Political forum introduces local candidates to public
STANFORD – Only 10 of the 31 local candidates on the Nov. 8 election ballot participated in the countywide political forum in Stanford Monday night.
The turnout from community members was worse, with only a handful showing up to meet and hear from candidates.
The event, hosted by WPBK-FM radio and The Interior Journal, invited all candidates and community members to gather at the local extension office for a Meet and Greet followed by a forum, during which each candidate gave a brief introduction and description of their experience with public service.
With no candidates from the Hustonville City Council race or the Crab Orchard City Commission race in attendance, six incumbents on the Stanford City Council and one write-in candidate were called individually in order of their appearance on the Nov. 8 ballot.
Incumbent City Councilman John Sallee was born and raised in Lincoln County and is a Vietnam veteran, retiring from the U.S. Navy after 25 years.
Sallee said he has enjoyed his time on the city council which he believes has worked well with the mayor and other city officials to make good decisions for the city.
“I would like to stay on the city council and continue to make Stanford the safe, clean place that it is, keep it that way and move forward,” he said.
Naren James, also an incumbent city council member, has been living in the Stanford community for almost 20 years and his interest in public service began about 10 years ago, he said.
It’s personal faith that moves James to serve the public in various capacities he said, quoting two religious verses that describe the selflessness and humility in serving others.
“I think those two come together and drive me in terms of my medical profession and especially in public service,” James said.
A large project that James said he had a key hand in was the Lincoln County Public Library, which he said was quite an undertaking for the City of Stanford.
Currently, James is involved with the local health board and Lincoln County Ambulance Board, which he said has been somewhat controversial at times.
“I can assure you that the intent is to improve the ambulance service,” he said. “A few nights ago after a contentious ambulance board meeting, I drove into my garage and said ‘why am I doing this?’ It occurred to me that somewhere down the line there will be a three-year-old or a four-year-old that will be sick and call an ambulance and I”m going to go to bed knowing that I made a contribution to make a better ambulance service.”
James said he looks forward to serving a second term on the city council and tackling issues like road maintenance, abandoned properties and snow removal.
Incumbent Sara Givens was the first African American woman to be elected to the Stanford City Council
In addition to serving on the city council, Givens is a member of the Boneyville Baptist Church, the Lincoln County Educational Fund Executive Board, the Democratic Women’s Club, Fort Logan Foundation, Dr. Martin Luther King celebration and is a former president of the South District Association.
Givens, also a Kentucky Kernel, said her passions include reading, writing, singing, speaking, traveling but especially writing Sara’s Notes for The Interior Journal for over 40 years.
“On Nov. 6, 2013, I retired and became interested in the welfare of the city that I have lived in all of my life,” Givens said. “I became the first elected African American woman to take a seat on the city council in 2014 thanks to Eddie Carter, the mayor.”
Givens said serving on the council is an honor and privilege.
“Tonight I solicit your votes on Nov. 8 so that I can continue to be a voice for you,” she said. “If elected, I will continue to bring a sense of pride, integrity, honesty and a desire to serve.”
“I have been in public service all of my life,” Deatherage said. “I recently retired from the Lincoln County Board of Education where I was a teacher, a basketball coach and a football coach. I was an elementary principal, a transportation director, an operations director and a food service director. My last job was chief deputy of support systems.”
Deatherage said a moment of pride for him was when he was the food services director.
“We took a program that was in the red and were able to turn it around and make it in the black,” he said. “Not only that, but we were also able to bring free lunches and breakfast and supper to every student in Lincoln County. That was a big achievement. We had students who that was the best meal they got during the day.”
After serving his first term on the city council, Deatherage said he hopes to continue the work they have started.
“We as a council have been able to achieve several objectives over the last two years,” he said. “We were elected to bring transparency back to your city government – we have done that. We were elected to make the City of Stanford a better and safer place for all of our residents and we’re making great (strides) in doing that as well.”
Deatherage said Stanford has a strong police force, an up-to-date police force and the city has brought in several new businesses for good paying job opportunities for the community.
“We are constantly being proactive in improving the water lines and roadways in our community,” he said. “This council does an excellent job of discussing all sides of an issue without any hidden or personal agendas.”
Deatherage enjoys his position on the council because he is able to give back to the community which he has lived in his entire life.
“I am proud to serve on the council,” said Scottie Ernst. “My fellow council members kid me sometimes about how I’m kind of the senior council member… and I’m proud of that. I’m proud that you, the citizens of this town, have given me the encouragement and have the confidence in me to allow me to serve on the council for a few years.”
Ernst said the current council has accomplished a lot in the last two years.
“In the previous administration there was dissension, there was nothing getting done. So it’s refreshing,” he said.
Ernst said he is proud of the city’s fire and police departments, which he believes are second-to-none.
Cleaning up abandoned and blighted properties has been a focus of the current council and Ernst said members have been working hard to address those issues in a fair and legal way.
“We have discussed our ordinances here in the last couple of months and we need to update those. They are either outdated or some that need amendments to them to be more in line with today,” he said.
Ernst encouraged everyone to get out on Nov. 8 to vote.
