Candidates address seniors at Bogalusa forum

Published 8:38 am Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Editor’s note: This is the second part of a two-part story. Statements from candidates for mayor and City Council, District A were published in the Oct. 19 edition of The Daily News.

Fourteen candidates running in the Nov. 4 General Election participated in an election forum Monday morning at the Bogalusa Senior Center, an event sponsored by AARP and the Council on Aging.

Candidates were allotted two minutes to present opening and closing statements. Sandwiched in between were their answers to specific questions submitted before the forum began.

Candidates were asked their thoughts about the condition of city streets, upkeep of the Senior Center’s building and grounds, their take about the future of the city fire department, how to spur business and how they could assist senior citizens.

Mayoral candidates who attended included incumbent Charles Mizell. and City Council Vice President Wendy O’Quin Perrette. City marshal candidates who were there included incumbent John Sumrall, Mike Garic and Dewitt Williams. City Council District A candidates were incumbent Penny Williams and Gloria Kates, while District B candidates were newcomers Justin Arnold, Emma Dixon and Keith Merrill. District C candidates were incumbent Oneita Graham, while Sherry Fortenberry and Derik Thompson represented District E. Teddy Drummond, running for councilman at large, was also present. He currently represents District D.

City Council, District B

Michael O’Ree is not running, so four newcomers are running. They are Justin Arnold, Emma Dixon, Keith Merrill and Tamira Moss-Smith.

Arnold and Dixon qualified to run for District B, but it was later learned that they live in District C under the new redistricting plan. A lawsuit concerning the redistricting snafu has been filed.

Justin Arnold

“It’s time for us to make a change. We need money in this town,” Arnold said. “If we can get some revenue, we can deter some of this killings going on. All I know to do is what’s right. I want to serve everybody.”

On street conditions: “Revenue is the solution. In order to fix these roads, we must have jobs. We shouldn’t have to go to Baton Rouge and beg for money.”

On the Senior Center: “Ya’ll deserve respect and have a lot of wisdom. This building will be maintained on my watch.”

Emma Dixon

Dixon is president of the local AARP chapter.

“I’ve been labeled a newcomer. I moved to Bogalusa in 2009 and worked to improve the neighborhood. It’s important to show people I have a history of leadership. I have a passion and a love for Bogalusa. I am working on local, state and federal levels to make sure there are no cuts to Social Security.”

On streets: “As a seasoned, professional grant writer, I hope to identify grants that don’t require match money. We need to look at more progressive ways of doing things in Bogalusa.”

On the Senior Center: “There is a special tax for this building. I hope we can keep the funding for the purpose is intended.”

Dixon said she believes in Bogalusa.

“We’re facing challenges,” Dixon said. “We’ll find an answer to identify the problems. My slogan is ‘Ignite Progress.’ I’ll do everything I can to make Bogalusa better and ignite progress.”

Keith Merrill

“About four years ago I ran for the at-large seat and gained a lot of experience,” Merrill said. “I have a strong desire to help the people of Bogalusa. I see what Bogalusa can become. It’s called a vision. I want to bring about more recreational activities and an activity center. If I’m elected, I won’t forget the people who voted for me. I want the people to hold me to a higher standard.”

On roads: “If elected, I would work with the mayor and Council to get private, state or other funding options.”

On the Senior Center: “I would try to encourage volunteers of District B to come here and volunteer. You lead by example. Senior citizens will be my top priority. I have a strong desire to help Bogalusa. I vow that I will try and support ordinances to support the Senior Center and distribute a quarterly newsletter on my performance.”

City Council, District C

Oneita Graham is the incumbent.

“Everything I’ve done before on the Council, I’ve thoroughly studied it,” Graham said. “We’ve been building the foundation. Anytime I cast a vote, I’m trying to do what’s best for everyone.”

On roads: “There was a four mill tax citizens vote on themselves. Two mills went to Recreation and two mills went to this Senior Center building. It’s been paid off. The grounds are kept up by the city.”

City Council, District E

Candidates Sherry Fortenberry and Derik Thompson attended the Forum. They will be opposed by J.E. Magee, Ronald Penton and Edward Sartin. At 28, Thompson is one of the youngest candidates running. Incumbent Randy Hodges is not running.

