Back in 2000, when District 2 Supervisor Orlando Trainer was elected as a 25-year-old, he was the new kid on the with the fresh ideas on the Oktibbeha County Board of Supervisors.
Eleven years later, several candidates believe the $44,700 salary and the county-provided truck, gas card, cellphone and benefits have lured Trainer to the establishment. He claims he remains the most independent voice on the board and says he has the voting record to back it up, but three candidates from District 2 think they represent the new voice of the people.
Robert “Bubba” Gray
Robert Gray, 51, believes he can navigate the county budget to provide better maintenance of county roads. The machinist, who has spent the past 10 years with Fesco after 21 years with Beloit-Manhattan, is betting his lifelong familiarity with Oktibbeha County can identify the areas of greatest concern.
“I”ve been driving up and down these roads all my life,” said Gray. “I feel I could make this a better county, a better district, and we can work on the budget and do a little better with these roads.”
Gray, a Republican, is a graduate of Macon Central Academy.
Alfreda G. Outlaw
Alfreda Outlaw, 56, doesn”t believe the best interests of the citizens of District 2 are being represented on the county board and says she can get people their money”s worth.
“We see taxes went up, but what have the people in the county received for the increase in taxes? The roads are horrible. We need to look at the county fire department and make sure they have better equipment. We need to look at the schools and the health care system, too,” said Outlaw.
As a lifelong citizen of District 2, Outlaw, a 14-year program coordinator for the Mississippi Department of Corrections, believes she can give a voice to the citizens. And right now she says the people want roads that don”t disappear underwater during heavy rains and roads that emergency vehicles can safely navigate any time of the day.
Outlaw, a Democrat, is a graduate of the Oktibbeha County Leadership Class and is working toward her associate”s degree in criminal justice at East Mississippi Community College.
Tremell O. Sherman
Tremell Sherman, 26, says it”s time for a new young supervisor to carry the torch for District 2. The Allstate Insurance agency manager and University of Southern Mississippi grad has listened to the constituents of District 2 and wants to turn the county around.
“We”re dealing with the same issues as 2003 and 2007. A lot of my constituents complain about the roads. The budget does not allow all the roads to get paved, but if I can”t pave every road, I can at least improve the condition of the roads,” said Sherman.
He says his customer service experience and community involvement, during three years as a youth care specialist with Community Counseling, give him the right combination to function as a listener and a problem solver. Beyond roads, Sherman wants to build a stronger workforce in Oktibbeha through computer training programs and improve property values through landscaping.
Sherman, a Democrat, is a West Oktibbeha High School grad.
Orlando Trainer, 37, owes something to Oktibbeha County, which is why the part-time hay farmer and agriculture consultant refuses to work a full-time job.
“When I first got elected at 25, I didn”t know one end from the other. The people of this county have been extremely good to me and invested a lot in me as far as training,” he said. “I wouldn”t think of taking another full-time job. You”ve got to be available.”
Trainer, a lifelong Starkville resident and University of Mississippi graduate, stands behind his availability. He says he never knows what requests will come over his phone, but he takes all of them equally serious. And he says he”s not afraid to speak up for his constituents at the boardroom table.
“I”ve been on the losing side of a lot of suggestions this term. More than I care to be proud of, but at least you”ve got an alternative opinion out there,” he said. “Some people may have a problem with me being outspoken, but if you just tell me we can”t do something, that”s not acceptable. You”ve got to show me the reasons why we can”t do it.”
Trainer has suggested a return to the beat system in order to better manage the roads in his district and opposed the county”s funding of the new hospital wing, arguing the hospital could foot the bill itself while the county could use the money it spent on infrastructure.
“That”s what my constituents stay on me about all the time, roads. When you focus on roads and infrastructure, that”s something that everybody benefits from and helps the county grow,” he said.
Trainer is a Democrat.
Jason Browne was previously a reporter for The Dispatch.