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Candidates pitch plans for city

Residents in Ward 1 and 2 will see new leadership no matter who wins the primary election in May.

After one four-year term, Ward 1 Alderman Randy Belcher, a Democrat, is running for police chief. Dorsey Cameron and Elisa Corley are both running as Democrats in that election.

Belcher defeated Cameron in 2013, ending the man’s 16-year tenure as Ward 1 alderman. It was the reverse outcome four terms earlier, when Cameron defeated Belcher for the seat.

Ward 2 Alderman Terry L. Bates, who ran unopposed in 2013, is not seeking a third four-year term. Candidates for his seat are Vernastine Byrd, Danny “Blackfoot” Chatman and Shannon Moore. All three are running as Democrats.

Brookhaven, based on its population of  12,513, according to the 2010 Census, is divided into six wards with an alderman-at-large as well. Mayor and aldermen are considered full-time jobs. Aldermen are paid an annual salary of $18.447.36.

Today we look at the candidates running for Ward 1 and Ward 2.

Ward 1 Dorsey Cameron

Cameron, 68, is married to wife Margie. They have four children — Dorsey Cameron III, Everette Cameron, Timothy Cameron and Benjamin Cameron and 16 grandchildren. He attends Center Street Church of Christ.

He’s been a resident of Brookhaven for 41 years and currently lives in the 500 block of Furr Avenue.

Cameron retired three years ago after a 40-year career at CenterPoint Energy. He owns Cameron’s Plumbing and is a member of the Brookhaven-Lincoln County Chamber of Commerce.

He’s received several awards including safety awards from CenterPoint Energy, Little League Baseball Coach Award, Certificate of Appreciation for Service in the City of Brookhaven, LSU Ag Center Certificate of Completion for Compost Facility Operator Training. He’s a certified municipal officials by the Mississippi Municipal League.

Cameron said he’s running again because his passion is serving others.

If elected for a four-year term, he wants to secure a grant to establish a well-equipped teen center for the youth and create a safer environment for children in their communities. He also wants to improve property values by improving the appearance of the neighborhoods in Ward 1. 

“Lots in Ward 1 need to be cleaned up in order to improve the appearance and value of property,” he said.

Cameron would like to see more streets paved in Ward 1 as well as improvements made to the drainage system. He said he’ll “make sure we have the appropriate funds to improve our streets.”

He also wants low income families to own their homes and will help make that happen. “I will work with other city officials to secure grants to build homes  for lower income families as needed,” he said.

He’d also put a public park in the Brignall area on property the city already owns in Ward 1.

Cameron said he has the experience needed to oversee Ward 1 and serve the city.

“I have already served as an alderman in the city of Brookhaven in Ward 1 for 16 years. This past experience gives me the expertise that I need to further serve the citizens of Brookhaven,” he said. “Working together I know we can accomplish so much more for all of the people of Brookhaven.”

Ward 1 Elisa Corley Jr.

Cameron’s only opponent, Elisa Corley Jr., is also running as a Democrat. Corley, 54, lives in the 400 block of Martin Luther King Jr. Drive.

Corley did not participate and complete the questionnaire sent to him March 24. Attempts to reach him Friday and Saturday by text, email and telephone were unsuccessful.

Ward 2 Vernastine Byrd

Byrd, 58, has two sons, Kwane Byrd and Abe Blue and two granddaughters, Lei Lei, 2, and Asia, 19. She is a member of St. Paul Missionary Baptist Church and lives in the 600 block of East Cherokee Street. She is a Brookhaven native, but moved away for several years. However, she’s been back for more than 20 years.

Byrd was named Brookhaven’s Outstanding Citizen of the Year in 2003 and received the Velma Smith Lee Community Service Award in 2008.

She has been employed at Silver Cross Health and Rehab for five years as a social worker.

“I was born and raised in Brookhaven but left several years to sow my oats but I’ve been back in the city for over 20 years.” 

