County, national elections Tuesday

Published 12:00 am Saturday, October 30, 2004

On Tuesday, Butler County voters will step to the polls to do their part to elect one of the most important officers in the free world…the President of the United States. At the same time, residents of District 1 and 2 will make a decision involving one of the most important positions in local government. They will have the final say in who will represent them on the county commission.

Several issues will be considered before each voter casts their decision. One of the biggest will be the construction of a new jail.

Current District 2 Commissioner Jesse McWilliams said he is well aware this will be a topic of heavy discussion between now and Super Tuesday.

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&uot;Certainly the jail will be a key issue,&uot; said McWilliams. &uot;Improving our growth will also be big. WE want to improve our growth and make sure we do all the right things on that.&uot;

McWilliams said over the last four years the commission has done an outstanding job in creating revenue for the new jail. McWilliams said the county was in good financial shape to prepare for the new jail.

&uot;We have $1.3 million saved toward a new jail,&uot; said McWilliams. &uot;That comes from court costs, fees and it is money we have saved over a four year period. It is growing and looks very promising.&uot;

McWilliams said he has, in his four-year term, created positive relationships with other leaders and feels this would be very important toward making things happen if given a second term.

&uot;The county commission is funded by the State of Alabama. That means as a commissioner you have to have a good relationship with your State Senator, who is Wendell Mitchell and state Representative, who is Charles Newton,&uot; said McWilliams. &uot;You have to have a good relationship with them and keep them informed on how things are going. I feel like I have a good relationship with both of them.&uot;

McWilliams said city and educational officials must also maintain a strong relationship with the county commission.

&uot;You have to get out into the community,&uot; said McWilliams. &uot;It is important to keep a good relationship with other city officials and the Board of Education. I try to attend city council meetings and board meeting whenever I can to let them know I am there for them.&uot;

McWilliams said the most important people of all were the people of the district.

&uot;You have got to get out and see the people,&uot; said McWilliams. &uot;There are some things the commission can’t do for people. What you can do is get out there and let them see your face. You have to let the people know that you care about them and you are looking out for their best interest.&uot;

McWilliams said he has learned a lot during his tenure about the cohesiveness needed to properly run a county. He said he hopes to put this knowledge to work again for the people of his district.

&uot;The big key is working together,&uot; said McWilliams. &uot;You have got to work together for the common good. I hope for the last four years that is what I have done.&uot;

McWilliams will face opposition from Tom Crenshaw. Crenshaw agreed a new jail would be of the utmost importance.

&uot;I think the jail will be a very big topic,&uot; said Crenshaw. &uot;I think we should set a percentage of uor revenue to the side for the jail. I think if we can get more retail outlets to open here and encourage people to stay in Greenville and shop we will be in good shape.&uot;

Crenshaw said he would like to see opportunities to keep more money in the county instead of having residents drive to Montgomery.

&uot;A lot of people don’t spend a lot of money here,&uot; said Crenshaw. &uot;They go to Montgomery. Why? Because they have better shops there. People are going other places to shop and that is stealing revenue from us.&uot;

Crenshaw said he would like to see more retail outlets in Butler County to take advantage of the coming growth.

&uot;We have to encourage more retail sales here in Montgomery,&uot; said Crenshaw. &uot;We have one of the busiest intersections here on I-65 and I see no reason why we shouldn’t be trying to encourage more places to open here.&uot;

Crenshaw said most importantly, that keeping more revenue in Butler County would be a positive alternative to raising funds and would reduce the need for higher taxes.

&uot;&uot;If we can pull some of those shopping dollars from Montgomery I don’t think taxes will be the answer,&uot; said Crenshaw. &uot;You can tax people more and more until they won’t buy here in Greenville at all. The poor people of Greenville and Butler County are taxed just about to their limit. The only way they are going to get any money to spend is with more revenue.&uot;

The District 1 race will come between current Commissioner Gary Hanks and Republican challenger Jerry Hartin.

Both did not returns calls for this story.

Butler County voters who were asked about the election said they felt it would be an important decision for the people of their respective districts.

&uot;I believe it will be an important decision,&uot; said local voter Carol Simmons. &uot;I plan to vote on Tuesday.&uot;

Voter Tina Bell also said she planned to vote on Tuesday.

&uot;I do plan to vote,&uot; said Bell. &uot;I don’t know how important the election will be, but I will vote.&uot;

Dot Higdon, another Butler County voter, said she believed the commission race would be big for the county.

&uot;I am sure the election will be very important,&uot; said Higdon. &uot;Our county leaders are very important.&uot;

Voter Edna Thomas said she would vote on Tuesday. She also said she understood that commissioners were in a tougher situation that they once were.

&uot;Their hands are tied more so than they used to be,&uot; said Thomas. &uot;Those commissioners can’t do what once could for their constituents.&uot;

The biggest concern for most in Butler County is that few will vote. In this case, a few people will be making decisions for the majority. Officials are encouraging everyone who is eligible to go to the polls on Tuesday.