McKinley, Smith face off Nov. 4

Published 12:11 am Wednesday, October 22, 2008

By By MaryClaire Foster
(Editor’s Note: The Atmore Advance shows no partiality to either candidate. A coin flip determined the answer sequence.)
On Nov. 4 residents of Atmore will have the opportunity to vote for County Commissioner for District 4.
Kevin McKinley is running on the Republican ticket and Brandon Smith is running on the Democratic.
Both McKinley and Smith have gone door to door campaigning, and McKinley held a meet and greet Oct. 11 at the Atmore Area YMCA.
To afford both candidates a forum to discuss their opinions and expectations of the office The Advance asked them to complete a questionnaire.
Q: Please give a brief synopsis of what the County Commissioner’s job is.
Smith: The commissioner’s responsibility is to attend the monthly meetings, to work with the other commissioners as a team, and to make decisions and formulate plans to provide support for the many departments of the county government. This also includes adopting a budget that reflects anticipated revenue. A member of the county commission should have a successful business background, a good reputation and have excellent character.
McKinley: To be an advocate and supporter of Escambia County and District 4 in local government. To ensure our district receives its fair share of county funds for roads, bridges, public buildings and the like. To help oversee the county budget and be a faithful steward of county resources and to be a “bridge” between residents in my district and county government. The position is the most direct link a citizen has with any branch of government.
Q: Why are you running for this position specifically?
Smith: I am 37 years of age and a life long resident of this community. Being a part of my family’s business since I was 13-years-old has given me a great desire to see our community grow and prosper. I wanted the opportunity to serve the people of my district and give to them what others before me have given. I want very much for our county and District 4 to use our funds wisely so we can provide a solid future for generations to come.
McKinley: I am running for this position because I have watched jobs and industry leave our area over the last few years and have seen our roads and bridges crumble. I feel I am the man best equipped to fix the lack of money we receive on this end of the county for our road maintenance and I feel I am the only man for the job who can go beyond our local borders and actively and aggressively recruit long term sustainable industry.
Q: Do you have any previous experience? If so, what? If not, who or what are you looking to to guide you in this endeavor?
Smith: This is my first attempt for a public office. I have listened to stories of success and failure of public servants before me. I believe that knowing right from wrong helps to guide me through anything I do. The needs of the people in District 4 will be my driving force. I have listened for years to the thoughts, concerns and ideas of the people in District 4, and with God’s help, I will stay focused and listen to every concern brought to me.
McKinley: I worked on both Bob Riley campaigns in a limited capacity. I have always supported conservative politics, and I made several trips to Florida during the 2000 election controversy where I distributed newsletters updating citizens on voting irregularities. My political role model is Ronald Reagan, who I feel was the greatest President of my generation. His approach to big government is the guide I will look to follow in local government.
Q: Why do you feel you are the most qualified candidate?
Smith: I have been a part of a business that has operated in Atmore since 1942. I am very proud of the fact that my father has been the success of that business since the 1960’s. He has given me an abundance of knowledge and has taught me to always be honest, loyal to our customers and to never live above my means. I feel I have learned a lot and have a good understanding of our city and county’s economy. To be better informed on current issues, I have attended the Commission and City Council meetings for the past several months. I also feel I have a good relationship with the other commissioners. My idea is not to “roll over and play dead” or be a “yes man” to anyone. As I have said from the beginning of my campaign, I am a team player. It takes three votes for anything to pass. I know in order to get these votes I have to be able to work with the other commissioners to accomplish the goals for District 4.
McKinley: I am most qualified for this position because I know the value of hard work, I know how to set goals and reach those goals, and I know how to work with others while being firmly committed to a course of action for the voters of my district.
I will know where our county and district stands and the voters will always know where I stand. I will know what this county can do under the laws of Alabama from day one. I will know how to lend a hand and work with the county commission and other governments and I will know when to say “NO” to the good ole boy politicians while standing firm on my dedication to improving our district.
I will be the most dedicated and hard working commissioner in the history of this county and will make no apologies for standing up for the people of Atmore, Canoe, Wawbeek, Booneville, Huxford, Poarch, McCullough, and every household in District 4.
Q: What do you think are the most important issues facing this position?
Smith: The economy is the most important issue right now. When funds are cut as the result of a weak economy, everything becomes an important issue – road and bridge projects, pay raises for county employees, public safety, public transportation for our elders, all the way down to how much fuel we are allowed to use. When we are faced with these odds, we have to tighten our belts until it passes. I would rather cut our waste and operate on a budget that we can afford than dig ourselves into a debt that our grandchildren have to pay for.
McKinley: Three Major Issues Face Our District: A. Obtaining funding through the county budget and through grants to make positive change in our area.
B. Bringing high paying, sustainable industry to our county and making the western end of Escambia County flourish.
C. The uncertain economic times which our nation currently is facing will cause local governments to face money shortages and decisions over whether to cut services or cut back on services, we have to be ready to deal with these challenges.
Q: What new ideas do you hope to implement, and what practices do you hope to reform?
