Supervisor candidates talk growth, leadership
On Tuesday, four Democratic candidates vying for two Lafayette County Board of Supervisor seats will head to the polls in the runoff election.
The EAGLE asked the candidates a variety of questions regarding growth, transportation, qualifications and more.
In District 1, local attorney Kevin Frye will take on Randy McCluskey, a wastewater treatment plant supervisor for the city of Oxford.
Whoever wins Tuesday will face Republican candidate Ricky Babb and Independent candidate Brian Hyneman in November.
In District 3, John W. Adams will take on Dale Timothy Gordon. Whoever wins will face Republican candidate David Rikard and Independent candidate Zach Carey.
One of the biggest campaign topics this election has been the growth in Lafayette County and how candidates expect to work with the other supervisors in controlling it.
“We cannot continue to sit back and watch unmanaged growth erode the place we all love,” Frye said. “Today, Lafayette County has no current and comprehensive roadmap for the future. My plan is to begin a community-led strategic planning process, and I have the leadership experience and skills necessary to make that plan a reality.”
Frye believes a strategic plan should set short-term and long-term goals for the community and define an image for how residents want the community to look like in the future.
“It should evaluate and make recommendations relating to infrastructure, such as roads and bridges, but also public facilities, land use planning, affordable housing and economic development. Managing growth requires a comprehensive strategy, and a smart and responsible strategic plan will be our roadmap for the future,” Frye said.
McCluskey says he has watched the county grow and expand with great success while working in the community for 32 years.
“With the continued growth of our county, we must work to make sure our infrastructure can handle and support the rapid expansion of homes and businesses,” he said.
McCluskey said safety must go hand-in-hand when deciding how to control growth.
“With a planned infrastructure, we can ensure safe access to businesses and homes,” he said. “Growth should be controlled and managed with the best interests of our residents in mind. We want our county and communities to be inviting to our new residents and industries while keeping the integrity of Lafayette County at the forefront.”
John W. Adams said growth in the county is inevitable and residents will play a major role in how it’s managed.
“We all hope for growth in county, growing rapidly every day,” he said. “The citizens can control it. It’s all over the county and city. They are going to control how things are built. Supervisors and citizens own the properties. They are the ones who determine who they sell to and who buys what and where things will be built.”
Dale Timothy Gordon believes the city of Oxford, the University of Mississippi and the county must work together to ensure proper growth.
“You can’t stop growing, you can’t send people away,” he said. “If we sit down and look at the bigger picture together, maybe we can come up with a few good ideas to get a handle on the issue.”
When it comes to expanding transportation in the county, McCluskey said the county should concentrate on its elderly population.
“Lafayette County already supplies elderly transportation through RSVP,” he said. “There is always room for expansion in the area of public transportation.”
Frye turned his answer toward the need for more and improved roads in areas where rapid growth and development has already caused traffic problems.
“One of many advantages in having a completed strategic plan is that it will allow the board to proactively address transportation issues in areas where future development is expected, rather than reacting to traffic problems after they have already appeared,” Frye said.
Gordon said he would like to see an expanded form of public transportation in the county.
“We have a lot of traffic during football season, and we have made leaps and bounds of road improvements there, but expanding Highway 7 North in Abbeville to a four-lane road, in my opinion, would vastly improve traffic congestion as well,” he said. “The county should definitely explore options for offering an effective public transportation network to its residents.”
Adams also believes the focus of public transportation should be on the county’s aging population.
“We need to make sure transportation for the elderly and disabled is kept up and improved,” he said. “Sometimes we overlook the older people they need help to get to the doctors. The county has four vans now that are used for elderly transportation but I’m afraid we’re going to need more.”
Much of Lafayette County’s growth is due to the spillover from the University of Mississippi and the city of Oxford.
Frye says relations between all three of these entities have been improving but more needs to be done.
“Because we share our community, we need to also share our goals and our vision for the future,” Frye said. “We should invite Oxford and the University to meaningfully participate in the strategic planning process. The university provides an abundance of resources, and we should make sure that we are using all of those that are available to enhance the community.”
Keeping the lines of communication between the three entities is something McCluskey says he will continue to strive for.
