Meet your candidates: Sheriff, Justice Court Judge Post 2

Published 7:55 pm Sunday, May 14, 2023

Each Lincoln County candidate who will appear on the Aug. 8 Primary Election ballot has been contacted by The Daily Leader and asked to reply to a questionnaire.

The same set of questions was sent to each candidate, even those who are running unopposed.

The responses are offered in no particular order, and no candidate had the opportunity to see any other candidate’s answers prior to submitting their own. No edits were made for content.

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Each week, we will present responses from two candidates, along with reminders of who their opponents are.

This week we present the responses from one of the six candidates for Lincoln County Sheriff, and one of the two candidates for Lincoln County Justice Court Judge Post 2.

Incumbent Sheriff Steve Rushing is running for another term. He will face challengers Kelly Porter and Troy Floyd in the Republican primary. The winner of that primary will face three independent candidates in the General Election — Willie J. “Meeka” Gayten Sr., Henry G. “Bub” Simmons Jr., and Leslie Falvey.

Incumbent Justice Court Judge Post 2 Roger Martin is running for reelection, and is the only Republican candidate. Democrat contender Shane Banks will face Martin in the General Election, but did not submit responses to the questions.

Previous articles can be found at

Responses from sheriff candidate Gayten and Judge Martin are as follows:


Willie J. ‘Meeka’ Gayten Sr., Sheriff

Gayten is a lifelong resident of Lincoln County.

I am 55 years old, and I have earned many certifications, accolades, and training in my law enforcement career. I have been a patrolman for the Brookhaven Police Department for 26 years. In conjunction to patrolman, I served as a conservation officer with the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries, and Parks for 21 years. I worked in both law enforcement capacities for 21 years. I decided to resign to pursue my goal of Lincoln County Sheriff. For the last two years, I have been serving in the capacity of a school resource officer, for the Brookhaven School District.

The Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office, the Brookhaven Police Department and other agencies need to work together to reduce and/or eliminate major crimes within the county and the city limits of Brookhaven. I will be vigilant, visible, and approachable.

I have proudly served as a law enforcement officer for 26 years and my integrity and ethics have never been compromised. I am committed to fighting for safety in our communities as well as to promoting community-based programs that will deter criminal activity.


What is your assessment of the previous or current occupant of this office, and, if elected, would you keep it in the same direction or change course?

I have no issues with the current sheriff, Steve Rushing. He was elected by the citizens of Lincoln County to conduct his office based on his campaign platform. If elected, I would assess the current needs of the department and make changes as needed. If elected by the people, I will listen to voice of the people to help conform the department through “Community Policing”.


How would you address transparency and accountability of this office?

The stakeholders deserve dependability in a sheriff with a proven record of being transparent, honest, and accountable. I will implement the use of an interactive website where citizens can report a crime anonymously, request a “house watch” if they are out of town, search jail dockets, etc.

My plan is to recruit, hire, and retain officers. I do not plan to recruit them from our local police department, but outside our local police department, reduces a shortage of officers within the City of Brookhaven’s Police Department and reduce potential harm of citizens in city limits.


What are the most pressing issues in this office and how would you address them?

The most pressing issue in the Lincoln County area is to provide safe and productive communities inside and outside the city limits. This top priority whether it is preparing for and responding to natural disasters or preventing crime, I am committed to fighting to prioritize safety in our communities! My office will promote community based programs that would deter crime by implementing community policing. We would continue to work with the community to develop and maintain trusted relationships between law enforcement and citizens in the Brookhaven/Lincoln County area.

A major component of our community safety should start within our schools. I am going to work with the city and county schools to create youth development programs, develop support services for underserved families, and implement a community health and safety course for students in grades 6th – 12th.

My office will work with local and state leaders to develop and implement housing in the form of a Youth Development Center within our county to retain and/or lodge juveniles and young offenders. This center will serve ages 17 and under, and will also offer job skills and job placement as well as addressing the emotional and social needs of our youths.

Our jail is another priority that seems to be overlooked. Building updates and alternative sentencing for nonviolent offenders can help reduce over-crowding and save tax payers money. The implementation of ankle monitoring, community service, and probation for non-violent offenders can help reform Lincoln County criminals.


How would your role in this office improve Brookhaven and Lincoln County?

My pledge is to work side-by-side with the Brookhaven Police Department to make sure that we have certified law enforcement officers who are well-trained and skilled to handle crime in Lincoln County. We will also work together to develop a system to have each department’s back on a daily basis in fighting crime, assisting citizens in civil dispute, leading and assisting in investigations, and other duties within the court system. I plan to work with local mental health and substance abuse centers to assist those citizens living with mental disorders and drug addiction.


What are your reasons for seeking this office and why should voters elect you?

I have a proven record of honesty, transparency, and integrity. I also bring a wealth of experience, leadership, and a vision for strengthening the Brookhaven Police Department and the Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office relationship. Most of my career has been serving and protecting the citizens of Brookhaven and Lincoln County, conserving our natural resources with an element of trust and fairness to make a safe living environment and community for ALL citizens in Lincoln County.

