The late Jimmy Shurden served almost 28 years as District 1 Constable before succumbing to cancer in April.
Shurden”s wife, Ruby, an employee with the Starkville Police Department, stepped up to complete her husband”s term until January. Now six candidates have their eyes on the position with hopes to begin their own long term run as District 1 Constable.
The eventual winner will be paid per service for a range of services. The constable is charged with serving legal notices such as summons, subpoenas, evictions and repossessions, serving as a bailiff in Justice Court, writing tickets and, when necessary, assisting the sheriff”s department or fellow constables. In rare cases constables will make arrests and may be tasked by a justice court judge to do some investigating.
William H. Ford
William Ford, 43, is a deputy commander with the Oktibbeha County Sheriff”s Office with 10 years on the job. He remains a part-time member of the Maben Police Department and is a former member of the Webster County Sheriff”s Office. Prior to beginning in law enforcement, Ford spent 10 years as a welder in Mathiston.
The Eupora High School graduate has lived in Oktibbeha for the past 18 years and hopes to use the constable”s office to get better acquainted with the citizens.
“You want to have somebody who”s well known in the community (as constable). Somebody who knows the county and can get the paper served on time,” said Ford. “I have 15 years in law enforcement, which has included serving papers.”
Ford is a Democrat.
Joe Morse, 62, has been with the OCSO 34 years, first as an auxiliary deputy, then moving to full-time four years ago. He currently serves as the transport officer and is in charge of registering sex offenders. Morse, a retired salesman” was once known as “the Redman” from his days selling smokeless tobacco.
Morse is a graduate of Lee High School in Columbus and went on to serve six years in the Navy. The Tennessee native has been in Mississippi since he was 10 and in Oktibbeha since 1973.
“I feel the job and workload of constable for the justice court should be a full-time position and I”m willing to be a full-time constable,” said Morse. “I learned a long time ago you need to be fair and honest with everybody, whether you think they”re a bad guy or a good guy.”
Morse is a Democrat.
Shank Phelps, 39, began his law enforcement career in 1992 as a jailer for the OCSO. He spent a year with the Starkville Police Department in 1993 before returning to the OCSO in 1994 as a deputy and currently serves as a commander.
The Starkville High School grad attended Hinds Community College on an athletic scholarship and studied criminal justice.
“I want the Justice Court system to run smoothly. If someone spends money to file a civil suit with the court, they want papers served in a timely manner,” said Phelps. “As a deputy sheriff, everything I do paperwork-wise goes through the Justice Court system, so I know every person in Justice Court on a first name basis.”
Phelps is a Republican.
Tom Roberson, 38, is a sergeant with the Starkville Police Department with 10 years on the force. The SHS and Mississippi State University graduate in sports medicine previously directed a wellness center through North Mississippi Medical Center.
“I”ve been a part of this community my entire life and, now that I have a family and children, I want to be a part of what makes it better,” said Roberson. “I have a background in law enforcement as well as investigative experience and a number of years on the SWAT team. I”ve been a part of most people”s families in this community in one fashion or another.”
Roberson believes voters must consider who will do the best job over the long term when choosing a candidate.
He is a Republican.
Curtis White, 62, has served part time with the OCSO since 1991. He”s also worked at Weavexx since 1989 and spent seven years prior to that working at a prison in Jackson, Mich., where he graduated high school.
White is a Starkville native, but moved to Michigan for a spell before returning in 1988.
Since joining the OCSO, White has worked as a road deputy, a court bailiff, in the juvenile court, as the exercise officer and as the transport officer.
“I”ve done the duties of a justice court constable. I”ve worked with all the judges,” said White. “I feel the citizens of District 1 need to know who their constable is. They need to have a personal relationship with him and he needs to be involved in the community. The constable job is part time but needs full-time obligation.”
White is a Democrat.
David Starsky could not be reached for this article.
Jason Browne was previously a reporter for The Dispatch.