Sherry Fortenberry

“We’ve been talking a lot about grants. My daughter is a grant writer, so I’ve been asking her about grants. I’m focused on the future. I want to make a difference. It will take a community to get things done. I want to make this whole town a safer place to live.”

Derik Thompson

“I graduated from Annunciation in 2000 and Bogalusa High School in 2004, and received my Bachelors degree in 2009. I am currently the Technology Coordinator and Media Specialist at Annunciation School. I introduce new technology to our youth and help with childhood literacy through reading. I am also a graphic designer at Bert Burrs Studio and also a fitness instructor at H.L. Brownstone.”

Thompson said the city needs fresh ideas.

“I would like to bring back the neighborhood aspect of the town. Let’s clean up our streets, properties and communities. Bogalusa needs real change.”

On roads: “We definitely need infrastructure work like roads and drainage. I would love to help find resources to build new roads and sidewalks and safer bridges. The two bridges on either side of Walmart are dangerous to pedestrians. I would like to work with the city with finding new solutions and ideas to help achieve this by bringing in new businesses and helping keep our youth here to help build up our tax base.”

City Council, At-Large

Teddy Drummond currently represents District D but is running for an at-large seat in the upcoming election. He will be opposed by Presious Johnson, Shawn Ratliff and Council President Doug Ritchie.

Teddy Drummond

“I’ve lived in two houses in Bogalusa over my 54 years,” Drummond said. “Best part of the Council is helping people and explaining specifics of an ordinance to people.”

On roads: “Justin’s right in that we need to keep our money here. We’ve got to fix what’s broken so people want to live here. You have to roll up your sleeves and get involved.”

City Marshal

Incumbent John Sumrall will be opposed by Mike Garic, Dewitt Williams Jr. and Willis Yarbrough.

John Sumrall

“I’m a retired Bogalusa police officer and retired in 2007 as Captain,” Sumrall said. “The Marshal’s Office is a well-run machine. I want to serve for the next six years as a duly elected marshal. I’ve dedicated my adult life to law enforcement. My door is always open.”

Dewitt Williams Jr.

“I did some research, and I was amazed the definition of a senior citizen is 60 years old,” Williams said. “The 4th Ward is over 37 percent senior citizens. You’re a huge voice in this election. I want to get involved in this community. Youth and seniors are the most vulnerable, and I want to work with them. I’m asking you to put some thought into this election. You want a candidate who not only is qualified, but committed.”

Mike Garic

“I’ve worked on the Bogalusa Police Department for the last 15 years,” Garic said. “I would bring hard work and exuberance to the job. You have to bring compassion and to the job, and I think I can do that. I’ve always been active in the community. I’ve always been fair and impartial, and I will be the same as marshal. Even when I’m resting, I’m thinking of ways I can help you.”

Clarification: District A candidate Gloria Kates said some of her statements were misrepresented ortaken out of context. She offered the following:

“This is part of my opening statement: I would like to develop Neighborhood Associations where continuetes can join, I would consider this a partnership as their representative, that way a voice at city call. I would like to explore children activities in the arts, sports and music. I have reviewed AARP’s voting concerns and find that Medicare and Social Security are concerns, These are on a higher legislative level, however, I would like to strengthen the programs AARP and Counsel on Aging has in place, such as Meals on Wheels and caretaking, etc.

On the road issue: As a Federal Service retiree and veteran I travel the roads as well. I have monitored roads and safety issue on the campaign trail. As listed in last Friday’s newspaper. These have been a concern for a long time and I believe in the grant process, and if we have the opportunity to apply for fully loaded grants to assist.

On the Senior Center: First I would like to review the center’s operational plan. My platform includes to nurture and develop volunteers. I would like to educate the volunteers on the mission of AARP and this building.

Closing: I believe that my business experience over 25 years of Federal Service, and locally I was employment Manger of Service Zone back in the early 2000s , my educational experience with a masters in Business Administration and Undergrad in Psychology and Criminal Justice, and I also believe that my army experience, being a disabled veteran has prepared me to be an very very effective council person. My role would be to promote your concerns and your interest as constuients in the District. I have also volunteered to help people down through the years . I can also attempts to find applicable programs that may reduce (on the local level) your drug cost as well as the care of the elderly. I am very concerned about the elderly. I believe the elderly vote is important because on the campaign trial I have initiated and submitted several absent tee ballots for our elderly being concerned that their vote is heard.”