ST. CLAIR COUNTY -- Meet the Candidates at Legacy Springs took place Tuesday between four candidates, but only three took part in answering questions.
The forum was set up for the two candidates running for St. Clair County sheriff, Billy Murray and Roy Mullins, and the two running for St. Clair County Schools superintendent, Mike Howard and Greg Cobb.
But late in the afternoon, Mullins decided not to participate in answering questions asked by moderator Jeff Thompson.
Mullins said candidates were asked to submit questions, and the questions he submitted had been altered.
“This event has been changed a few times since it was organized,” Mullins said during his opening five-minute introduction. “There were some questions that were going to be asked, and some of the questions were worded differently than I had originally had written. I appreciate Jerry (Robertson) and Jeff (Thompson) for discussing this issue with me earlier today. I will not be participating in that portion of the event for that very reason. I thank you for your time, and I will answer any questions that you may have, one on one, after this event.”
Murray said he first decided he wanted to be sheriff when he was 8 years old.
He answered questions concerning the importance of the sheriff being involved in communities throughout the county and serving on various boards and organizations.
When told there were only two narcotic deputies for the entire county, Murray said that was not accurate.
“We all work to get narcotics off the street,” Murray said.
As for issues with a K-9 unit, Murray said the sheriff's office will have K-9 units.
“Sheriff Terry Surles has spent thousands of dollars for maintenance of a K-9 unit,” Murray said. "That will continue.”
Murray also answered questions concerning difficulties in communicating with dispatch due to inoperable radios; having a good working relationship with the different municipal police departments; managing a multi-million dollar budget; and managing large operations.
As far as the superintendent’s race, Cobb and Howard both answered questions concerning experience they bring to the table; motivation; the state report cards that was just released; minority and economically disadvantaged students; audits; changes they would make as superintendent; the property tax vote that recently failed; an information disconnect that exists between the Central Office and county residents; and academic improvement.
In his opening statement, Cobb said he knew how to improve schools.
“And I know how to be your superintendent,” Cobb said. “I know how to budget large amounts of money and I know how to find resources. Even though the property tax increase failed, St. Clair children are still here begging for your help. I’m running for superintendent because I feel God has called me to do that.”
As principal at St. Clair County High School, Howard said discipline problems are down 88 percent in his second year there while grade-point averages are up from 2.87 to 3.13.
“Our graduation rate is up, and every single student walked across the stage last year to get their diploma,” Howard said. “As superintendent, I will know where our money is spent. Our teachers will work together and realize we are all on the same team. I want every student in St. Clair County to graduate from high school. I will outwork you. I want to bring communities together.
Reach Gary Hanner at firstname.lastname@example.org.