Candidates use forum to list goals

Published 5:00 am Wednesday, May 30, 2001

MONTICELLO — Incumbent Monticello and New Hebron officialstouted past successes and future possibilities while challengersoffered their goals during a candidate forum sponsored by theLawrence County Chamber of Commerce Tuesday at the Lawrence CountyCivic Center.

The most sparks of the night were in the Monticello mayor’s raceas incumbent Dave Nichols highlighted achievements over the lastfour years while opponent Prodous May questioned the mayor’s andthe city’s role in developments.

In opening statements, Nichols cited lower water bills, effortsto hold the line on garbage bills, $1.1 million the city hassecured in various grants for projects and 17 streets that havebeen paved either by the city or in conjunction with the county.May followed and took issue with the street paving claims.

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“If you can find the 17 streets that he’s had any part of . . .I’d like to know where they are,” said May, adding that he knew ofonly one street, Fortenberry Drive, that had seen work.

In addition to the Monticello mayoral candidates, MonticelloWard 2 candidates incumbent Ed Melzer and Steve Moreman; New Hebronmayoral candidates incumbent W.O. “Bill” McCallum and Greg Jones;and New Hebron alderman candidate Dr. Roy Berry participated inTuesday’s forum. Silver Creek elected office candidates wereinvited but did not attend the forum.

Candidates fielded a variety of questions ranging from jobqualifications to economic development to ways to balance a smalltown atmosphere with industrial growth.

In his responses, Nichols cited his “team builder” approach andefforts to work with congressional and state leaders, the countyboard of supervisors and the chamber of commerce to get projectsdone for Monticello. Regarding economic development, the mayormentioned Paul McLain’s work with the chamber and commerce and cityinfrastructure improvements undertaken in the last four years.

“We will continue to work to improve those,” Nichols said, whilealso talking about bolstering the city’s fire rating and taking apro-active stance in helping businesses expand or relocate.

May said he would also work with officials on other levels ofgovernment. Crediting the late Mike Russell with a list ofdevelopments, the challenger discounted the city’s role in theeffort.

“We all want to take credit for things we do not do,” Maysaid.

On the issue of balancing small-town life with industrialgrowth, Nichols cited Tupelo as an example of a regional approachto development that has seen that city prosper while also helpingthe surrounding area. The mayor said the Discount Auto PartsDistribution Center in Gallman is a regional effort that willprovide jobs for Monticello citizens without the city having toinvest in infrastructure for the project.

“We maintain our piece of Americana that our citizens love,”Nichols said.

In other races, Melzer credited the mayor and his fellowaldermen for progress.

“We’ve done a lot in city government that last four years, butit’s been a team work,” said Melzer, who is seeking a second termon the board.

Moreman, an employee at the Georgia-Pacific mill, said he hadenjoyed living in Monticello and he wanted to work to improve thefuture for the city’s children.

“Monticello has been real good for me, and this is one way forme to give something back to Monticello,” Moreman said.

Ward 5 Alderman is only other contested race on the Monticelloballot. Incumbent alderman Pete Mathews and challenger Ricky Sykesdid not attend Tuesday’s forum.

Berry, one of six candidates running for five at large aldermanpositions in New Hebron, said he could bring to the office somefresh ideas, a common sense approach, fairness and an ability toget along with others. Incumbent aldermen Howard Thompson and JerryBridges and other challengers Jim Turnage, Ray Hodges and CindyShivers-Bryan did not attend.

In the mayor’s race, 20-year-incumbent McCallum pointed todevelopments in the past.

“I’m going to run on my record and my record speaks for itself,”McCallum said.

The mayor mentioned some businesses expansions and developmentsand work to improve the town’s fire equipment and emergencyresponse services.

“We’ve got one of the best fire departments in the county,”McCallum said.

Jones said he did not want to change the town because it “isbeautiful the way it is.” There were some small things he’d like toimprove upon and, like candidates in some other races, theyinvolved the town’s young people.

“My biggest concern right now is the youth,” Jones said,alluding to youth running the streets with limited activities tooccupy their time.

Jones said the town has a great mayor and board, but there isroom for improvement.

“I just want to see if I can make a few changes to influence theyouth for tomorrow,” Jones said.