Vote days away

Published 12:53 pm Saturday, October 27, 2012

The race for Escambia County Commission District 4 is drawing near its end and with only days until the election, voters must choose between incumbent Brandon Smith and challenger Junior Hall, who held the commission seat from 2000 to 2004.

Both candidates sat down with the Advance this week to explain why they feel voters should give them the nod.

What qualifies you to hold this county seat?

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Junior Hall: “From 2000 until 2004 I was county commissioner,” Hall said. “From 1996 until 2000 I went to all the meetings. I went so that I could learn what the duties were. I sat on the sideline and took notes and asked questions. If I didn’t understand something I would ask. The schooling that I went for really made me understand the importance of understanding. I finished the 50 hours required by law. By 2003, I had done the graduate course through Auburn University.”

Brandon Smith: I’ve had the training that is required for all elected officials,” Smith said. “I know what it is to make a stand for the citizens I represent and not the politicians. I will always be a strong voice for our district. I’ve gained valuable experience during some of the worst economic times our county has faced since the depression. Through it all, we have made much needed repairs to areas after a crippling $9 million flood in 2009.

What is the biggest challenge you see currently facing the position?

Junior Hall: “I think it’s sort of a pair of them,” Hall said. “One would be the relationship with PCI. The other is to make sure our budget stays, because inflation is eating up all our tax dollars. Our constituents don’t need any more taxes on them. Every thing’s going up except the pay checks. So, we need to keep a really close halt on our budget and what we do with our money.”

Brandon Smith: “Right now jobs, maintaining day to day operations and resurfacing projects have been and always will be a challenge in a small, rural county like Escambia,” Smith said. “There are grants but, in most cases, our part of a grant is at least 20 percent, which is sometimes still out of reach during this strained economy.”

How do you feel you could best meet that challenge?

Junior Hall: “We’ve got to get out and hunt money so we can bring it back into the county,” Hall said. “The number one thing (with PCI) I see right now is that there is no communication. That’s the first step. Once you have achieved the point of communication and the county gives Poarch their concerns and Poarch gives the county their concerns, we can sit down in a meeting and take them one at a time. It’s not going to be something that’s done in fifteen minutes. These issues that I see is going to take a long time to get them resolved. I just think, overall, people need to know this is not a popularity contest, and we need to do what’s best for Escambia County.”

Brandon Smith: “Currently I have two roads that qualify for resurfacing,” Smith said. “I will continue to seek funding for projects as long as our part of the match is within our reach financially. In 2007, the commission was awarded at CDGB grant to resurface some of our dirt roads throughout the county. We completed this grant this year, which will free up some local funds next year for our farm to market type roads. Industry will always be a priority for me and I will always stand against anything I feel is detrimental to jobs or businesses for the west end of our county. Tension between local governments does not look attractive to potential industry. I will continue to bridge those gaps in order to maintain a successful relationship between the county, PCI and our neighboring towns. This is important to our economy in Escambia County.”