Jackson County has been home to my wife Sandra and I for the past 24 years. We both consider it a privilege to have raised both of our sons here and are proud to be part of the Latimer community and citizens of Jackson County.
However, as much as I love Jackson County, we could do far better than what we are doing.
Jackson County citizens are taxed more than their neighbors to the west, despite the presence of several large industries here. Our total assessed valuation is fourth in the state, whereas Harrison County is first. Yet we have the 26th highest total millage assessed while Harrison County ranks near the bottom in total millage. Are we getting a good return on our investment for the tax breaks granted to large employers in the county, breaks which generally aren’t offered to small businesses or residents?
Despite having the second highest millage for Fire Protection (+4 mills) in the state, the fire ratings for the unincorporated areas of Jackson County remain at 7 or above and those for the incorporated areas of Ocean Springs, Moss Point, Pascagoula and Gautier are 5 or higher. Lower fire ratings translate into lower insurance costs, with a drop from 10 to 8 being roughly a 30% drop in fire insurance premiums.
These are just two examples of why I think District 4 and Jackson County can do better. We deserve a more efficient county government, one with integrity, one which is open, transparent and accessible to all and, especially, one which treats its citizens uniformly. We deserve a 21st century county government in which all county documentation and most services could be made available online. We deserve a county government which looks to the future and doesn’t rely on the “business as usual” approach in which economic development is discussed behind closed doors.
I want Jackson County embrace a smart growth economic development plan, one which encourages small businesses and which focuses on improving our existing infrastructure. I would like to see the county reexamine property taxes for residential, small business and large industry and determine if the current system is truly fair for all. I would like the county to aggressively promote our natural attractions such as the Pascagoula River basin, the MS Sandhill Crane Wildlife Refuge, Gulf Islands National Seashore, DeSoto National Forest and the Grand Bay National Wildlife Refuge as well as other venues which cater to the tourism industry, such as downtown Ocean Springs and the Walter Anderson Museum of Art.
All of this and more are why I'm proud to be the Democratic candidate for the Jackson County District 4 Supervisor's seat. I’ll be campaigning, coming door-to-door to meet the citizens of District 4. Because no one person has all the answers, I want to hear your concerns, your ideas, your suggestions and, yes, even your criticism. I am asking for your help in making District 4 and Jackson County the best place in the world to raise a family.