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Candidates state positions in Advocate Q&A

On Tuesday, Butler County voters will head to the polls to cast their votes in the 2018 General Election. Along with several state candidates and new amendments on the ballot, there will also be local positions to be filled.

There are four local races and candidates in each are opposed. Voters will decide on circuit clerk, probate judge, sheriff and coroner.

The list of candidates running for sheriff includes Danny Bond, Jimmie Brown, Carlton Cook and write-in candidate Kelvin Mitchell.

For the position of probate judge, incumbent Steve Norman will take on independent candidate Paul Mitchell.

Another incumbent will have to face an opponent in the race for circuit clerk. Current circuit clerk Mattie Gomillion will take on the independent candidate Robert Blankenship.

Of all the races, the coroner’s position might be the most interesting. In June, Ollie Scott defeated incumbent Wayne Garlock in the Primary Election. Scott looked to be unopposed in the General Election until Garlock announced a write-in campaign in October.

The following five questions were given to each candidate that qualified, not write-in candidates. Each candidate provided answers to The Greenville Advocate. The candidate’s answers follow the order that their names appear on the Nov. 6 ballot.

Q: What inspired you to run for office?

Mattie Gomillion: I have been able to serve the citizens throughout my 18-year career working in the Circuit Clerk’s Office of Butler County, the past six years as your circuit clerk. I know it is necessary for the circuit clerk to have prior legal knowledge. I believe my professional experience, along with my values and knowledge in managing employees, working within a budget and leading an office make me the right candidate for the job, and I humbly ask you for the opportunity to serve this office as circuit clerk.

Robert Blankenship: I have a sincere and genuine desire to be of service to Butler County; the place I’ve lived my entire life. When the opportunity presented itself, I became highly motivated to run. A large part of that motivation lies in the fact that I am certain I can make a difference.

Steve Norman: I have been serving the citizens of Butler County all of my adult life, from my 28 years at Norman-Blackmon Motor Co. to my time as president of the Greenville Area Chamber of Commerce, Planning Commission member, City Council member, Mayor Pro-tem, current Board president of South Central Alabama Mental Health, past chairman and current board member of the Butler County Commission for Economic Development, current chairman of the Butler County Industrial Development Authority, to my position as Butler County Probate Judge. It has been and is my goal to serve my fellow citizens.

Paul Mitchell: I didn’t want Judge Norman to retire after running unopposed and have the Governor appoint someone to this position.

Carlton Cook: I am humbly seeking to become sheriff to first serve and protect the great citizens of Butler County and ​their ​property. I must say, we have wonderful, kind, concerned and faith-based citizens here in Butler County. ​Law enforcement serves them best by listening to their concerns and helping to solve problems.

I grew up here in the Pigeon Creak area and it is ingrained in me that Butler County can do better when it comes to law enforcement as an interactive participant in outreach efforts across communities and to bring accountability and transparency to the Department.

I have extensive law enforcement and military training that underscores my dedication to protect and serve with dignity, respect, while embracing family values as taught to me by my parents.

Danny Bond: Butler County is my home and I have lived here my entire life. I have the desire to serve Butler County – our entire county as sheriff. The citizens of Butler County deserve to have a sheriff that cares about this county and the people in it. I also have 30 years of law enforcement experience.

Jimmie Brown: My inspiration came from some of the Butler County citizens. The concerns of the citizens wanting a safer county, reinforced the desire to serve the people as, I have always during my law enforcement career of over 30 years. Butler County is my home and I want to do my part to make it safer.

Ollie Scott: I have worked with several funeral homes and I developed a passion for working with families during their time of bereavement. I am the owner of Scott’s Removal Service. When a loved one passes away, I am responsible for removing the body from the hospital, the nursing home, their home or anywhere else. I was inspired to run for coroner as an extension to the profession that I already love.

Q: If elected, what do you want to accomplish?

Mattie Gomillion: I am very passionate about the office and role that the clerks play in the judicial process. Our office is the starting place for individuals to access the courts, so it is extremely important to me that their interaction with our office is effective and efficient to their needs. I will continue to move the office forward with transparency, accountability and the integrity of the services provided. My extensive hands on experience, as well as my business knowledge, ability to lead, manage and motivate are just some of the skills I bring to the office every day.

