Wednesday, July 27, 2011
Hinds County Board of Supervisors District 2 incumbent Democrat Doug Anderson has been occupying his spot since he first won election in 1993. The former Jackson State University math professor, state senator and representative is 72 years old, and still feels the fire to continue his time on the board.
These days, however, he is sometimes a man of few words—and it shows in this interview.
Why would you want to be involved with the Hinds County Board of Supervisors? You seem agitated at most meetings.
I feel that we have some unfinished work to do.
What's the work that needs doing?
I feel that the Byram Clinton project is of utmost importance.
(Editor's note: the "Byram Clinton project" is a proposed economic development corridor project that supervisors hope will link the cities of Byram and Clinton.)
I thought the other supervisors were already in accord with you on this project.
Yes, they are.
How far along is it?
We've got about $50 million.
Is this federal grant money?
How much do we need for the project?
About $100 million.
How do we raise that?
We get that from sales taxes.
So we'll have to make a bond to pay for it and pay it back with sales taxes?
That's the plan.
What's your take on the taxes argument? County residents say county employees need pay increases, but at the same time, they don't want their property taxes to get any higher.
We can raise the money by seeing what we can do to raise the money.
What does that mean?
What we've always tried to do: encourage business growth and encourage people to live here.
Do you feel that county employees need pay raises?
Even if it means tax increases?
I have not been an avid supporter of tax increases, but it's needed.
District 2 candidate David L. Archie, unlike the incumbent Anderson, has plenty to say, and says it constantly. The 47-year-old investor has run for numerous positions in Hinds County, including the positions of Ward 3 councilman, Ward 1 councilman and Jackson mayor. Archie has big plans, including bringing high-end businesses to Jackson to drum up tax revenue, and offering better benefits to Hinds County employees. Archie is a former detention officer with Hinds County Sheriff's office.
What's your attraction to the position of supervisor?
It's one thing to be a supervisor and frustrated, but look how many citizens in Hinds County who are frustrated about the things going on in the county in which they live and the county they love. They want better services and lower taxes. They expect them to balance the budget, take the money they're receiving to run this county and spend it wisely. We feel we're paying enough taxes, when compared to neighboring counties.
How do you balance the budget?
You balance the budget by finding ways to get companies to come into Hinds County and find ways to get more citizens to move into the area. We've got to have something to offer. We've got to make it a place where people want to come. When they bring new economic development, you get those tax benefits.
How do you coax business to reverse a trend and move back into the county?
Jackson and Hinds County is one of the best-kept secrets in the U.S. It's underdeveloped. We can take an area like Medgar Evers Boulevard, and create thoroughfares between the Jackson Medical Mall and (Interstate) 220, with Radio Shacks and Office Depots and Red Lobsters and Chili's (Bar and Grills). Everything they have on Lakeland Drive we could put it on a boulevard that's already there and got infrastructure.
What'll be your priorities?
Fondren pays a lot of money, but they don't get much service. They got $300,000 and $400,000 homes in that area. It's the highest (tax) paying area in the city, and they deserve better services. The present supervisor, to my understanding, hasn't serviced the area or been to the meetings there much in 10 years. I want them to know they will have a supervisor who will be with them and share their ideals to move forward.
Talk about taxes.
I'm not interested in raising taxes anywhere in Hinds County. I'm interested in working with senators, representatives, the council and the mayor to take the tax burden off the people and put it elsewhere. There are many folks who live outside the county who come in every day to work. We've got to find a way for them to pay their fair share.
The only way I'd vote for (a tax increase) is if the citizens say they want to raise taxes, but for me as supervisor I will not vote to increase taxes in Hinds County. Instead, I want to reduce the (cost of) car tags. We want to petition the governor and the Legislature to reduce (the cost of) car tags in Hinds County. You're buried in buying a new-car tag. They're so expensive, and that happens once every year. The other thing is when you reach the age of 62, (you) need to get a 20 percent reduction of (your) car tags in Hinds County.
Plenty. Hinds County employees have some of the worst benefits in terms of insurance. I want to have a better health-care plan for county employees. ... I won't vote for furloughs and lay-offs for Hinds County employees. Never.
Jackson real estate broker and home appraiser William Wright has a long history in politics. He served as the state's Election Bureau director under then-Secretary Dick Molpus, and was chief of staff under former U.S. Rep. Wayne Dowdy. He says he was the first African American from Mississippi to go to Washington to serve as chief of staff since Reconstruction. Wright is a former interim supervisor, who served in 1993 after Bennie Thompson won a seat as U.S. representative for District 2.
I'm asking this question of everybody: Why do you want to deal with the headache of being a supervisor?
Somebody needs to add some common sense and efficiency to Hinds County. I said I would dedicate myself to improving things. I think my highest priorities are just making people aware of what their supervisors do and to make this place more business friendly.
What's your highest priority?
I think we could be doing a better job of searching for grants from federal and state government. There are some people I can work with, like Bennie Thompson, Thad Cochran and some other people. Beyond that, I don't want to start talking about the budget because you need to sit down with the details before making accusations.
Everybody talks about county employees needing better pay, but they don't want to deal with higher taxes. Which side do you lean on?
That's a loaded question, but when you look at taxes, you've got to go in and make sure everybody that you have influence over is operating efficiently, and make sure there's no fat left to cut. A public-sector entity can never be like a private-sector corporation. When I campaign, and I talk to people, I tell them that you're electing five executives to run a huge public sector, so you'd better pick someone with experience.
But when I tell people that I'm running for supervisor, they'll say something like, 'Oh, yeah, that's Frank Bluntson and those people (confusing the Jackson City Council with the Hinds County Supervisors). They don't even know what a supervisor does. But a supervisor is to Hinds County what the mayor is to the city and the governor is to the state. Except the other two need advice or consent from either the city council or the Senate, but when the supervisors do it, it's just done. I don't think people know that.
I'm surprised at the people who run for supervisor. When you listen to them for three minutes, they've got no idea what the board does. You've got some of them; their bright idea is to bring in a Fortune 500 company to the inner city, or to reduce car tag costs with state money, as if the Legislature wouldn't have to agree to it.
So what's your take on taxes? Would be willing to raise them?
I will do my best not to raise taxes, but when you go down there to sit in that seat, you're dealing with fiscal government. I would make sure that the people in my district know what we're doing and know what we're up against, and then I would do it only if the people are standing with me on it.
In our representative form of government, that's how it should be. You don't get elected and then cram something down their throats that they don't want. But I won't do like some of these conservative candidates who say, "I promise you I will not raise taxes under any circumstances," because you don't know what's going to come up.
Democratic candidate Sam Cain did not return calls for this story.
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