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franklin county times

Norwood: Basic services, economic development top priorities

By By Lynette Wilson / staff writer
Sunday, Nov. 10, 2002
Voters who live in Lauderdale County Supervisor District 4 will return to the polls Nov. 19 to choose Joe Norwood or Rickey Harris as their next county supervisor.
Norwood and Harris led a field of four candidates in the Nov. 5 general election placing them in the runoff. Norwood had 1,085 votes, or 45 percent; Harris had 652 votes, or 27 percent.
The winner will fill the unexpired term of the late Q.V. Sykes, who died in July. Sykes' wife, Laura, was appointed to the seat and will serve until a successor is elected.
The job pays $37,434 a year.
Norwood talked about his campaign during a meeting last week with The Meridian Star editorial board. Harris also was scheduled to meet with the editorial board; he didn't show up.
The Meridian Star: Why do you want to be county supervisor?
Joe Norwood: I've sat through board meetings and work sessions, and I've listened to the decisions made by others. And sometimes I don't think those decisions are in the best interest of the people they represent.
The Star: The last election four years ago was close. You lost the supervisor's race by 11 votes.
Norwood: Yes. I feel good about that because, honestly, I think if I had asked for a challenge, I would have won that election.
The Meridian Star: Why didn't you challenge it?
Norwood: I was faced with the same thing I thought District 5 was faced with a lawsuit and another election. In that election, I was on my own. I spent my own money printing cards and flyers, and I knocked on doors. I did not want to spend the money to go through a lawsuit it wasn't worth it. Besides that, it wasn't in my character. I thought there was a greater lesson in stepping back, regrouping and being in the position that I am today.
The Meridian Star: What issues do you see out there in District 4? Are they any different than they were before the runoff?
Norwood: Voter apathy. There's always a low turnout in the runoff. Even though a lot of people went to the polls last Tuesday, there was still a low turnout. I think a third of the people there are about 6,500 to 7,000 voters in the district about 2,400 voted. But, I still feel good about that because I received 1,085 votes, which was 14 votes more than were cast in the entire election four years ago. And that's with four candidates.
We've got to be better about voting, and get through to young people the importance of voting. People bled and died for the right to go to the polls and mark-in their check mark. There's a lot more power in that than most people realize.
I think a lot of people think, "OK, we've got to go vote for our congressman, governor, president." But they don't understand, on the local level, it's those people that are your connection to the governor or to the congressman. People have got to understand that the only way their voice will be heard is by becoming active on the local level.
The Meridian Star: What would be your priorities for county spending?
Norwood: Basic service. There are a lot of complaints about streets, roads, overgrown properties. The board approved $1.6 million on equipment in this year's budget. If you don't have the equipment to provide the basic services, you're between a rock and a hard place.
Economic development. The Department of Commerce committed $1.5 million to extend water and sewer to the industrial site. We've got to fund the balance. If we don't have the sites prepared, we can't attract business.
Attitude is just as important as anything. You've got to prepare infrastructure for the future, if you don't have a vision for the future, you are holding the community back.
The Meridian Star: How do you draw the distinction between long-term projects like the industrial park and the opera house?
Norwood: The opera project's $35 million revenue is coming from a lot of areas. The same amount of money that was put up in the feasibility study to see what would work downtown needs to be applied from 23rd Avenue to 26th Avenue. The city council worked that into their budget.
It is impossible for a community to grow unless you bring everybody along. People need not think so much in black and white but in what is best for this community.
The Meridian Star: You haven't mentioned elitism. Do you think there's a certain amount of elitism that exists?
Norwood: Whether that exists or not, you have a segment of the community that thinks it does. I think the leaders of this community need to reach out more into the African American community and bring them onto the boards, make the board rooms look like the face of your community.
The Meridian Star: Do you plan to keep your job at WTOK?
Norwood: I don't think I will be able to keep my job with them in the same capacity.
The Meridian Star: Is that because of a conflict of interest?
Norwood: To me, it's a time thing. To them, it might be a conflict of interest.
I think my connection to WTOK may be one of reasons the other candidates have not agreed to participate in some of the forums. I think they might think station favors me, but it ends up being the other way around.
For instance, WTOK scheduled "On the Record" with the four candidates. I'm sitting there dressed and ready to debate the issues and the other candidates don't show up. If the station put me on the air, the other candidates could come back and ask for equal time.
So the show is scrapped. I want to debate the issues.

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