Candidates for local offices make their cases at political forum

Published 9:09 am Friday, May 23, 2014

Chilton County residents had an opportunity to hear from those seeking public office locally at “Meet the Candidates” on Tuesday at Clanton City Hall.

Fourteen candidates spoke at the event, including every candidate for the offices of superintendent of education, revenue commissioner, sheriff, coroner and state House of Representatives District 42.

The event was sponsored by the Chilton County Chamber of Commerce and moderated by District Court Judge Rhonda Hardesty.

Before candidates had their turn at the microphone, Sibley Reynolds, representing the Chilton County Health Care Authority, talked to the audience about the upcoming referendum for a 1-cent sales tax increase to fund the construction of a new hospital in Chilton County.

For more about the Authority’s effort to build a hospital, including a meeting this week with local doctors, see the Weekend edition of The Clanton Advertiser.

The referendum will be included on ballots for the June 3 Primary Election. The General Election will follow on Nov. 4.

Residents were allowed to submit questions for candidates beforehand. The submissions were pared down to a list of about 10 questions for each office that were shared with the candidates several days before the event.

The day of the forum, two questions were randomly selected for each office, and candidates for the same office were asked the same questions.

Candidates were allowed 2 minutes for each of their responses.

Incumbent Kurt Wallace and Jimmy Martin, challenger for the House District 42 seat, were the first to talk.

Their first question was about the closed Chilton County Veterans Affairs office. While both said they would like to see the office re-opened, they said the issue is not limited to Chilton County.

“It’s not as easy as opening one office in Chilton County,” Wallace said. “We would have to find funding for 60 employees (across the state). There’s no easy solution, but I’ll work very, very hard.”

The second question, about what the state Legislature can do to help Chilton County, also drew a “big picture” response from the candidates.

“There’s not a whole lot the Legislature can do if there’s no local bill,” Martin said but added, “The issue of creating jobs is the most important issue affecting Chilton County.”

On why they would be the best candidate for the position, Martin cited his desire to give back to the community.

“I cannot sit by while so many get involved for the wrong reason,” he said.

Wallace also pointed to principles.

“I think I represent the values of the people of this county,” he said.

Four candidates for Chilton County Sheriff were next to respond to questions from residents.

Asked about the need for an animal control officer in the county, incumbent Kevin Davis said there is no need for such a position since there are no animal control laws on the books.

“The day the county passes animal control laws, I’ll hire an animal control officer.”

Eddie Price, John Shearon and Terry Wilson all said they thought there was a need for such a position, and that perhaps funds could be redirected from elsewhere in the sheriff’s budget.

“I’ve had to give a response to this very question several times in the past few months,” Price said. “I think it’s a great idea.”

Davis defended the current appropriation of funds in the department while answering the next question, about protecting residents in rural parts of the county from crime.

“I think we are addressing the problem,” he said.

Wilson suggested drawing up districts within the county and assigning certain deputies to certain districts. Shearon said deputies should focus more on patrolling rural areas and less on working in the city.

Davis touted his experience to answer why he is the best candidate for the job, while all the candidates expressed their desire to serve Chilton County.

“This is not a job for me, it’s a passion,” Shearon said.

“I’m the best man for the job…and I’ll treat everybody the same,” Wilson said.