Crenshaw Mayor

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, July 13, 2010


‘Fair’ mayor marks one year in Crenshaw

By Billy Davis

You can see a lot, from the outside looking in.

Crenshaw Mayor Oscar Barlow saw plenty, watching from the political sidelines after he was defeated for re-election in 2005.

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“When you sit out for four years, then you see what people were trying to tell you,” Barlow explained last week, when he marked his one-year return as town mayor.

“I’m more mature. I’m more humble,” he further explained. “I’m humbled that the people would bring me back, to give me another chance.”

Barlow, a town native, had served three terms as mayor when Sylvester Reed, a former Quitman County supervisor, unseated jim from the mayor’s seat.

Whatever the struggling town’s problems, they got worse under Reed, who shouted down town employees and others, and intimidated aldermen with quick-witted but doubtful arguments.

The cash-strapped town government sank deeper into debt, with vendors demanding payment.

The low point came when the Mississippi Ethics Commission fined Reed for attempting to purchase property intended for town government.

All the while, the little town of Crenshaw, already void of good jobs and a healthy tax base, was left with a leadership void at town hall, too.

Neither Barlow nor others, when they spoke to a reporter last week, spent a moment recalling the last four years, which would surely include mentioning Reed by name.

“We’re looking ahead, not backwards,” explained town clerk Renee Ward, who had tangled with the ex-mayor for four years.

Ward, aware of the current administration’s one-year anniversary, instead rattled off a year of accomplishments to include:

•The police station, town hall and municipal court building have each been renovated;

•Town ordinances, some old and some new, are being enforced by the police department, with backing by town hall;  

•Crenshaw’s volunteer fire department has purchased extrication equipment and firefighting clothing for every firefighter.

•Dollar General is now open just outside city limits, with plans under way to annex the commercial property.

•Town government is up-to-date on its monthly payments to Panola County Solid Waste;

•Crenshaw’s lagoon and water wells have been improved after funding from a grant.

Barlow has also juggled the town’s leadership. He fired a police chief and brought in Billy Lambert, a Panola sheriff’s deputy, to oversee the small but costly six-man police department.

Lambert, who is still a full-time deputy, is acting as interim chief for Crenshaw. He oversees officers in a department that was a revolving door for patrolmen during the last administration.

Pay is still menial, starting at $10.50 an hour for a certified patrolman, but town officials say the department seems stable and morale is up.

Barlow has also worked with Lambert to switch sheriff’s dispatcher service from Quitman County to Panola County.

Police officers and firefighters say the switch to Panola County coverage has created clearer radio traffic thanks to a repeater near town.

Lambert, asked about Barlow’s role as mayor, said the mayor believes in “fairness.”

In the past, the complaints were numerous – and credible – that Crenshaw citizens were treated unfairly by police officers, the chief explained.

“Oscar tells everybody, ‘If you got a ticket, you’ve got to pay it.’ That’s why I’m still here,” Lambert said.

Ward, describing Barlow’s demeanor as mayor, said he bounces back and forth from a hands-on approach to simply giving a get-it-done order. The point, she said, is that he knows when to step in.

“Everybody is given a task and we’re allowed to do it,” she said. “Nobody’s job is on the line unless you don’t do your job. There’s no fear anymore.”