Forum provides pulpit for candidates

Published 8:38 am Friday, August 22, 2014

By Randy Hammons

The Daily News

Thirteen candidates for political office offered their views during Saturday afternoon’s Community Voter’s Council Election Forum. The temperature was just as hot as some of the questions posed to the candidates.

The Election Forum started an hour later than the advertised noon starting time so many of the candidates could attend funeral services for local businessman Greg Genco. The Election Forum, on South Columbia Street in front of The Daily News, wrapped up at 3:30 p.m.

Qualifying for all local races is Aug. 20-22. Candidates who took part in Saturday’s Election Council included those in the race for Bogalusa mayor, City Council and marshal. Candidates were allowed to field questions from citizens.

Incumbent Mayor Charles Mizell is expected to be opposed by City Council Vice President and Councilwoman At-Large Wendy Perrette and minister Tina Ratliff. All three spoke at the forum.

City Council District B candidates who appeared included retired city Public Works employee Justin Arnold Sr., Resthaven Living Center Social Services Director Tamira Moss-Smith and Metropolitan Baptist Church Associate Pastor Keith Merrill. Emma Dixon has indicated she will run, but did not attend the forum. The District B incumbent is Michael O’Ree, who has said he will not seek re-election.

City Council District A hopeful and disabled U.S. Army veteran Gloria Kates attended the forum as did at-large candidate Presious Johnson and District E candidate Sherry Fortenberry. Penny Williams is the District A incumbent, while the District E incumbent is Randy Hodges. Council President Doug Ritchie holds an at-large seat. District D Councilman Teddy Drummond spoke Saturday, as well, but no opposition to Drummond has announced.

Marshal candidates who appeared were 4th Ward incumbent John Sumrall and 4th Ward opponents Dewitt Williams and retired Bogalusa Police Department officer Mike Garic. Willis Yarborough has also indicated he will vie for Ward 4 marshal.

Bogalusa Mayor

Charles Mizell

“I have an administration that has been supported by a great Council,” Mizell said. “It’s like an armored truck going through Bogalusa throwing out $100 bills. We came in to work hard and educate. We understand where we are and where we’re going. There are a lot of things we didn’t accomplish. You’ll never hear me say anything bad about Wendy Perrette. She loves Bogalusa. Yes, I want to be your Mayor.”

Mizell listed his accomplishments as acquiring Walmart and an improved downtown and Cassidy Park.

“I’m going to work hard and be in the race,” Mizell said. “Everybody thinks I hate (City Council regular attendee) Fate (Farrell). I love Fate. Our responsibility is to do what we can with this city.”

Mizell was asked about a retirement fund for city workers.

“Finances for this city have been kicked down the road for a long time. We have addressed the problem in the budget for a long time, long before I came into office,” Mizell said. “In accounting, you have the luxury of some creative accounting. We have addressed the issue of retirement. The deficit is still less than it was when I came in in 2010. Police Department retirement is sound and solid. The city’s retirement is sound and safe right now.”

Wendy Perrette

“Perrette has worked with the Council for 12 years. She said it’s all about improving Bogalusa.

“I have served and promised to bring honesty and integrity to the Council,” Perrette said. “I want a better Bogalusa, and that is why I’m running for mayor.”

Perrette taught school for 15 years in the Bogalusa School System.

“My intentions are to have a fair playing ground. I’ve worked on the Council with different personalities,” Perrette said. “I don’t have time to lie to you, and I’m not going to sugarcoat anything. We haven’t had a female mayor, but a woman can do this job. I feel like we’re paying too much for water. I believe we can save $200,000 the next three years in bonds to buy into the state retirement system so we don’t go bankrupt No city should have to fund their own retirement system.”

Tina Ratliff

Ratliff is pastor of Fully Committed Ministry. She said the city has failed to divide up funding equally among the five districts.

