District 3 Candidates raise bar for county

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, May 1, 2007

How pleasant to pick up the April 27 issue of The Panolian and read the comments of nine Democrat candidates seeking to represent the office of District 3 county supervisor.

In a front-page story and a question-and-answer story on page A10, The Panolian offered those candidates plenty of ink to describe their concerns and the concerns of the residents whose votes they are seeking.

Those candidates are Tommy Austin, 57; Mike Darby, 56; Hal Herron, 59; Larry Key, 60; Gary Kornegay, 56; Brad McCulley, 37; Donnie Shaw, 54; Gary Thompson, 58; and Melvin Traywick, 54.

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Those gentlemen are most likely vying for a run-off spot in the August 7 Democratic primary, since a runoff will be necessary if no one gets more than 50 percent of the vote. The winner of the primary will face Republican Monty Thomas in the November 7 general election.

Each candidate answered four questions: why they’re running for county supervisor, two issues supervisors should tackle in 2008, the greatest challenge facing Panola County, and the concerns of District 3 voters.

Voters should be especially pleased about the issues those gentlemen mentioned: healthcare, leadership and vision, job training, property taxes, cleanliness, fire protection, and support for public education.

Most agreed that the one topic that deserves a renewed effort is economic development, namely industrial recruitment and job training.

Voters who are new to county politics may wonder what all the excitement is about. After all, candidates routinely talk about jobs and schools on the campaign trail, promising more of the first and improvement of the second.

But folks who have lived in Panola County for many years know better. In elections past, the topic was the maintenance of our county roads and bridges. A sub-topic of county roads was the supervisors’ political gem, the promise of a paved road.

To outsiders this may seem like Panola County has been stuck in a time warp, somewhere around 1977. But the job of a county supervisor began as sort of an elected road foreman, giving each man a piece of the county budget to move his road crew and machinery around his own “beat” as he wished.

But in Panola County the job and responsibilities of  county supervisors have evolved over the years, mainly with the move to the so-called “unit” system in the late 1980s.

The unit system pooled the road budget, required that a road manager oversee the road crews, and allowed the hiring of a day-to-day manager of county government, a county administrator. The beat also became a “district.”

Anyone who wants to observe how the responsibilities of a county supervisor have changed should attend their yearly budget meetings. Watch the supervisor who represents your district vote to divide the taxpayers’ pie among our rural fire departments, the county’s public libraries, Northwest Community College, the solid waste department and the public school systems. You will be enlightened.

The secret of the past couple of decades, and the past few elections, is that although our supervisors have cast hundreds of votes that affect our livelihood and quality of life, every four years they courted our votes based on the condition of our roads.

Nine candidates in District 3,  believing that the times have changed, helped push Panola County into 2007.
District 3 should be proud.