Peggy Hester has been on the ballot for three consecutive years for the same city council seat and this year she is hoping to keep that seat.
“My priorities in this upcoming year would be, as Scottie said, to make sure that our abandoned properties and our city streets and all of our properties in town are cared for and up to code,” Hester said. “We have ordinances that cover these issues and I’d like to see us enforce those to the letter.”
Hester said no one can dispute the beauty of downtown Stanford.
Another priority for Hester in the upcoming year, if reelected, is strengthening the efficiency of city boards by requiring the chairmans of each board to attend the city’s regular monthly council meetings.
“When we do that, if we do that, we’ll have a report of what’s gone on that month and we’ll all be on the same page,” she said. “Everyone will know exactly where they stand.”
Updating ordinances is also a priority for Hester, she said.
Hester said most of her family lives in the community and she wants them to be as proud of the community as she is today.
“I want them to stay here. I want them to have employment here. I want them to be citizens of this community and be upstanding in this community. To do that, we have to focus on more than just Main Street,” Hester said.
Twyla Thomas, a write-in candidate for Stanford City Council, said she has lived in Stanford for several years and is currently a pretrial officer in Lincoln County.
“I do love this little county that I live in,” Thomas said.
Thomas said she is a native of Casey County and Stanford is her first experience living in a city.
“Our streets are beautiful. Stanford is a very lovely place and I do enjoy living here,” she said.
Thomas said she works well with other people and looks forward to the opportunity of working with some of the current council members.
School Board Race
Incumbent Denny Hogue has lived in Lincoln County for most of his life and highlighted several of the issues that he as a school board member has had a hand in deciding.
Hogue said he was on the board when the Kings Mountain Memorial School closed and helped to keep the property in the hands of the county to be used for educational and recreational things.
“That was one of the things I was involved with. I had to convince two other board members to vote to not sell it but to let the county have a quarry for county use,” Hogue said.
Other things Hogue was involved with was the track so a track program could be developed, a building with restrooms, dressing rooms and concessions for the soccer programs, as well as replaced the concrete ramps. Hogue also mentioned the fire that destroyed the early childhood center in 2014 and how the board worked together to find a solution and now is overseeing the construction of a 20,000 sq. ft. building to accommodate those students.
“There are many things that have been done and i”m not trying to say I took the lead on all of this but it took the majority of three to do these things and I’m proud of what we accomplished,” Hogue said.
Hogue said after being on the school board for 12 years he brings experience and knowledge of school board regulations and leadership to the seat.
“I have learned a lot and I’ve tried to utilize what I’ve learned to make the best decisions,” he said.
Jeremy Gilliam, a local pastor and farmer, said his interest in running for public office didn’t occur until he and his wife adopted their daughter from China.
“Two years ago, I was all the way across the world in China adopting our daughter Erica,” Gilliam said. “She was seven years old, weighed 30 pounds. She was very malnourished, she has cerebral palsy and is developmentally delayed.”
Through his experience with his daughter, Gilliam said he has learned the ins and outs of special education in Lincoln County and what it takes to educate special needs children.
“My eyes, I feel, have been opened to several things. I want to be a voice for our children’s needs and especially the needs of our children who have special needs and their families,” he said.
Gilliam said his family moved from Garrard to Lincoln County, specifically Crab Orchard, three years ago.
“My desire is to work on behalf of all of our children to ensure them a brighter future,” he said. “I understand that buildings and upkeep of properties and maintenance are necessities, at the same time knowing that the primary responsibility of the school board is to balance the budget and keep with state policy.”
Gilliam said his desire is to see the district place the needs of children above the properties and buildings.
“They are our future speakers at events like this. I want to work with my community, Crab Orchard and Broughtontown, and work with parents and staff and see that we have an educational system that produces children who grow up to change the world that they live in,” Gilliam said.
Theresa Long is unopposed in her race for the District 3 seat but introduced herself to the public Monday night and talked about some of the tougher issues that the school board has to tackle.
“At the time that I came along, things were a little bit hairy. We had a low performing school, we had some elementary schools that were seriously being looked at. We’ve had the fire. We’ve had the bus wreck,” Long said. “A lot of decisions have had to be made. Some were very hard and some we had to base on budgetary reasons.”
Long said she believes the school district is on an uphill stretch now, though.
“Things are looking really good in our school district. Like Ronnie Deatherage stated, we have free meals for students in every school and it’s wonderful to know that the children are going home with their bellies full,” Long said.
As a board member, Long said there are several misconceptions on what the board actually does.
“Our job is to work closely with the superintendent,” Long said. “The superintendent is the one who does the day-to-day, making sure things are proceeding through the school district.”
Responsibilities of the school board include adopting the school calendar, set the graduation requirements, adopt a discipline code, expel students if needed, hire the superintendent, adopt various policies, levy taxes and grant leave of absence for employees.
“There is no authority in one individual board member,” Long said. “We all have to work together. Like Denny said, sometimes it takes three votes out of the five of us to make something happen. There are times that we really have to do a lot of research on something that’s going to affect our whole school district and the children in our district.”
The children are what it’s all about at the end of the day, Long said.