Robert Blankenship: One of my goals is to make Butler County a better place to live; a place in which anybody would be proud to call home.

Steve Norman: I plan to continue to update the systems in the probate office to provide the best possible service to our citizens and to maintain a competent, courteous and professional staff, while administering fair and impartial elections in Butler County.

Paul Mitchell: I would like to have a building dedicated exclusively for vehicle registration, driver’s licenses, photo IDs, etc., where the citizens would be able to take a number and sit down in a comfortable environment while waiting to be assisted. I want to establish a satellite office near Georgiana where the citizens in that area can conduct probate business without having to drive to Greenville. Both would require hiring more employees.

Carlton Cook: Change the perception of the Sheriff’s Department to one of transparency and open books. To inspire officers ​to embrace the service model and become involved in community-based initiatives where we help solve ​problems, listen to local concerns and actively engage in prevention. We will wholeheartedly embrace the ​service model.

​To develop a Sheriff’s Department that is interactive with local citizenry, listening to their insights and ​concerns, help look after the elderly and to the ​extent possible, help families battling an alcohol or drug crisis ​by reaching out to treatment centers and other ​services.

As Sheriff, I will provide leadership premised on pursuing citizen engagement and involvement of all ​​stakeholders (business owners, churches, programs that support the elderly and, most importantly, ​mentoring to the youth with the determination to help them become self-sustaining adults.) We will ​be crime solvers, but equally as important participate in outreach initiatives and offer solutions that endeavor to prevent crimes especially when it come to the youth.

Remain committed to be an active participate with youth in mentoring and teaching junior and high school ​students instilling in them Christian values and personal responsibility. Establish firearms training for the community to help people with protection of their homes and other ​property. Work with city governments and county commissioners to establish safe recreational options for ​teenagers. They deserve more.

​Establish Quarterly Cyber Security Saturday where seniors can bring documents and papers to a central ​shredder to be destroyed. Cyber risk leads o financial risk. We will initiate programs to help the ​elderly protect their data.

Danny Bond: If elected, I want the department to be proactive instead of reactive. I plan to build a better working relationship with other departments in our county and plan to do so with professionalism and positive morale.

Jimmie Brown: During my campaign, I have spoken of bringing more training to the deputies, creating a volunteer citizens committee, the hiring of more personnel, putting a deputy in the school without a resource officer and senior safety program. Prioritizing is very important for the success and positive outcome for the community. Continued training is critical in law enforcement and is very necessary. I have been in contact with companies that provide law enforcement training, which are willing to provide training for department personnel.

Get personnel on board with one mission, to serve the Butler County community, with three things in mind: Assist, Defend and Protect.

Ollie Scott: If I am elected as coroner, I will be responsible for pronouncing an individual as deceased and investigating the circumstances surrounding a suspicious, violent or accidental death and determine the cause. Specifically, I will be responsible for conducting investigations to determine cause and mode of death. The coroner has its specific job description and if I am elected then I will perform all duties in a professional manner.

Q: What are the main challenges you feel the County faces?

Mattie Gomillion: I believe in cross-training and developing staff to ensure that our clerks are up to the task of serving you and promoting within. Providing access to our office even when we are not open, reducing the amount of foot traffic in the building and saving taxpayers time and money. I want to work to ensure that we integrate with other agencies reducing the redundancy of data entry and removing the manual process for our staff.

Robert Blankenship: Butler County is deeply challenged in the area of education. The clerk’s office must firmly place itself at the forefront of educating both internal and external customers. This will ensure a smooth flow of information as well as products and services provided to the public.

Steve Norman: County government in Alabama is hamstrung by the lack of revenue enhancement authority delegated to the County Commission by our Constitution.  Our county road system is deteriorating and the Commission is not able to provide the funding needed to properly maintain the rural roads and bridges in Butler County.

