District 6 commission candidates share thoughts

Published 10:00 am Monday, March 5, 2012

One of the biggest problems the Pike County Commission has been seeing lately, according to the District 6 Commission candidates, is lack of cooperation.

From butting heads over which roads to pave, to disagreeing on whether or not to purchase road equipment, county residents have seen some heated discussions about recent issues brought before the commission.

“A lot of decisions are made with the intentions of furthering a political career,” said candidate Jeffery Knight, a lifelong resident of Pike County. “That is sad, but true. Decisions should be made in the best interest of the people who put you in the seat.”

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Knight is one of three Republican candidates seeking the nomination in the March 13 party primary. Also in the race are incumbent Oren Fannin and Joey Jackson.

Knight said he doesn’t like the “negativity and disputes” that seem to occur with the current county commission.

“They seem to be deadlocked a lot of times, and have arguments,” Knight said. “I tend to be a level headed guy and I won’t vote a certain way just because another vote didn’t go my way.”

Candidate Joey Jackson said he thinks it is communication, or lack of, that is the root of the issue.

“When I worked my way through college, I used a shovel,” Jackson said. “I own my business now. I can relate to everyone. You have to be able to be able to communicate or you will get nowhere.”

Jackson, who has lived in Pike County 30 years, owns a construction company and said he makes his living “working for folks.”

“You have to listen and understand what people want and need,” Jackson said. “That’s not happening, right now, with the commission.

Even incumbent Oren Fannin sees a problem with the way things are working currently. He said the commission must begin to work together to move the county forward.

“We need a change in attitude by the commissioners to realize that they work for and serve the people. That should be their only mission,” Fannin said.

“I think if the voters have been reading the paper and keeping up with what’s been going on, they will probably make the right decision,” Fannin said about how he thinks people will vote during the March 13 primary election.

Money is always something voters are concerned about and these three candidates have thoughts on budgets and commission spending.

Fannin, who has lived in Pike County his whole life, said he realizes road and bridge maintenance is one of the biggest issues facing the commissioners, but paving every road on request isn’t the answer. He cited an issue raised this year on the commission regarding a request to pave Pleasant Hill Church Road, which ultimately was defeated. Fannin voted against the measure.

“If that issue had passed, paving that road would’ve cost us $400,000 and that would’ve taken nearly every spare penny we’ve got,” Fannin said.

But Jackson said he thinks the commission could use some out-of-the box thinking to help more Pike County residents than it already does.

“I don’t think we should give up on Pleasant Hill Church Road,” Jackson said. “We need to explore other options rather than just saying, ‘No.’ That area is historical and perhaps there is some way we can put that to use in finding money to pave the road.”

Jackson said it was the lack of money put toward road projects that prompted him to run for the District 6 commission seat.

“I’ve seen no real improvements in our roads and infrastructure. I have seen our roads deteriorate. It concerns me because I have an 8-year-old daughter,” Jackson said, noting the two school bus accidents on Goshen roads.

Knight said he believes consistent maintenance on county roads could save money in the long run and prevent huge funding from being needed all at once.

“Infrastructure is a big concern. It requires maintenance. I know we are in bad financial shape, everybody is.  But we can’t just let things crumble out of shape,” Knight said.

District 6 is one of the areas most affected by the new district lines put in place by the County Commission and Pike County Board of Education this year. Due to faulty Census data provided by a demographer, lines had to be redrawn after an original redistricting plan. Because absentee ballot deadlines and other voting needs couldn’t be met in a timely fashion while the Department of Justice approved the new plan, a decision was made by Probate Judge Wes Allen to vote in the primaries under the old district lines.

Fannin believes the county should redistrict again because, in a haste to comply with voting deadlines, the commission may have made decisions he feels weren’t necessary when shifting lines in District 6, specifically citing the Henderson community.

“We split families apart,” Fannin said during a recent commission meeting.

Jackson said, “It’s like crying over spilt milk. It’s a done deal.”

Although Jackson said there could have been changes, they should have been made before the plan was submitted to the Department of Justice. He said redistricting again would be expensive and he doesn’t think it should happen.

“Every commissioner, including Fannin, approved that plan,” if he didn’t like it, he should have said something then.”

Knight said he understands the frustration of District 6 residents who may be inconvenienced by the new plan, but his main concern is eliminating confusion among voters.

“A lot of people are confused with what district they are in and where they should vote,” Knight said. “It doesn’t take a whole lot for some people to get frustrated and not vote. I am just concerned they aren’t going to go to the polls at all.”

Jeffrey Knight graduated from Goshen High School and has a business administration degree from Troy University. He and his father created Knight & Son Transportation and he has managed the business for seven years. Knight and his wife have two children and attend Southside Baptist Church.

Joey Jackson received his business administration degree from Troy University. He and his wife have one daughter and they are members of the Joquin Baptist Church. Jackson owns Thomas & Jackson Construction and is also a lay speaker at local churches.

Oren Fannin is retired, with more than 33 years of military service. He graduated from Troy University and is a lifelong resident of Pike County. Fannin was elected to the District 6 commission seat in 2009.

Stacy Graning contributed to this report.