“As we continue to work together as a whole we can better provide our citizens a sense of community throughout Oxford, Lafayette County and Ole Miss,” he said. “Our goal should be to keep relationships strong and welcome all growth that comes to Lafayette County. By keeping those lines open, we can continue the tradition of a great L-O-U community.”
Adams believes Lafayette County has a good relationship with the city and the university and has seen it firsthand while working for the county’s road department.
“We may have something they need to borrow or vice versa,” he said. “We help each other on a regular basis. Sometimes, we come into town to cut down a tree for the city because the county has the proper equipment or the university may come here because it’s something we can’t do. It’s a profitable and beneficial relationship.”
The first step to improve a relationship is to acknowledge that it is one community, Gordon said.
“We have to accept each other, but also keep each other in mind,” he said. “The student population at the university is ever-growing, and I do not believe that enrollment will slow down anytime soon. We need to accept the fact that our community will have to grow in tandem with the University, or we will be left behind or outgrown. Maybe explore the idea of a task force to meet and talk about the goals and develop a plan to properly manage and oversee the goals and objectives of each other.”
People aren’t the only thing flocking to Lafayette County. Commercial businesses are also, and controlling their growth is something the county is starting to look at in depth.
McCluskey believes, once again, safety should be the main concern.
“Building access roads to accommodate these businesses will create a safer blend of traffic between business and residential areas,” he said.
Frye said the county should adopt policies that reflect the image the community wants to project both now and in the future.
“For most people in our community, their home is their primary investment,” he said. “I believe the board should do all that it can to maintain and enhance the quality of life for all residents, and that means having sensible and responsible policies that encourage quality development and act to maintain and increase home values.”
Gordon said he would like to see more positive, dynamic, economic growth with better-paying jobs.
“Why do our residents drive to Batesville or Memphis to get a job when we have plenty of local businesses in town? Why do residents from other counties drive to Lafayette County to work?” he said. “One high priority is to find the balance between employers and job-seekers in our very own community. I do believe that while some of our residents benefit from the jobs that have been created, I still think that there is room for improvement.”
Adams said careful planning for commercial businesses should be taken into consideration.
“You don’t want to put a factory in a quiet, residential area,” he said. “You certainly don’t want to put a bar or tavern near a home. People don’t want that kind of noise or business near them. It will take the efforts of all five supervisors to put something on the table to discuss how to control businesses.”
Leading the county is a job one must take seriously as making decisions can affect the lives of all residents, so what makes a good supervisor?
Frye said being involved in the community, having leadership experience and having a vision for the future are necessary qualities.
“Simply being born into a community doesn’t qualify a person to be a leader of that community,” he said. “I am a graduate of Leadership Lafayette and have extensive leadership experience in our community, having been selected to serve on three governmental commissions and multiple boards of directors.
“The Board of Supervisors needs leadership that brings a fresh perspective and new ideas — our community will be stronger in the long term with the addition of skills and expertise not already represented by the current members.”
Being raised in Lafayette County and seeing how the county has grown and knowing the people who call it home is something McCluskey feels is just as important.
“As a lifelong resident of Lafayette County, I see that our community needs someone who has a vested interest in our values and way of life,” he said. “My passion is my community and county where our family values are steeped in tradition.
“The qualities that I bring to the table will complement the supervisors that are already in place. I have the skills to communicate and work with anyone and everyone. These qualities have been refined by the different aspects of my career, which include supervisory positions and budget and finance committee chairperson.”
Adams believes his 22 years with the road department has given him the qualities to be a good supervisor.
“I’m being around the citizens every day,” he said. “I’ve gained a whole lot of knowledge over the years. I have worked in every district, not just District 3. I’m around the people every day and we talk. I’ve learned what they care about or what they are concerned about. I find out what’s been done right and what’s been done wrong.”
Gordon said it’s his background, expertise and contacts in the community that make him a good choice for voters.
“What the people need most is an open mind to hearing their thoughts and concerns, as well as their ideas for advancing Lafayette County,” he said. “If my peers and fellow residents believe in me and the platform that I am running on, then they believe that I can make a difference to the community — it’s those qualities, that background, and that expertise — that best qualify me.”