriff’s office after two unsuccessful attempts to unseat Sheriff Bryan.

"I ran twice and got into the runoff twice," said Thompson, who served 12 years as a Panola County Constable.

He is a longtime employee at BellSouth, where he works as a facility technician.

While Thompson is an "outsider" in this campaign, his son, Barry, is an investigator at the sheriff’s department.

The main issue of the campaign is a better relationship between the public and the sheriff’s department.

"You need to be there when they need you. Your job as sheriff is to serve the public," the former constable said.

(This article is the second in a series on the Panola County sheriff’s race. Next week: "The Insiders."

Sheriff’s candidate John Hardy could not be contacted by deadline for this story).

Sheriff’s candidate Jamie Tedford is a Batesville police officer assigned to the Oxford office of the Drug Enforcement Agency through the Panola County Drug Task Force. A Tuesday, October 11 story identified him as a DEA agent.


     Bud Barthold was one of several soloists during last Friday night’s halftime show at the South Panola and Olive Branch football game.
     South Panola High School Band members competed the following day and earned high marks in Grenada at the Mississippi High School Activities Association State Marching Band Festival.
Superintendent ousted from North Panola following Saturday meeting with board
By Jason C. Mattox

The North Panola School District Board of Trustees terminated its superintendent following last Saturday morning’s meeting.

Robert Massey, who was placed on administrative leave last month, was first given the opportunity to resign from the post.

Massey had served in the district’s highest post for two years and had three years remaining on his contract.

"The board has come to a decision and hereby presents Mr. Massey with a letter," board attorney Alix Sanders Sr. of Greenwood said. "Take a moment to look over the letter."

After moments of silence, Massey asked what the letter was requesting.

"The letter is requesting that Massey resign immediately as superintendent for the North Panola School District," Sanders replied. "What is your answer to that request?"

Massey responded, "Absolutely not."

Sanders said he could not speak about the exact reasons for termination but said the request for termination was spawned from concerns about the handling of federal money.

"At this time, this is all I can say about that," he said.

Following Massey’s answer, Sanders advised the trustees to return to executive session to determine the next step in the process.

"Attorney Sanders, I would like to respond to the letter in executive session if I may," Massey said.

Sanders told The Panolian that allowing Massey into the executive session was an effort to resolve some of the issues unofficially.

"Mr. Massey told the board his side of the story, but that was not the appropriate time," he said. "He will be given the opportunity to speak about that during his termination hearing."

Once a lengthy executive session was concluded, Sanders returned to a crowded North Panola High School Library to announce the board’s decision.

"The board has reached a decision to terminate Robert Massey as superintendent and begin the due process," he said.

Sanders said he was unsure if the remainder of Massey’s contract would be paid out.

"It will be up to the board of trustees and Mr. Massey to determine whether buying out the contract is an option they wish to pursue," he said.

Glendora Dugger, the district’s assistant superintendent, will serve as interim superintendent until a permanent replacement is found.

"The job may still be Mr. Massey’s once the board hears his side of the story," Sanders said. "The board has decided to move the termination process forward. The outcome of that is still unknown."

Calls to Massey were not successful by press time.

Animal shelter proposed on Highway 51 South
By Billy Davis

Plans for an animal shelter are moving forward after county supervisors voiced their support Monday to Batesville Mayor Jerry Autrey.

Autrey unveiled the plans – literally – at the supervisors "second Monday" meeting, unrolling blueprints of a proposed facility.

If the shelter is built, it would operate as a city-county facility on city-county property located south of Hoskins Plumbing on Hwy. 51 South.

The shelter would have 44 separate kennels that each could house two animals, the mayor said. The building would also house a separate room for puppies and kittens, storage space, and a veterinary office.

A long-term construction loan could keep the annual payments between $15,000 to $20,000 a year, a cost that would be split among the owners, Autrey told supervisors.

The funding would come through a Community Development Block Grant (CDBG), the mayor said.