Smith: I would like to see the county move toward using contract labor to do more of the intersection and right of way cleanup. Some of our intersections have blind spots, which are a danger. It is hard for our work crews to maintain these areas especially during seasons when the growth rate increases. We had an asphalt plant and paving crew years ago, but it proved to be very costly. It almost bankrupted the county. We went to contract paving which is faster and produced a more professional job because of more updated equipment. When the paving is over, the contractor has the maintenance cost for the rest of the year instead of our tax payers. We can have the same efficiency with this contract as well, and utilize our workers in other areas. I feel it is important to have a good working relationship with our city officials. We need to work together to achieve a solid foundation for our community.
McKinley: A. Regular townhall meetings to keep residents informed and so they can keep me informed as to their needs and concerns.
B. Subsidized county and municipal trash pickup throughout the county paid for through the funds paid to the county for waste that is dumped at the Timberlands Landfill.
C. A new spirit of cooperation with local governments such as the Poarch Creek Indians, and working with local municipalities on infrastructure projects. Developmental partnering with Baldwin and Mobile County to pattern our growth in ways which compliments instead of competes with each other.
Q: How do you currently contribute to the community?
Smith: Support and involvement in the community should come long before a person decides to run for a public office, not because it looks good in a campaign ad. I have been involved with and volunteered at: Taste of the South, Williams Station Day, and Mayfest for the past several years. I also contribute a lot of my time to my church, Robinsonville Baptist, and it’s many activities. Atmore Auto Parts has been a member of the Atmore Area Chamber of Commerce for many years. We have also supported local benefits, local schools and our local volunteer fire departments. My wife is the cofounder of the Canoe, Robinsonville, Wawbeek Neighborhood Watch Program, and although I am not as involved as she is, I still support their efforts and community awareness. There are many organizations that I do not belong to but I have always supported. If elected I will keep the people informed on the direction the county is heading and, at the same time, it is my responsibility to keep myself informed on the events and needs of the people in my district and community.
McKinley: I am active in the following organizations and contribute to the community through these groups: Lions Club, Rotary, Canoe First Baptist Church, Alger Sullivan Historical Society, Escambia County Historical Society.
I authored a book on the history of Canoe, Alabama and used the proceeds to purchase a state historic marker for Canoe.
co-founded the Canoe Neighborhood Watch in order to reduce crime. I have patrolled the streets of Canoe and backroads through this program and worked to reduce illegal dumping.
I am Adjutant of the William Carney Camp SCV, and I write a weekly article on local history in the “Tri-City Ledger,” and I contribute to keeping history alive in the area.
I am a business owner/employer, and I am a member of the Atmore Chamber of Commerce.
Q: If not elected, how will you contribute to the community?
Smith: This election has not made me who I am. I have taken everything that has been instilled in me and used it toward this goal. If I am not elected, it will not change who I am or how I feel about this community. This is my hometown and everything I love is here. So many people here put their time, money and hard work into the different functions we all enjoy. I will continue to support our local businesses as I always have. After all, without them, all that we enjoy here would be nonexistent.
McKinley: If not elected I will continue my involvement in the aforementioned organizations.
Q: Does your family support you? If so, how?
Smith: My family has always supported me in everything I have done. My parents feel they have raised a child who has turned into a mature, responsible adult that can handle the ups and downs that life brings. My wife and daughter have sacrificed a lot of themselves this year, supporting me in this election. My daughter is the greatest gift from God I have ever received. I think a person’s character, or lack thereof, follows them through their entire life. That is why I have conducted my campaign in a clean, honest, and fair manner. If I want to raise a child to be responsible, caring, and fair, then I have to be that person for her and use it to represent my district and county in the same manner.
McKinley: Yes my family supports me. My fiancee, Sondra Reed, has pounded the streets and sweated in the humidity with me throughout this campaign and I would not be where I am without her. My mother and father have supported me and encouraged me to make a difference. My mother taught me compassion and to see the good in everyone, my dad taught me hard work and stubborn determination-that’s the best support anyone can ever give a candidate or a son.
Q: Are you a stringent follower of your party’s lines? If not, how do you deviate?
Smith: I have always done what I thought was right. I have never thought about our county business as a divided government. On a local level, we all want to achieve the same goals. We all want better roads, lower crime rates, better education for our children, lower taxes, and we all want our county government to run as efficiently as possible. On a national level, I feel that our politicians have pushed a less than desirable way of life on the citizens of this country. This goes for both parties. I am a Christian, and it troubles me to think about the future of this country. The leaders of this country need to start looking out for our nation and stop worrying about offending the rest of the world. There are good points on both sides, but they are few and far between. I have seen a decline in the moral values of our politicians over the years. I don’t think either party, as a whole, has the best interest of the American people in their hearts. I am a follower of what is right, not what is popular. I think both parties need to take a long look at the direction of this country and decide what is more important, political parties, or a solid foundation for the future of this country.
McKinley: I am not a stringent follower of party lines. If the party gets it wrong; I tell them. I’m guided by my principals, beliefs, what I know is right and by good old South Alabama horse sense. I capitulate to no person or voting block.

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