Forum #1 - Good Turnout for Graceville Political Forum By Sid Riley
First of several forums preceding Election Day
People in Graceville appear to be taking a sincere interest in the upcoming elections. This is reflected by the presence of over two hundred citizens at the Graceville Civic Center on Thursday night for the Decision 2008 Political Forum. This event was sponsored by Chipola College Television CCTV-4, The Jackson County Executive Democratic Committee, The Jackson County Executive Republican Committee and The Jackson County Times newspaper. The program began with Royce Reagan serving as moderator while a young boy stood on the stage and held a small American Flag proudly over his head as the audience recited the "Pledge of Allegiance".
The evening’s program included a full slate of candidates vying for a wide range of county and state elected positions. A variety of questions were asked by the three person panel consisting of Democratic Committee Chairperson, Judy Mount, Republican Committee Chairperson, Sandra Helms, and Executive Director of the Jackson County Times, Sid Riley. The first group on the stage was the candidates for the District 5 State Representative position.
Sherry Campbell, Brad Drake and Sheriff John McDaniel each responded to three differing questions relating to state government. The next group of candidates to step into the spotlight was the three candidates for Jackson County School Superintendent, and the two candidates for District 2 School Board Seat.
Supt. Danny Sims, Lee Miller, and Steve Benton were asked pointed questions relating to their opinions on subjects relating to schools administration. They were then followed by Nancy Deese and Kenny Griffin who also responded to school related questioning.
Then a fifteen minute break was taken with refreshments provided by the two political parties. Each group had a refreshment table set up in the entrance area of the civic center.
The second half program then began with eight of the ten Sheriff Candidates taking the stage. In groups of four, the potential new Sheriffs each fielded three probing questions designed to reveal the depth of their knowledge and their prevailing attitudes relating to how the department should be run.
The last part of the show was perhaps the portion that most sparked response from the crowd. Steve Meadows and Glenn Hess, the two candidates who are fiercely competing for the States Attorney 14th Circuit position. Their responses involved feinting and probing each other in an aggressive manner which evoked healthy applause from the audience.
The second in this series of three Decision 2008 Political Forums was held at the Sneads High School Auditorium at 6:30 Tuesday evening, August 12. The third and last of these events will be held at the Marianna High School Auditorium at 6:30 PM on Thursday, August 21, only four days before our election day of August 26. The public is encouraged to attend these important events.
Forum #2. Pirates Partners Holds Superintendent of Schools Forum In Sneads
On Friday, August 8, Superintendent Candidates Face Sneads Citizens
With only a few hours rest since their appearance in Graceville, the busy candidates for Superintendent of Schools moved to a forum on Friday night at the Victory Academy in Sneads. This event was hosted by the local school support group, "Pirates Partners".
Approximately one hundred local citizens attended the two hour event. Homer Hirt a Pirates Partner and local Republican Party leader, Sue Bradley of Grand Ridge with Pirates Partners and the local Democratic Party group, and Jim Peacock, President of Pirate Partners all combined their efforts to ask a barrage of audience submitted questions to the three candidates.
The extensive exposure of the candidates this format presented for the audience made the event informative and worthwhile. The next forum scheduled was presented Tuesday evening in Sneads, with a full slate of candidates from the area.
Forum #3. Decision 2008 Forums Moves To Sneads High School
On Tuesday evening, August 12 the "Decision 2008" forums moved to their second scheduled presentation in the series of three pre election events. The forum featured almost all candidates for all open positions in a two hour question and answer format.
Even with stormy weather conditions, a crowd of over 200 citizens assembled in the beautiful Sneads High School auditorium, coming to root for their favorite candidates and to make another pre-vote examination of others. The first group of candidates on stage was Eddie Hendry of Tallahassee who is running for U.S. Congress against Alan Boyd and Mark Mulligan. Hendry was the only candidate for this position present. He responded to three questions from the panel, involving his opinions on stem cell research, giving welfare benefits to illegal aliens, and the proposed national 55MPH speed limit legislation.
Next came the fiercely competing duo for the State Attorney position, incumbent Steve Meadows vs. Glen Hess. They fielded questions concerning use of the death penalty, their opinion of how the Megan Lunsford prosecution was handled by the State Attorney in that district, and what programs they would use to improve the cultural sensitivity of their staff.
After a short break, the questioning resumed. The next group was the candidates for Superintendent of Schools, and the District 5 County Commission candidates. The three candidates for Supt. Of Schools were still fresh from the Pirates Partners forum held a few evenings previously, and by now were well prepared to answer almost any posed question.
One question to Lee Miller probed his attitude relating to the practice of the winning Superintendent taking reprisals against any principal that dared to run against him, thus causing the school system to lose valuable and needed staff. Miller stated that he would not consider taking any vendetta actions against any of his opponents. Danny Sims was asked questions relating to the cost of the girls softball field during construction of the new high school and how our district had been able to weather the budget reductions without requiring any major changes. Steve Benton was asked his feelings about further consolidation of schools in the district, and what steps should be taken to improve teacher screening procedures during the hiring processes to assure no sex related problems are hidden in their history.
Ben Odom, Lee Miller, and incumbent Milton Pittman were next. They responded to questions probing the relationships between the County Administrator and the Commission, whether or not the County Administrator should have the authority to hire and fire department heads, skills needed to be a good Commissioner, the proposed new county administration building, and initially granting Family Dollar tax benefits in order to entice them to locate here.
After a fifteen minute break with refreshments provided by the Republican and Democratic Committees, the action resumed with eight Sheriff Candidates in the spotlight. Chucky Anderson, John Dennis, Sonny Fortunato, Aldrich Johnson, Jim Peacock, Lou Roberts, Robbie Wester, and Darryl Williams, were present. This group answered a wide variety of law enforcement related questions. These included probes into their feelings relating to deputy abuse of handcuffed prisoners, management style, qualifications needed, use of motorcycles, required number of deputies, budgeting processes, use of road block check points, and lack of female and black deputies.
It was a revealing, spicy and entertaining evening of political analysis. It was an event well worth attending.
There are currently two more political events scheduled prior to the August 26 primary election. The first is a "School Board Candidates Forum" scheduled on Sunday, August 17 at the Russ House in Marianna. This event is sponsored by the Jackson County Youth Council and begins at 3:30 PM.
The last forum is anticipated as being the largest event of the pre-election action. It will be the last of the "Decision 2008" series, and will include the full slate of candidates. This forum will be held at the new Marianna High School Auditorium at 6:30 PM on Thursday, August 21. The "Decision 2008" series is sponsored by Chipola Television CCTV-4, The Jackson County Democratic Party, The Jackson County Republican Party, and the Jackson County Times. We encourage you to get involved in the political processes, and attend these events.