Paul Mitchell: Some people fear change and progression. I have witnessed the degradation of morals and conduct by some of our elected officials. We also face a situation where there are limited opportunities for certain segments of our community

Carlton Cook: Accountability and transparency in government, willingness to listen to the insights and concerns of the local tax paying citizenry.

​The Sheriff willingly and openly working with the district attorney, federal agencies, judges, the volunteer fire ​departments, EMS director and law enforcement in surrounding counties.

Inadequate parenting and inadequate parental involvement and Christian training in too many homes, especially after the elementary grades, which if left unabated, will begin to lower the quality of life for all.  This has a direct impact on crime prevention, crime resolution, incarceration rates, recidivism, and Economic Development. To truly protect and serve, we must be visibly interacting to uplift lives, listen to concerns, and help prevent problems as well as the alcohol and drug crisis and its impact on families, especially children and the grandparents that are stepping ​up.

​Lack of adequate funds to treat mental illness is also a significant issue.

The greatest need of the Sheriff’s Department is extensive collaborations with adjacent counties, state and federal agencies to stem the flow of drugs into Butler County.  Utilize all resources to reduce drug activity but at the same time establish outreach to drug recovery programs and agencies such as making more effective use of the initiatives offered by the Council on Drug Abuse.  We want to save families.  Lastly, is the need for all of us to live by example.

Danny Bond: Drugs are the biggest challenge that faces our county. Drug use leads to burglaries, theft and other destruction. We have to fight the war on drugs every day to ensure we have a safe county.

Funding is the second challenge that our county faces. In order to retain good employees, the Sheriff must be a good steward of taxpayer dollars and work with the county commission to obtain funding solutions.

Jimmie Brown: Speaking with a number of citizens, there is a great concern of drugs in the community. Drugs bring along a long list of other type of violent crimes, not limited to burglaries, theft and sometimes death to an innocent persons. There is also a concern of Civil Rights violations, such as unlawful search and seizure, racial profiling and others. To restore the community’s faith in the deputies that serve them, there is a need for a non-bias investigation into complaints of misconduct.

Ollie Scott: Interstate 65 runs through Butler County. Most traffic accidents that occur on the interstate are from people traveling outside of this county. One of the challenges is locating the next of kin to make arrangements for the shipment of their loved ones.

Q: If elected, what would be your first order of business?

Mattie Gomillion: If I am elected, it will be a seamless transition as I am already knowledgeable with all aspects of the clerk’s responsibilities, the judicial process, budgets and technology initiatives for customers and staff. I will focus on the fundamentals of court operations so that we continue to celebrate what we do well. I have overseen much progress in my tenure and I have been involved in our model technology program for the State of Alabama. We are very proud of our electronic filing system with the ability to process requests electronically from your home or office.

Robert Blankenship: My first order of business would be to obtain an accurate assessment of the needs of the public and county clerk’s office. My focus would be on gathering as much feedback as possible from those who work for and with the clerk’s office.

Steve Norman: Begin preparations for the upcoming Ad-Valorem tax election in January.

Paul Mitchell: My first order of business would be to educate myself in the way everyday operations are being conducted. I would also be searching for ways to improve the quality of services provided.

Carlton Cook: Conduct a financial and equipment audit. Then, share the findings with the public. Next, I will review or ​establish SOP’s (Standard Operating Procedures) for the Butler County Jail and Sheriff’s Department.

​Supervisors will be given the respect to do their jobs. As a department, we will become involved in community ​outreach especially as it relates to initiatives that help train our youth, and volunteerism.

Danny Bond: If elected, I will evaluate the department and look at each individual officer. I want the right person in the right position to maximize their potential. Public safety is a priority and to ensure the citizens of this county have the best quality of life possible, we will need to have the best department possible.

Jimmie Brown: My first order of business is to ensure the accountability of all departmental properties and ledgers. Accountability of county assets to the department is critical. This provides an avenue to look at how the budget can change and provide training or hire additional personnel, reducing the demand on current deputies and jail personnel.

I will do a complete evaluation of the departmental policies, personnel, contracts and other issues. The goal is to find the weak areas and strengthen them, ensuring better service to the community.

While it is important to the community to have more personnel available to respond to calls, I will personally invest in the community for the hiring of a new deputy if elected.