"The operating costs are unknown, but the (Panola County) humane society is working on a possible budget right now," Autrey told supervisors.

While the humane society had been pursuing its own plans for an animal shelter, Autrey said after his Monday appearance that the city is now working closely with the humane society to open a facility in the city.

"They’ve got a new mayor now, and the city’s working with them to make this happen," Autrey said.

The need for such a facility is urgent, supervisors agreed, since an Oxford shelter has sent word that it soon will start charging for usage.

The partnership for the shelter would need an interlocal agreement, County Administrator David Chandler told Autrey and the board.

Drug Task Force bolstered
with early ‘catch up’ funds
By Billy Davis

The Panola County Board of Supervisors voted Monday to help shore up funding for the county’s drug task force after learning that the agency is $85,000 in the red.

Panola County Administrator David Chandler announced the lack of funds to supervisors at their "second Monday" meeting in Batesville.

The supervisors voted 4-0 to fund the agency through an interfund loan from the county’s general fund, an option suggested Monday by the county administrator.

District 5 Supervisor Bubba Waldrup was absent for the vote.

The drug task force and its reputation have become a hot potato issue in the midst of the current Panola County sheriff’s campaign.

The board’s action on Monday comes after Chandler squared off in recent weeks against the sheriff’s department over the task force’s performance in fighting illegal drugs.

Interim sheriff Ida Bryan and Chief Deputy Craig Sheley had defended the department against allegations of poor performance and work ethic.

Sheley also argued that the task force operates under the direction of the sheriff’s department.

Chandler touched on that subject Monday, telling supervisors the task force has been underfunded by $60,000 since Tate County and the City of Senatobia withdrew their support and funding for the agency.

That pullout left the City of Batesville and Panola County to fund the task force, Chandler said.

"David Bryan used seized funds to make up the difference, and now we don’t have the seized funds nor him," Chandler told supervisors.

Asked by Chandler about any seized funds available, Sheley said some funds are coming to the department but could not give an amount.

"Some (seized items) still have to be auctioned and some have to split among other agencies," said Sheley, who is No. 2 at the department and one of 11 candidates seeking the sheriff’s office.

Reached after the supervisors meeting, Board of Supervisors President Jerry Perkins said the funding for the task force will hopefully last until the November 8 sheriff’s election.

"What is on most of our minds is to try to get by until the election," Perkins said. "Then we can see what the new sheriff – whoever he is – wants to do about the task force."

Aldermen will review sick day policy
By Rupert Howell

City of Batesville elected officials will look closer at the city’s sick leave policy following a recessed meeting held Monday morning.

An excessive amount of sick day leave had been taken by members of the street department according to Alderman-At-Large Teddy Morrow, who was voicing concerns of City Street Department head Teddy Austin.

The present policy requires a doctor’s confirmation if more than one day is missed due to illness.

While Morrow said he realized some of the sick day requests were legitimate, he questioned the large number on the same day.

Ward 4 Alderman Bobbie T. Pounders read aloud the section of the document that addresses the city’s sick leave policy.

City officials are attempting to avoid forcing employees to go to a doctor’s office every time they needed to be off with a sick child and other legitimate reasons.

Ward 2 Alderman Rufus Manley suggested giving department heads the discretion of requiring a doctor’s notice to be eligible for sick leave.

Pounders suggested that board members see a breakdown of sick days requested before addressing policy.

City officials were meeting initially on Monday to approve documents relating to the sale of Tri-Lakes Medical Center. Those documents would reflect

documents of the Panola County Board of Super-visors, who were also meeting Monday morning and reportedly coming closer to the final sale of the hospital.

City officials also discussed mill work which is scheduled to begin on the Downtown Square tomorrow (Wednesday). The mill work will be done prior to the asphalt overlay.

Mayor Jerry Autrey told aldermen that he had notified school officials that the work was to begin so that they could route school traffic around the work.



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