Republican Candidates for District-2 County Commissioners’ Office participated in a Candidate Forum hosted by the South West Oklahoma Republican Women on Thursday, Jan. 9, in the Banquet Room of the Best Western in Altus, giving Republican voters a chance to engage those on the ballot with written questions from the audience before casting their decisions on Tuesday, Jan. 14. Two candidates competing for the Altus District Public School Board were also given the opportunity to partake in a separate forum before their election on Feb. 11.
“We don’t want anyone going to the polls questioning who they are going to vote for,” SWORW’s President Debbie Davis said. “We want you to be educated.” Davis introduced honored guests before introducing Stephen Barnett who ran unopposed for the Altus School Board.
“I’ve got four wonderful children… for me that’s the number one reason that made me decide to throw my name in to run for School Board,” Barnett said. “I’ve got 17 and a half years of upcoming investment in this school system. I want to see my kids and every other kid in the community have the best chance to succeed in whatever it is. Whether it be 4th grade math or football, or swimming, or the riding club. I want everybody to have the best chance to succeed and I think that I can really add to the great Board that we have.” Barnett is a real estate Agent with Advantage Reality of Altus, and is married Gabrielle Barnett who owns and operates Studio One of Altus.
Davis then introduced the forum moderator, Mack Powers, Altus High School Science teacher, before calling up the first candidates running for the School Board: incumbent Darrell Moss and opponent Kelly Duncan.
Duncan was the first to give her introduction. She was born and raised in Altus where she graduated from Altus High School. “I was brought up in a home that education was an important part of my upbringing, and it was driven in me from the get-go.” Duncan stated that she attended WOSC and graduated from Oklahoma University. She worked as an Occupational Therapist for 11 years before having her fourth child. “I am passionate about Altus. I am passionate about the school systems. I had such a pride when people asked me where I was from and I said, ‘I am from Altus.”
Incumbent Darrell Moss then gave his opening introduction. He was born in Southern Missouri where he grew up and went to school. “My dad had a rule: if you didn’t go to school you didn’t live in this house. My mother was very strict, very education oriented, so I thought we got a really good education.” Moss stated that he received a sports scholarship to attend the University of Missouri for 3 years before joining the armed services during the Vietnam era. “I came to Altus in 1969 in the Air Force, got out of the service in 71’ and married a local girl here. We had three children and I had [them] go through the system, and have a grandson going through this system. I am proud of Altus. I am very proud of the schools and how it works, and I always just try to give something back.”
The candidates were given two minutes each to respond to written questions from the audience. When asked, “What are you bringing to the office that the other is not,” Duncan stated she would bring a fresh perspective as she currently has kids going through the school system. Moss stated he would bring his experience and knowledge of the job and current issues, and working with administrators.
When asked how they felt about Common Core, Moss stated he was not in favor, and that faculty and administrators don’t think it is a great idea either, and that students are testing too much. Duncan stated that what she has heard from teachers is that more testing has taken time away from doing creative activities in the classroom, that test scores determine whether they succeed or not, and that she is also not in favor.
When asked about their agenda if the are elected, Duncan said she wants to bring back a sense of pride to Altus that she feels is no longer there. “I want Altus to be the kind of school system that teachers and coaches and new families are knocking down at the School Board door because they want their children to go to school here in Altus,” Duncan said.
Moss said that he agreed with Duncan, and that keeping the students and teachers in mind is always the biggest goal. Moss then commended previous Altus Superintendent Bob Drury for leaving the district with a good financial savings and that not many other districts can say that. “Looking at those type of things are very important for this district,” Moss said.
Following the School Board Candidate Forum, the three Republican Candidates for County Commissioner took their places and gave their introductions.
Kirk Butler was born in Altus and said he is a fourth generation “Jackson Countian.” Years ago, he and his family moved to Chickasha, so his daughter could attend Jane Brooks School for the Deaf. They now live in Elmer. Butler began his work experience with Jackson County as a motor grader operator for 2 years before opening a retail store. He stated that he has experience in retail and wholesale sales, and is in the farm and ranch business with his family since 1982. “I think if you look at my overall background, agriculture, economics and business, that you’ll find that I’m the best person for this job,” Butler said.
