Forum held for Mosses municipal candidates

Published 8:56 am Thursday, August 23, 2012

By Fred Guarino
The Lowndes Signal

Beautification, renewal, a police department, play areas and educational help for children, economic growth, emergency medical services and a community pulling together were all issues discussed at a political forum held for Mosses municipal election candidates last Saturday.

A park area near the Mosses Municipal Complex served as the site for the event that was open to all the Mosses candidates in the upcoming municipal election set for Tuesday, Aug. 28.

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The forum was sponsored by Geraldine Grant of Atlanta, whose sister, Annie V. Grant, is a candidate for council, but who could not attend.

In Mosses, incumbent Mayor Walter S. Hill is opposed by current Council member and former mayor Joe E. Bell and Pastor Celeste M. Crenshaw.

Running for five at large council seats are incumbents Willie B. Hill and Teryl Myles, along with hopefuls Sharon B. Bell, Callie Thomas, Annie V. Grant and Jerome Hardy.

Willie B. Hill, Myles and Grant were not present.

Each candidate was given the opportunity to introduce themselves, state the position they are seeking and their plans if elected.

Pastor Celeste Crenshaw is seeking election as mayor.

“The reason I am running is because I think it is time for a change for our community. I think its time for a change for our entire town, as a matter of fact,” Crenshaw said.

She said she appreciated the work of those who have served in the past, but said she thinks the town can do better.

“First of all, I plan to start with fixing up our entrance, Crenshaw said. “That’s the first thing that people see when they come to our town.”

She said she thought a local store should be remodeled and, “I think we should keep it and turn it into a history museum (and welcoming center) for the town because there are many people that live in mosses that did things in the Civil Rights Movement.”

She said she wants to seek grants for sewer and housing, but she said she is also for the town doing its own fund raising for projects.

Crenshaw spoke about the need for a local ambulance service in the town.

“Build our own building, start our own ambulance service,” she said.

Crenshaw said she also wanted to work on the park.

“We can have a better park than this,” she said.

“We need a police department. We don’t need one little room,” Crenshaw said.

“I ask you to give me your support as the mayor and I promise you, give us six to eight months and you’re going to see a difference… It looks like we don’t care about our town, and that’s sad,” Crenshaw said.

“All I can do is ask you to trust me to be your mayor,” she said. “And if you’re aren’t satisfied in the next four years then you’ll know not to vote for me again.”

Joe E. Bell, former mayor and current council member, is running for mayor.

Bell said he is running on a record and spoke about the history of Mosses.

“I served from 1979 to 1996, and there is nothing more important as each of you has said than the council and mayor being able to work together. So I look forward to whoever is elected on the council, when I’m elected mayor, to working with them.”

He said the basketball court was built when he was in office. He remembered when the swimming pool was built and there were hundreds of children playing basketball, swimming and playing softball. “Those are kinds of things that we would like to see renewed,” he said.

“I propose to work with the council. I propose to do networking. I proposed to work with the county commission… I propose to work with the Lowndes County school Board. And I propose to work with the state of Alabama,” Bell said.

However, “Don’t be misled,” Bell said. “There is only about $120,000 budget down here… 50 percent of that is already used to pay notes that have already been made. We’ve got to be able to take what little we’ve got and make it work.”

Bell said whoever is mayor won’t be able to do it by themselves. “It’s going to take the community,” he said.

He said community development block grants are still available and will be solicited.

He stressed, however, “You apply for what’s available. Sometimes you may not think something is important, but that’s the only thing funds are available for… Do you neglect those? No you go after those funds also. And those are the kinds of things we want to see happen, and I think will happen once I’m elected.”

Current Mayor Walter S. Hill is running for mayor.

Hill said he has had the pleasure of serving as mayor the past 11 1/2 years.

“I think one of the misconceptions for the most part of the office of mayor is that the mayor does the work, if not the majority of the work…. It takes a strong council to be seated that works along in conjunction with the mayor,” he said.

Hill said the reputation of Mosses “has been one of the most negative ones in this entire county.” But, he said, Mosses is not what it is declared to be and that a handful of people had some means of giving it that reputation.

“And when citizens come together and unite together to make a community strong, you’ve got the backing of a council that helps to make the mayor strong, then the mayor can continue to move forward to make the community much better than what it is,” Hill said.

Hill spoke of efforts by the town and the water authority to move residences off septic systems and onto sewer.

“This will forge ahead to allow us as a governing body to now look at economic development in the real sense of being able to go out and encourage and entice industries and companies to consider Mosses as a place to come here to bring their business and to locate here,” he said.

He said that at no time in the last for years has the town had to borrow money to match for grants. He said that has come about by working with other venues.

Hill said as a candidate, he runs on the record and to move Mosses forward and asked for support on Aug. 28.

Jerome Hardy, age 24, is running for a spot on the town council.

He said he agreed with some of Crenshaw’s ideas “especially with beautifying Mosses. We need it.”

Hardy said he has been working the past four years as a fire department first responder and with law enforcement in Fort Deposit. He said he also specializes in youth.

“With this park I would like to do something ASAP,” Hardy said. “I hear a lot of people saying the children don’t have anything to do. Playing and fun time, there’s a need for that.  But education is a need too. So I would like to enrich our kids… Sometimes we need a summer program.”

Hardy said, “We can probably get a grant for enrichment before we can get a grant for monkey bars and swings. That’s stuff we need. Our kids are suffering in school. And we need their education and their academics.”

Progress has been made toward a grant for the park “So, that’s something good, something to look forward to working with in this term,” he said. “I would like to become councilman for you guys because I feel there is a need for a change as she (Crenshaw) said… new faces. I’m only 24 years of age.”

He said he is a former vice president of the volunteer association of Lowndes County, is deputy chief of the Mosses Fire Department and now associated with the Black Belt Community Foundation.

“What I really want to do is reach out to all of you,” Hardy said. “I want to bring everybody together young and old… When you vote for these people, don’t just support them just that day… they’re going to continuously need your help.”

He asked everyone to attend council meetings.

“August 28, I would greatly appreciated it if you guys vote for me for your next city councilman,” Hardy said.

Callie Thomas is running for a spot on the council.

“I’ve had the initiative to do something in Mosses ever since I’ve been in Mosses,” Thomas said. “We’ve had these problems for a long time.”

She said the town has had mayors and council members for more than one term.

“If could see something had been done, I wouldn’t even be running for council member,” she said.

“Most of all I want to get on the council so that we can work together not be anti… everyone going in different directions,” she said. “I want to see something done in Mosses. And I don’t want Mosses to have to wait any longer. I mean immediately.”

Thomas asked for votes for her and the new faces “because I feel just like without a change you’re going to have the same thing. And if you want a change you know what to do.”

She pointed out the condition of the park where the forum was held.

“Look at our park today. Everybody knew we were going to have this debate. Look at it. Look at what you had to come through, what you had to drive through. Nothing is being done,” she said.

“I’m asking for your vote. Also, if we get elected, I’m asking for the town of Mosses to participate too because just like Jerome (Hardy) said it’s not just us, it’s y’all… We all got to pick up and do better than we’re doing,” Thomas said.

Sharon Bell is running for a spot on the council.

“The reason why I’m running for council is like everybody else I see a lot of changes,” she said.

“My main focus will the children and making a safer playground for them and having somewhere for them to hangout,” she said

Bell said she is on the board of an organization that is a childhood center for children, attends numerous workshops to bring ideas and back to the community. “And that’s what I plan on doing.  And I’m not a big speaker. And I’m more of a doer. So, I appreciate your vote,” she said.

Elections will be held next Tuesday, Aug. 28.