“I need to be mayor of Bogalusa,” Ratliff said. “If you look at all five of the districts, you’ll see where the funding for recreation goes. That is District D and E. The hospital and library are in District D and they want to move Walmart from D to E. The biggest problem is the mill. Our kids have to walk around it to get basic necessities. It’s a long way for kids to walk.”

Ratliff suggested the library be moved to another location from its Avenue F location.

“We need the library on this side of town,” Ratliff said. “Everything we need shows it’s a lopsided city. The City owns too much property in all our neighborhoods. If they won’t clean it up, then sell it.”

Ratliff said she would also like to see a mall come to the city.

City Council

District B

Justin Arnold Sr.

“The reason I decided to run was that I see a need in the community for more jobs, fixed roads and (a reduction in) blighted property,” Arnold said. “People ought to say hello to their neighbor when they come out of the house.”

A 1985 Bogalusa High School grad, Arnold said he will be able to work with the administration.

“We must keep our revenue here and not send our dollars to St. Tammany,” Arnold said. “We have to have something for our children to do. I want to be the voice for District B. You’ve got to be proactive. I can work with the administration we’re going to have.”

Tamira Moss-Smith

Moss-Smith is a former social worker and teacher. Her platform includes extensive road repair, litter abatement and removal of blighted property.

“I’m willing to serve you with honor, dignity and respect,” Moss-Smith said. “I will not lie to you. We are all here because we love our community. I’m willing to make a change. I would be willing to work with Code Enforcement.”

Keith Merrill

“My goal is to do something for our youth in District B,” Merrill said. “I would like to see a youth center in the district and would like to meet with officials to come up with a strategy after I’m elected. I’ve had people grooming me for this.”

District A

Gloria Kates

Kates is a published poet and songwriter. She has a master’s degree in business administration from Missouri’s Lindenwood University.

“I’d like to explore economic opportunities in the district, talents of volunteers and the grant process applicable to the city,” Kates said. “I believe in neighborhood associations. There needs to be a practical approach to decision-making done by researching the pros and cons. My goal is to make sure District A is taken care of.”

District E

Sherry Fortenberry

Fortenberry said she has lived in the district for 49 of the 50 years she has been married.

“I love our district. I want the district to be safe for kids. Our roads are in deplorable condition. I have called (Code Enforcement officer) Rodney McGehee and Public Works Director James Hall and have gotten results.”

District D

Teddy Drummond

“We’ve fought blight, but it’s a long, drawn-our process,” Drummond said. “We’ve fought litter from day one. We’ve got to change the mindset. We’ve all got to get involved.”

Council At-Large

Presious Johnson

Johnson is a forklift driver at International Paper. She also works with youngsters at Blessed Be-On Measure Youth Center. Johnson said she believed she could bring the citizens together.

“The purpose of my running is that I’ve watched some things happen and feel I can make a difference,” Johnson said. “My main purpose is to unite our community because we are divided in so many ways. If we had perfect roads, we’d still have issues.”

Johnson said she would like to explore grants that could aid the city.

“There are several billion dollar grants available through HUBZone,” Johnson said. ”Water bills are a problem. (Politics) is not rocket science. It is something you can do if care about people.”


John Sumrall

Sumrall started with the Bogalusa Police Department in 1983 and retired as a captain in 2007.

“I know the marshal’s office inside and out,” Sumrall said. “I’m qualified and want to continue to serve as I have the last eight years.”

Dewitt Williams Jr.

“I don’t have any law enforcement experience, but I do have a strong business background,” Williams said. “A marshal’s job is to execute orders passed down by judges. I’m learning a lot about the office.”

Williams has 26 years experience working with Fortune 500 companies.

“I’ve reached the point in my life where I want to give back,” Williams said. “I will be here to serve you. This is an opportunity to serve the people of the 4th Ward, and that is my goal.”

Mike Garic

“I am experienced in courtroom procedure and experienced and qualified to do the job,” Garic said.

Garic worked with the Bogalusa Police Department for 15 years.