Byrd has served on the Board of Adjustment since 2003 and ran for the Ward 2 alderman seat against Bates eight years ago, losing by one vote to qualify for a runoff, she said. “It was not my time, but I am feeling confident this time,” she said.

Byrd said she is outspoken and wants to stand up for what she believes is right. “I care about this community and the people that live here. I know I can make a difference for the betterment of everyone young and old,” she said. “As a social worker, I am an advocate for the patients that I take care of daily and I will be a advocate for the people in my community. We all have rights that must be heard and I will be the one to articulate their concerns.”

She’d like to see more unity within Brookhaven. “There are many problems in the city that can be addressed with each and everyone of us individually,” she said. “I see low self-esteem in some of the people that I see daily. There is no unity. It seems as if we have lost a sense of pride for where we live. Settling for a ‘that will do’ attitude instead of insisting and demanding the best.”

Byrd said economical growth builds a stronger community. “There are so many possibilities in this community to grow but we first have to do our part,” she said. “If I am elected I would like to explore business opportunities to build more. I am speaking of chains. The kind that won’t just limit themselves to a certain area but would also be willing to take a loss if that is what it takes to offer opportunities for everyone.”

She said her experience as a social worker will help her “get things done” in Ward 2. She also ran a community life center for a few years for kids and adults who participated together in Bible study, basketball and holiday events. “We all worked and served one another in one form or another,” she said.

Byrd said it will take commitment by Ward 2 residents to make improvements there. “I will never ask you to do something that I myself am not willing to do,” she said.

Ward 2 Danny “Blackfoot” Chatman

Chatman, 57, is running as a Democrat. He lives in the 900 block of North Egypt circle. He is the father of two children and grandfather of four. He has lived in Brookhaven his entire life. He’s been employed at First Baptist Church Brookhaven for 23 years. He is a member of St. Mark Missionary Baptist Church.

Though he has never held public office, he wants to run for alderman so he can work to improve not only his ward, but the city as well. “I have lived in Ward 2 my whole life and I can see room for improvement,” he said. “I want to serve my ward and the people of our community to help make a difference, not only for my ward, but for the City of Brookhaven.”

He said problems that need to be addressed in Ward 2 include abandoned houses that need to be torn down, ditches that need cleaning out and vacant properties that need to be cleaned off. “If I am elected, I will do everything in my power to get the job done,” he said. “I have no formal experience, but I’m very willing to learn. I am honest, trustworthy, dedicated and willing to learn the duties of my job. I will listen to the concerns of citizens in my ward and the City of Brookhaven and do my best to address each issue.”

Ward 2 Shannon Moore

Moore, 42, has lived in Brookhaven for 14 years. He is married to Valerie Young Moore and they have five children — Tavis, Ty, Trey, Rodricuz and Issys. They attend Mt. Wade Baptist Church and he is a member of Masonic Lodge 507. He is employed with Severn Trent Services. He lives in the 700 block of Crooked Lane.

Moore is new to the political arena, but sees an alderman position as a chance to help his community. “I want to serve my community by improving the lives of people and laying the groundwork that enables future success in the City of Brookhaven,” he said.

During his campaign, Moore has listened to what his neighbors have to say. “I found that the biggest problems are drainage issues, lack of recreation and crime,” he said.

If elected, he said, “I would work diligently with other city officials and departments to ensure that Ward 2 residents’ concerns are met. I have never held a public office position; however, I believe that an alderman should be someone that has leadership skills, tough skin, and believe that they can make a difference no matter how small.”

Moore said he wants to be the voice of the community. “I’m a man of God and integrity with strong family values that will work hard until the job is done,” he said. “I will not make campaign promises because I do not believe in giving false hope.  However, I can promise that I will be the voice of our community and lead Ward 2 in the direction that all residents can be proud of.”

Danny Chatman

Dorsey Cameron

Vernastine Byrd

Shannon Moore