Wayne Cain was born in Altus, graduated from Navajo High School, and attended Altus Junior College. Cain said he worked for Trader City, Surplus City, and Gipson’s, as Assistant Manager and Manager, and later worked in construction to build roads and bridges in Oklahoma and Kansas. Cain then worked at Altus Air Force Base for 32 years until retiring in 2008. He is currently the Jackson County Emergency Manager Safety Director. “With the experience I have in budgets, planning, managing people, managing products, personnel, equipment…” Cain said, “I just felt like I could do a good job for Jackson County, and I’d really like a chance to prove that.”
Lacy Scott was born and raised in Dallas, Texas, and is married to Dan Scott, Altus Power Superintendent. She stated that she moved away from Dallas to to come to a small town. “Small town living is the best living,” Scott said. She has a Bachelor’s Degree in Administration, and stated having an extensive medical background. “I’m used to serving people, learning what their needs are, and learning to help meet their needs,” she said. Scott said she has Real Estate knowledge, and budgeting, management, and payroll experience, as well as dealing with bids. “I want to be your collective voice when you have concerns for the County. Come to me, tell me what you need. Tell me about how our decisions affect you. We need to know that. Jackson County’s a good community and I want to be a servant to the people. That’s what I’m familiar with. I’m used to doing that.”
The candidates were given two minutes each to respond to written questions from the audience. When asked what would they bring to the office that their opponents may not be able to bring, Butler said he brings first-hand experience from working for the County as well as his business and agriculture backgrounds. He added he would have an “open door policy” as well. Cain added he would also have an “open door policy,” and would bring his passion that he has for Jackson County, his 25 years of expedience on the Navajo School Board, working with FFA and 4-H, and coaching little league. Scott said she will bring her Administrative degree, experiences working in Real Estate, but also plans to attend at County Commissioner certification course at Oklahoma State University, if elected.
When asked what their most important duty as County Commissioner would be, Cain said managing funds and spending them the best way possible to benefit Jackson County citizens. Scott agreed that managing funds is the most important. Butler explained that the duties are not “single-fold,” and that there is a lot involved, including being a business manager, working with other officers, overseeing budgets, producing financial reports, and serving as community service agents.
When asked what experience or education makes them qualified to be a County Commissioner, Scott said she is qualified because of her degree and her intent to attend the OSU program to become accredited. Cain said he is qualified because of his experience serving on numerous boards, managerial positions held, programs managed when working at AAFB, working with people, and his expertise in managing funds. Butler said he is qualified because of his experience working for the County, knowledge of the roads and bridges in the county, and stated having a strong financial and business background, as well as strong people skills in management and placing the right people with the right job.
When asked what is the role for obtaining grants for additional County funding, Butler stated he didn’t know much about obtaining grants, but that they are out there and it is a process to obtain them, and said the County should work harder to maintain what they currently have and come up with new ideas on how to develop some new revenue avenues for the county. Cain stated that as Jackson County Emergency Management Director, he was a “key player” in collecting over $30,000 in reimbursement money from FEMA for the Jackson County Task Force by “keeping the paperwork right.” He added that he has experience writing grants as well and that it will be critical in getting bridges repaired. Scott agreed that grant writing will be important and she intends to take classes for grant writing.
Each candidate gave their closing statements beginning with Cain who said,”I think I’ve got every skill that it’s going to take to run our County and spend our money wisely and do the best thing we can for our County.” Cain stated his biggest goal is to develop more jobs in Jackson County.
Scott stated this would be a great opportunity for her and she is very enthusiastic. “I’m looking forward to it. If you just give me the opportunity I will do what ever I can to learn,” Scott said. “I will get the education needed. I’m very strong on education as you can probably tell that already. You have to start off with the education. The experience will come. If you’ll give me that opportunity, I’m up for the challenge.”
Butler stated he has the confidence, the ability, the supervisory skills, and the qualifications for the office. “I am honest, I have high ethical standards. I’m focused on what’s best for the whole county, not just a few. I’m ready and willing to accept all the challenges that lie ahead for the whole county and the people of District-2.” Butler stated he has the vision and the courage to face the uncertain future, and will leave the County in a better condition than he finds it, and that he will be an asset and not a liability if elected.
The Special Election will be held on Tuesday, Jan. 14, where District-2 voters will narrow the runners to one Republican candidate and one Democratic candidate. Official voting precincts will be published in Sunday’s paper.