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|Candidates stump in Winnsboro|
Candidates running in the March 27 primary election got the chance to present their visions to voters at a public forum Monday night at the King Jesus Worship Center in Winnsboro.
While those vying for seats on the Winnsboro City Council, police chief and Franklin Parish Police Jury seats spoke, most of the forum's time was given to the four men who are running to succeed Winnsboro Mayor Jack Hammons: Ken Hill, Jackie Johnson, Deacue Fields and Leroy Scott.
Hill is the only Republican in the race. His opponents are all Democrats.
In Winnsboro, 2,104 of 2,933 registered voters belong to the Democratic Party. There are 1,598 black voters and 506 white voters in Winnsboro.
There are 360 white Republican voters and 58 black Republican voters in the city.
About 60 people showed up for the event, which was moderated by Grace Blount.
Mayoral candidates drew cards to determine the order in which they would speak, with Hill, a Winnsboro businessman and former Franklin Parish police juror, drawing the first card.
Hill pointed to his 34 years experience as a businessman, saying he decided to run for office after being encouraged by several in Winnsboro who believe "we need a businessman in the mayor's office."
If elected, Hill said he would return a portion of the mayor's pay for community development.
"The mayor's salary is about $25,000 a year. I'm not running for a check," Hill said. "My first order of business will be to reduce the mayor's salary."
Johnson, a long-time Franklin Parish police juror, spoke next. He said his 22 years on the police jury would be an asset if he were elected to the mayor's office.
Johnson said his administration would focus on economic development and he would work to create greater community involvement to boost Winnsboro's economy.
"I think that the task is a great task. We have a small staff in the city of Winnsboro, so I would like to encourage more participation from the community," he said.
Fields said he was at a disadvantage as the only mayoral candidate to never hold an elected office. He said his job as a minister and working in the past with the U.S.
Department of Housing and Urban Development, however, has provided him with valuable experience he could use as mayor.
"I cannot guarantee you we will grow as rapidly as we would like, but I can guarantee you that I will do anything in my power to keep the city moving upward and onward," he said.
Last to speak was Scott, also a Franklin Parish police juror, who said he would like to work to continue progress started by Hammons.
Part of his plan includes selecting community leaders for advisory boards to help him steer Winnsboro in the right direction.
"I will see that I network with the school board and that I network with any auxiliary organization that is important to the community," Scott said.
Before mayoral candidates spoke, other office seekers were given time to address the crowd.
James Harris, running in a special election for the District 3 police jury seat vacated by Ray Young, who left the office to chair a state agriculture board, was the only candidate of the three hoping to succeed Young who was at the forum.
Harris was chosen by the police jury to fill Young's seat on a temporary basis since he quit in December.
W.L. "Dub" Robbins and Leo Miller are also running for the seat.
Harris used part of his time to dispel rumors he said are going around that he would use parish equipment for his farm job.
"I will not attack anyone running against me, but I will defend my honor, because it's not true," he said.
Winnsboro Police Chief Lester Thomas Jr., who is running against Bruce McCarthy to keep his current position, was at the forum. McCarthy did not attend.
Thomas said he would continue working to make Winnsboro a safe place to live.
"Over the four years we have accomplished that, and I have heard how much you have said you appreciate seeing police cars patrol your neighborhood and how much you appreciate having friendly officers in the neighborhood to talk to," Thomas told the crowd.
Debra Davidson, who is running for the District 2 seat on the Winnsboro City Council was at the forum, but her opposition, Alderman Sonny Dumas did not attend.
Winnsboro Alderwoman Betty Johnson was uncontested for her seat, but used the forum to thank her constituents and asked them to pray for her.
If candidates do not receive more than half votes cast in the March 27 election, there will be a run-off election May 1.
A quote from the forum that was attributed to Debra Davidson that appears in the print addition of this story was made by moderator Grace Blount reading from a statement from Sonny Dumas offering an apology for not being able to attend the forum because of a work related issue.
The quote from Dumas was "Leaders that are fair and impartial in their decision making are needed to carry this city forth. I stand for a policy of equality and fairness."