| By John Howell Sr.
Voters in Mississippi Representative District 11 go to the polls Tuesday to select a successor for the house seat left vacant by the death of Leonard Morris in January.
Voters will choose from a field of five candidates, Kay Buckley-Houston, Joe C. Gardner, Myrt B. Price, Steve Richardson and Teresa Wallace.
Buckley-Houston, 42, of Batesville is an educator-counselor and university level writer who sees overcrowded jails and child support redesign as the two most important issues facing voters.
Buckley-Houston’s political experience dates back to an internship under Senator Thad Cochran as a South Panola High School senior in 1978 and also includes the 1989 campaign of Massachusetts Governor Bill Weld and a stint with a UN debate team on which John F. Kennedy Jr. was also a member in 1982.
Buckley-Houston is a graduate of South Panola High School, Brandeis University and earned a master’s from Harvard in 1989. She is currently on a leave of absence from the Southern New England School of Law.
"Too many young men are being sent to prison long-term for drug charges, …" she stated in a questionnaire prepared for the candidates by The Panolian. "Curve the years of sentencing on minor drug charges so as not to overload the prison with years of minor drug offenders," Buckley-Houston continued.
Gardner, 62, lives in the Concord Community near Batesville and is President/CEO of Gardner Institute, a commercial truck driving school.
Gardner sees the most important campaign issues as education and economic development. He has served for 14 years as a trustee of the South Panola School District. Gardner holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees in biology and a Ph.D. in administration.
"The greatest problem facing Mississippi is fully funding of the Mississippi Adequate Education Program," Gardner stated on the questionnaire.
In seeking the post of state representative, Gardner hopes "to find ways to fully fund the Mississippi Adequate Education Program and increase training for our unskilled labor force," he continued.
Price, 51, lives in Sardis and earlier lived in Tate County’s Looxahoma Community. Price is a property investor and holds a degree from the University of Mississippi in public administration-criminal justice.
Prices lists the funding of education and provision for health insurance as the two most important issues facing legislators. Mississippi’s greatest problem is education, he stated.
"Finding ways and means to keep teachers in Mississippi so that children will be able to obtain the necessary skills to be productive citizens" would be the goal of legislation he hopes to author to correct this problem, Price stated.
Richardson, 48, lives in the Tyro Community of Tate County. He is a retired county agent and a commercial vegetable producer who sees education as the most important issue facing Mississippi legislators.
Richardson holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees in agronomy from Alcorn State and Mississippi State, respectively. Though he has previously held no public office, he states that he has worked closely with elected county officials in preparing budgets for extension service programs.
Richardson is concerned about Mississippi’s slow economic growth and proposes development of economic incentives for industry start-up, establishing funds for site development and tailoring job training to industry needs as a means to stimulate the state’s economy.
Wallace, 59, of Como, is a Realtor with Reeves Williams Realty. She sees education and rural development as the two most important issues facing legislators.
Wallace is a graduate of Forest Hill High School in Jackson. She also attended Northwest Mississippi Community College.
The greatest problems facing Mississippi are "the recovery of Katrina – long term and more local industrial development to increase the availability of jobs for our state," she stated.
Wallace’s solutions to these problems would be to "use state tax rebates and bonding authority to develop industrial projects of long-term value and higher-than-average wages," she continued.
District 11 includes southeast Tate County and a wide swath of Panola County including all of the municipal limits of the Town of Como and a portion of the cities of Sardis and Batesville and the Town of Crowder.
Panola Circuit Clerk Joe Reid urged any voter who has a question about whether he or she lives in the district to call his office at 563-6210.
Candidates will not be listed by party affiliation on the special election ballot. If no candidate receives a majority on Feb. 13, a runoff will be held on Feb. 27.