Throughout my career, I have learned the effectiveness of communication. Communication is the key to bridging the community and combatting the war against criminal activity. I possess many personal and professional qualities that make me the ideal candidate to serve the people as Sheriff. My ability to communicate and interact with people from all walks of life are what this office of a Sheriff requires. My reputation is spotless and my work history is commendable.

If elected by the citizens of Lincoln County, I will have an open door policy that will extend wherever I am.


Please share any family, personal information you’d like to include. 

I am a graduate of Brookhaven High School Class of 1986 and furthered my educational studies at Jackson State University and Copiah-Lincoln Community College. My law enforcement certification began with MLEOTA, Mississippi Law Enforcement Officers Training Academy in Pearl, MS, and continued through MCOTA, Mississippi Conservation Officers Training Academy in Holmes County, MS. I have also attended many trainings and earned certifications in New Mexico, California, and other areas in Mississippi in Executive Protection, Active Shooting Training, Search and Rescue, Swift-water Rescue, Homeland Security, Special Response Teams (SRT), IED (Improvised Explosive Device-Bomb Identifications), Man Tracking, etc.

I am married to LaTronda Gayten, Principal at Brookhaven Elementary School, and we have two sons, Xavier and Gaylon. My first spouse, Tracy Robinson Gayten, who passed of breast cancer, and I have three children, Chasity, Ashley, and Willie, Jr. I also gained two bonus sons, Norlando Veals and Brandon Henyard. We also have a small farm of chickens, guineas, pigs, horses, sheep, dogs and Viola, our cat.

I am asking for your vote and support in bringing my experience to the Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office and serving the community that I live in. It would be an honor to serve as your sheriff and work together in our communities and county.

I look forward to answering your questions, and serving as your Sheriff. If you want to get involved in my campaign, or to donate, please feel free to contact me on my campaign Facebook page, Willie J. “Meeka” Gayten, Sr. or my campaign webpage,

I am Willie J. “Meeka” Gayten, Sr., and I want to be your next Sheriff of Lincoln County, Mississippi!


Roger Martin, Justice Court Judge Post 2

Martin lives was born and raised in the East Lincoln community, and has lived his adult life in the Enterprise community. He is the incumbent judge for this post.


How would you grade your success to this point in this office? Do you plan to keep things going in the same direction, or change course?

As your Justice Court Judge for the past 8 years I have made it my Promise that no matter what the circumstances, or the people involved I have and will continue to treat Each and Every person that comes through those courthouse doors with the Same and Utmost respect. M very first campaign promise was for “Consistent Fairness” and that’s exactly what you’ll continue to get with me.


How would you address transparency and accountability of this office?

Our court is an open court, meaning anyone is welcome to come and sit and observe at anytime as long as no state health concerns are issued by the State Supreme Court or advised by the State Supreme Court, and there is ample room for the direct parties involved in the case being presented. I am held accountable by each and every citizen of this county. I am held accountable by a very strict and Board of Judicial Performance. Last but certainly not least I am held accountable by God to make sure I follow the Golden Rule, and make sure ALL of His people are allowed their rights as an American citizen that our laws were written for.


What are the most pressing issues in this office and how would you address them?

The most pressing issue in our community is the same as every other community. COMMUNICATION. There’s NO problem that can’t be solved by communication. Every drug dealer or addict can be helped by communication. Putting these people in direct contact with the CORRECT medical, mental, and emotional support system can improve this situation. Communicating with our young ones in our communities and putting positive role models in front of them and stepping out of our comfort zones to confront the issues they are dealing with is what we have to do in order to expect positive change in our communities. US ADULTS working together instead of tearing each other down in front of our children will make a big change. Imagine how much of a difference it would make in these kids lives and attitudes if we, parents and adults in general, started trying to help each other, Police and the Sheriffs department have the biggest microscope and target on their backs than anyone out there. Every time we pick up the paper or open social media all we see is negative comments and complaints about our law enforcement and elected officials. Should there be accountability? ABSOLUTELY!! but instead of constant negativity and hoping our officials fail, We as an ENTIRE community has the responsibility to make our home county the best it can be. It seems we all have our own ideas of how things could be better so why don’t we have more open dialogue in a town hall setting instead of trying to crowd into a board meeting and only taking away very limited solutions or ideas. Not working with our officials or quitting after the first roadblock gets us nowhere but farther apart. I don’t have all the answers but I do know that any decision I’ve ever made out of anger or fear, I’ve regretted. Communication doesn’t mean we all agree or like each other, but we should ALL love and care about our children’s future enough to respect each other and work towards a better tomorrow.


How would your role in this office improve Brookhaven and Lincoln County?

I hope that each and every person that has came through the doors of the Justice Court left with at least they were treated fairly and respected even if they didn’t get the outcome they hoped for.


What are your reasons for seeking this office and why should voters elect you?

I want keep trying to bridge the gap between the court system and the public opinion. I want to make the public realize that we, The Court, is here to help them instead of hurt or hinder them. That if we run towards a problem instead of away from it, it will never get any bigger. We all make bad decisions, that doesn’t make us bad people. My daddy always told us that he would stand beside us through anything but never stand in front of us when time for the consequences.


Please share any family, personal information you’d like to include. 

My wife Heather and I have two boys, John Daniel 12, and Reece Marvin 11.