Ollie Scott: My first order of business will be to establish a procedure where the family of the next of kin will make the determination as to what funeral home the remains of their loved one will be released to. As the Butler County Coroner I will transition into the position and continue current practices without making any hasty changes. However, any changes made will be made in the best interest of all the citizens of Butler County.

Q: What do you want to accomplish in your first 90 days in office?

Mattie Gomillion: Continuation of the good service provided by the current staff; E-filing and E-records available to all attorneys, law enforcement and the general public.  I will not only safeguard your hard-earned tax dollars, but also offer my skillset and background to improve your Circuit Clerk’s Office; taking the office to a new level of efficiency, fiscal responsibility and service.

Robert Blankenship: We must shift the focus and the way we handle the business of the people, making the proper adjustments and modernizations for 21st century government. Enhancing the capabilities of the office will enhance the quality of the products the office will provide.

Steve Norman: Having been in office for nearly 16 years, I don’t know that the first 90 days of my next term will be anything other than a continuation of the accomplishments of my previous terms.

Paul Mitchell: Learn the job and build a relationship with the staff, commissioners and the public, to move the Probate Office in a direction that would better serve the citizens of Butler County.

Carlton Cook: I will establish collaboration between law enforcement agencies of Butler County by meeting with the Police ​Chiefs of Greenville, McKenzie, and Georgiana.  Establish bi-monthly meetings to discuss concerns, share ​information, and discuss prevention and mentoring efforts to encourage our youth to become productive self-​supporting citizens.

​Complete and share the financial audit of the Sheriff’s Department with the taxpaying citizens and the Press.

Establish an effective Training Plan to develop expertise in areas such as investigation, juvenile law, school safety and response to active environments whether weather or citizen endangerment.  To protect citizens and their property, I will employ well-trained officers who adhere to policy and procedures. We will effectively maintain successful crime prevention and resolution operations, and to timely execute criminal and civil processes.  Equally as important however, we will be visible in reaching out across communities and working to introduce or assist with programs and innovative solutions that help to uplift lives, prevent problems, and contribute positively to Economic Development.

The sheriff has the responsibility to also educate communities on law enforcement procedures to prevent misconceptions. ​Establish an effective Fire Arms Training Schedule to occur twice annually for all officers.

To better service local communities and build positive, trustworthy and genuine relationships between county law enforcement and communities throughout Butler County, I will establish two zones. The South End (Georgiana, McKenzie, Long Creek, Garland, Chapman, etc.) and a North-end servicing Greenville, Forest Home, Mt. Zion, Damascus, the Ridge, etc.  Officers will be required to take time to listen to the concerns and input from local citizens.

Continue to reach out and collaborate with business owners and the clergy.

Finally, as sheriff, I will provide leadership premised on pursuing citizen engagement and involvement ​of all stakeholders (business owners, churches, programs that support the elderly, and most ​importantly mentoring to the youth with the determination to help them become self-sustaining ​adults.

Danny Bond: In the first 90 days, I will evaluate the department and make sure the right employees are in the right positions. I also plan to evaluate the correctional facility including staffing, current equipment and solve any problems that may be present. In addition, I will also look for additional funding in order to ensure that each school in the county has a school resource officer.

Jimmie Brown: The assessment of the department, start to shore up weak areas and enhance the strong areas.  Put in to action the volunteer citizens committee; which will set the standards for the senior security program. The senior security program designed to help our seniors throughout the community that will need assistance.

Put into effect a recognition initiative, recognizing the deputies that go above, and beyond the call of duty to assist the citizens of Butler County.

Bring all Butler County law enforcement agencies together, to share information and solve crimes, reducing crime, countywide.

Look into starting a youth program, such as the Explorers program, to engage the youth that may want to become Law Enforcement officers or go on to other fields that require discipline and dedication.

Ollie Scott: I would like to acquire a refrigeration unit to hold remains of the deceased until transferred to desired location as recommended by the next of kin. By establishing a holding unit for the deceased, it will decrease the financial burdens of the family paying the cost to move their loved one from one funeral home to another.