Lowndes County candidates wooed voters and tried to outmaneuver opponents Thursday at the second forum hosted by the Columbus-Lowndes County Political Action Committee.
Citizens heard from six candidates for sheriff, three for superintendent of education, two for county attorney and District Attorney Forrest Allgood, who is running for re-election against William Bambach and Steve Wallace.
CLOPAC is a non-partisan group, which endorses some candidates and contributes to some campaigns, among other activities.
CLOPAC will organize one more forum for all remaining candidates in the fall before the general election, although the date has not been set.
In the sheriff race, Mike Arledge, Bo Harris, Joey Brackin and Barry Goode face each other in the Republican primary while Sherman Vaughn, Selvain McQueen, Anthony Nelson and John Pevey vie for the Democrat nomination.
Vaughn declined to attend the forum Thursday and Lt. McQueen was working at the Columbus Police Department, where he serves as commander of the Criminal Investigations Division.
Candidates differed on questions about where they would take the department in the future.
Mike Arledge, a former justice court judge, said he would exercise a “zero-tolerance” policy on gangs and violence.
Arledge said LCSO was “top heavy,” with more employees working in some areas than were needed, and that he had a plan to change that, although he didn”t go into specifics.
Bo Harris, a 15-year veteran game warden, was the only candidate who promised not to fire anyone at the LCSO. He also said he would increase the number of officers per squad car — an expensive step that he said was unpopular with deputies, although necessary.
He also promised to personally visit each business in the county if elected.
Joey Brackin, commander of the Metro Narcotics Unit, said he would have narcotics officers go after drug distributors more than users, cutting off the problem at its source.
Barry Goode, a shift supervisor of the Columbus police patrol division, said he would go after grants — something the other candidates also promised — and “beg” supervisors for money to hire more deputies.
Anthony Nelson, administrator of the Lowndes County Juvenile Detention Center, said one of his points of focus would be on building relationships and mutual-help agreements with surrounding cities and counties.
Nelson also said he would take a hard look at the budget and would move funds around to cover more training and hire more officers.
Now-retired Columbus Police Lt. John Pevey, a 33-year veteran of law enforcement, said he would use reserve officers more often, go to crime scenes and have an “open door policy.”
Pevey, who is currently appealing a 30-workday suspension for allegedly not following police protocol, also said he would try to establish a crime scene unit, which could collect forensic evidence, among other things.
Citizens also heard from Republican superintendent of education candidates Sam Allison, Edna McGill and Lynn Wright. The winner of the primary will face Democrat Cliff Reynolds and independents Rusty Greene and Roger Hill in the general election.
Allison, who has been the principal at New Hope Middle School since 2005, said one of his priorities would be to rewrite policies, including the attendance policy, which he called “too lenient.”
McGill, the current assistant superintendent, said she would be fiscally conservative to avoid increasing the millage rate here and would work to decrease dropouts. “If we”re losing one child as a drop out, that”s too many,” she said.
Wright, a former New Hope High School principal who is currently suing the district for wrongful termination, said he would establish a centralized vocational school to decrease absences and prepare an industry workforce.
His other priorities, he added, were establishing a kindergarten through fourth grade reading program and tightening up on discipline.
Wright, who has 35 years experience in education, was the only candidate who said he wanted the superintendent to be elected as opposed to appointed.
In the county prosecutor race, Republican Allison Kizer said she had 15 years of experience in the justice and youth courts and that she viewed the role as a “job to be done,” not a “prize to be won.”
Her primary opponent, Shane Tompkins, who also practices in the courts here and has for eight years, said he has handled more cases than either Kizer or their Democrat opponent, Chuck Easley, combined.
In a terse statement, District Attorney Forrest Allgood told the crowd he was seeking re-election because he cares for people.
You can help your community
Quality, in-depth journalism is essential to a healthy community. The Dispatch brings you the most complete reporting and insightful commentary in the Golden Triangle, but we need your help to continue our efforts. Please consider subscribing to our website for only $2.30 per week to help support local journalism and our community.