Smith, Jackson offer views

Published 9:05 am Saturday, October 16, 2010

Local and state candidates had an opportunity to give their views on issues facing the area during a political forum event Thursday on the campus of Jefferson Davis Community College.

The event was presented by the Brewton Young Professionals organization and the Greater Brewton Area Chamber of Commerce’s governmental affairs division.

Political candidates campaigning for votes in the Nov. 2 general election were given a five-minute window of opportunity to introduce themselves and express their opinions on a variety of issues facing residence in the county, state and in the nation.

Sign up for our daily email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

Escambia County Sheriff Grover Smith is seeking re-election to the office while challenger Heath Jackson is hoping to unseat the incumbent.

Smith said the office of sheriff is one he takes seriously and is dedicated to for the county.

“It takes more than fast cars and big guns to do this job,” Smith said.

Smith said during his tenure as sheriff, the county has received a large amount of funds from the housing of federal inmates in the county detention center.

“We worked out an arrangement to house federal inmates locally at a cost of $45 per day,” Smith said. “That arrangement has brought an additional $3 million to the county’s general fund.”

Smith said during his time in office federal funds sought have made other projects possible.

“Through the use of those federal funds we have rehabbed a building behind the Sheriff’s office and created a work release center,” Smith said. “We house 50 inmates and have the opportunity to put those inmates to work in the community.”

Also during his tenure, Smith said patrols have been increased from six to the current 10 on patrol in the county. Jail staff has been increased to five and two nurses work 12-hour shifts each day.

“We have upgraded all of the locks and most of the doors at the jail,” Smith said. “We have even installed digital cameras that record activity 24 hours a day, seven days a week — all paid for with federal funds.”

Smith is also happy to have begun the Project Lifesaver that provides security for families who have issues with family members.

“We provide bracelets for Alzheimer patients as well as autism patients,” Smith said. “Those are provided at no cost to the patient. Having had a grandmother with Alzheimer’s I remember my mother couldn’t sleep for fear that she would wander off. I understand what providing that service means to families.”

Jackson said helping residents in the rural communities not served by police departments is an important part of his decision to seek the office of sheriff.

“Law enforcement in the cities in this county have quality people to respond to the residents,” Jackson said. “Rural areas need the help and we need to get our deputies out in the county.”

Jackson said the work of the sheriff’s office needs the help of community residents.

“Drugs are everywhere and in order to fight that we need to get aggressive,” Jackson said. “The sheriff’s office can’t do it alone — we need the community’s help. Divided we will fall.”

Jackson said he hopes to add more patrols to the overnight shifts if elected to the position.

“We need more deputies on our night shift since 90 percent of crimes happen at night,” Jackson said. “We need our Drug Task Force working nights and weekends as well.”

Each candidate responded to questions submitted at the forum. The subjects included the drug crimes and jail ministry.

Drug Crimes

Smith: “The drug problem we have is like standing at the Alabama River with a five-gallon bucket and trying to dip it dry, it’s a big battle. One way to battle this is to intervene and change the future. With our DARE program, we now have a resource officer in every school in the county. Every fifth grader in Escambia County is being taught the dangers of drugs. We can’t continue to house drug offenders. We need to select those that we can save and put them on a farm to work where they can earn some self-respect. I would like to implement at G.E.D. program so that one day, when they get out, they can be better people.”

Jackson: “Drug crimes are a never-ending business. It’s the one business that the economy has no effect on. We need to go after offenders aggressively. Every community has a drug problem, but we want to push it out of Escambia County. If they think you’re not looking, they will keep doing it. If we start snatching them off the street corners and start seizing homes and automobiles they will stop doing it. We can take the money from those seized homes and put the money back in the community. This is a battle we can fight by educating our kids when they are young.”

Jail Ministry

Jackson: “I believe in a jail ministry. If someone can’t make bond it would be good to have someone reach out to them. I believe in the jail ministry. If there is only a Sunday afternoon service I would like to see an increase in having that available more.”

Smith: “I already have an open door policy when it comes to jail ministry. We have several groups that come on various days to minister at the jail. You never know when someone will say something to someone at just the right time to bring a change in that person. The Bible says we must visit people and that includes people in jail. I believe the jail ministry and will continue to have that available.”

Voting for the position of sheriff, other county, state and national offices will be held from 7 a.m. until 7 p.m. Nov. 2.