Over a cup of coffee and across the church pew, Panola Countians are swapping opinions and trading gossip about the November 8 sheriff’s race.
Eleven candidates are seeking the sheriff’s office, and a November 22 runoff is likely because of the large slate of candidates.
Eureka resident Bo Mathews and his family moved beyond the city limits of Batesville six weeks ago to a new home in the Eureka community.
The Mathews family traveled only four miles from Dogwood Lane to Woodruff Road, but now the safety of their home is the responsibility of the Panola County Sheriff’s Department.
The issue of deputy manpower and their response time are two important issues of the race, Mathews said, while the idea of adding a substation in north Panola County is a bad idea.
Eleven sheriff’s deputies patrol the county and respond to calls, and many of the sheriff’s candidates are hammering at the issue of manpower and response time, promising to improve the department in both areas.
Various suggestions for the department include carving the county into separate patrol areas, adding a substation, reorganizing shift hours, swapping patrol cars to fund new deputies, and using part-time and reserve deputies to beef up the force.
"I like it that the candidates are talking about the need for a quicker response time and more deputies," Mathews said. "They either need more manpower or need to better manage the manpower we’ve got."
The addition of a substation, however, is a "waste of money," Mathews said.
"If you’ve got an office you tend to sit around, and those deputies need to be patrolling," he said.
Regarding the issue of response time, Terza resident Pete Hudson believes people might lose track of time during an emergency.
"The folks that are hollering about response time should think about the fact that three minutes feels like 30 minutes in an emergency," Hudson said.
Central Academy resident Cindy Runnels said equal justice is her main concern about the next sheriff.
"I want the law to be the same for everyone, not a law that favors some people over other people," Runnels said. "If you’re stopped for drunk driving, they shouldn’t let you go because of who you are."
Despite the issues of the race, Coles Point resident Jeff Padgett believes the vote for sheriff will boil down to a "popularity contest."
"There’s a good selection of candidates so it should be easy to find someone to support," Padgett said. "I just think when you look at either personalities or issues, personality will win."
Sardis Police Chief Mike Davis, a former sheriff’s deputy, said he’s had little time to pay attention to the issues since he was appointed chief in July.
"I haven’t kept up because I’m too busy dedicating my time to Sardis," Davis said. "And we don’t talk politics on the job."
The most important issue of the race, Davis said, is that the next Panola County sheriff continue a good working relationship with the SPD.
"We’ve got a good relationship right now, and all we want is to work together and be on the same sheet of music," the police chief said.