Incumbents face primary opposition

Published 12:00 am Saturday, April 3, 2004

With Friday’s qualifying deadline passing, the race for the Democratic primary is officially underway.

By 5 p.m. Friday the commission races had filled out considerably with a few new additions.

District I

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Incumbent Commissioner Gary Hanks, who is completing his second term will face two challengers in the primary. His listed occupation is surveyor.

His first challenger on the ballot is Margaret Pierce, of Greenville, who is retired. She is currently president of a citizen action group working to change Pioneer Electric Cooperative.

Pierce gained political noteworthiness when she was a finalist on Gov. Don Siegelman’s short list of probate judge appointees after J. MacDonald Russell won the district judgeship.

The second candidate is Charles R. DeShields, of Forest Home, who is also retired.

The top Democrat in June will then face Republican Jerry Hartin, of Georgiana, who qualified under that party’s rules.

District II

It appeared incumbent Commissioner Jesse McWilliams, a local Greenville business owner, would face no opposition in the primary.

However, according to John Hall of the Democratic Executive Committee, Leroy Johnson Sr. qualified at approximately 4:30 p.m. Friday.

Johnson is a former commissioner, who was defeated in the last primary by McWilliams.

The winner of the race in June will face Independent Tom Crenshaw, who is a farmer in the Greenville area.

District III

Local attorney Frank Hickman will run for his first full term on the county commission.

Hickman was appointed by Gov. Don Siegelman to replace the late Joe Hendrix.

Facing Hickman will be local Greenville farmer Gene Gibson and former commissioner Vernon Herring, a machine shop supervisor.

District IV

Currently, Daniel Robinson looks as though he will have his race all to himself on June 1. If no opposition comes forward before the General Election, Robinson will keep his place on the board.

District V

Glenn King, a poultry farmer and business owner from McKenzie has qualified to run in the primary against incumbent Commissioner William Phillips.

People’s pulse

When you ask locals what they want out of their commission, they are quick to answer they want a group of people working together to better Butler County.

&uot;I just want someone to make sure that the streets are safe and everything is in order,&uot; said Sheila Crenshaw. &uot;We just want someone to look out for us.&uot;

Stella Owens, another concerned citizen, said that proper placement of road signs was a big concern.

&uot;We need to have them where we need them,&uot; said Owens. &uot;In order to be a good commissioner they need to keep up with things like that to keep the roads safe.&uot;

Willie Bailey said he wants to quit hearing some commissioners speaking ill of other local officials.

&uot;You’ve got some commissioners who are so against change, that they hurt us more than help us,&uot; he said.

&uot;Those who can’t work with the other commissioners need to leave their personal agendas at home.

They’re aren’t in there to push those agendas.

They are in there for us.&uot;

Commissioner’s Job

Those who come out on top face many responsibilities.

Commissioners take jurisdiction over the establishment, change, or discontinuance of roads, bridges, causeways and ferries within the county, except as otherwise may be provided by the law.

They are also the governing body that pays the bills of the county and are supposed to maintain funds to do just that.

They are paid $19,745.44 annually for a position that some consider part time.

While on the job they are entitled to share a single county vehicle that is also shared with other county offices. This vehicle is only to be used in relation to the duties of the commissioner or other county officials.

Commissioners may also be provided a cellular phone by the county.

However, this is not a requirement.

District Attorney

The race for the Second Judicial Circuit’s District Attorney covers three counties, including Butler, Crenshaw and Lowndes counties.

Incumbent District Attorney John Andrews will face local Greenville attorney Charlotte Tesmer in the June 1 primary.

Andrews was appointed to the position after longtime DA Van Gholston retired.

Tesmer served many years under Gholston as an assistant district attorney.

Chief Law Enforcer

The district attorney is the top law enforcement officer for the circuit. He or she is responsible for prosecuting the accused and bringing justice to the victims.

Protect the Public

When asked what they wanted from their DA, several people said they wanted protection from criminals.

&uot;We want to know that they are going to do their job to keep the people safe,&uot; said Andrea Crenshaw. &uot;We want someone to do a good job to prosecute the people that need to be.&uot;

State funding

The salary for each district attorney is set by the state, which pays not only the officer but also any employees of the circuit’s DA’s office.

The district attorney handles all prosecutions for the county and circuit.

What’s Next?

The next big step in the elections will come on April 7.

On that day, the local political party chair will certify the names of those qualified to run in the primary. This certification goes to Alabama Secretary of State’s office and Probate Judge Steve Norman’s office.