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District 2 candidates talk platforms

Editor’s note: This is the third story in a series of stories from Monday night’s forum.

The Republican Party of Covington County held a candidate forum Monday night at city hall, giving several candidates the opportunity to speak to citizens on why they are running.

The third article in the series ran in Wednesday’s paper with comments from Kent Colquett and Kenneth Northey running for District one of the Covington County Commission.

After they spoke, candidates running for District two of the Covington County Commission were given the opportunity to speak.

Joe Barton:

Barton is seeking reelection for District 2 of the commission. He was first elected to the county commission in the 2012 election.

Barton is a native of Covington County and went to school in Covington County, as well. While studying at Troy University, the Vietnam War was raging overseas and Barton said he has always felt he didn’t do his part.

“Seeing the impact that the war had on my friends and family, I always felt like I didn’t do my part,” Barton said. “I always had a blank space in my life that I wanted to fill and I didn’t know how to do it. So, I left Troy and went to work in Mobile and stayed there about 17 years. In 1990, I came back to Covington County and in 1991, I was able to join the Covington County Sheriff’s Posse. It started back in 1964 and it is the oldest one in the state. I have been fortunate enough to serve as captain of that for the past 15 years. In my working through the sheriff’s department and in the county, I have seen the impact that the county employees face. I have seen the things that citizens look for in law enforcement. I have seen how the tax money is spent and where it needs to be spent.”

When Barton took office, he said they did not even have a pay plan in Covington County.

“The county was just paying their employees whatever,” Barton said. “How can you balance a budget and all of that when you don’t know what your expenses are? Then we would pay the county trucks, then sell them and take that money in put it in the general fund, buy new trucks and then put the payment off for a year. Then we would be behind for a year on payment before we even got started. Since then, we have been able to implement a rotation program in the engineer’s office and we are paying for trucks as we get them. All of those things are important. We have been able to do a cost of living raises for our employees and with us not taking mileage, we have been able to save more than $100,000. With that saving, it was able to offset our healthcare increase.”

Barton said that the county employees deserve more.

“These guys are standing on the side of the roads putting their lives on the line,” Barton said. “People fly up and down the road paying no respect. We have got to do a better job of protecting our citizens. We have increased the security at the jail, we put a new women’s addition to the jail and paid for it, we have reduced the county’s debt and we work hard at it everyday. What I’m asking you to do is let us move forward and help us continue what we are doing because we are on the verge of some big things. We are going to have some new jobs coming and some new tax dollars coming in from the gas tax. We just need your help.”

The next person to speak was Michael Barton running for the same seat.

Michael Barton:

M. Barton is a native of Andalusia and a 1993 Andalusia High School alumnus. After AHS, M. Barton enrolled in college at the Alabama Aviation College and is now an aircraft mechanic by trade.

His first job outside of college was with Mobile Aerospace, then he worked for United Airlines, which moved him to California. After living in the San Francisco area, he transferred with United Airlines to Indiana for five years.”

M. Barton said he never expected to get the opportunity to move back to Covington County.

“When I went to aviation school, aviation was not really a booming industry,” M. Barton said. “I was able to come back here in 2003, when Helipro opened its doors, which is now Dyncorp. Currently, I work for Enterprise State Community College with the Alabama Aviation College. I work at the South Alabama Regional Airport teaching dual enrollment students for aviation maintenance. By teaching these students, it gives them the opportunity to have the career that I have had. I have really enjoyed it and now I want to put back into the community.”

He said he wants to see more industries come to the county.

“We have a tremendous amount of land and a tremendous work force here,” M. Barton said. “We have great infrastructure of roads that come through this county. We have several roads that will get the industries to us, if we can show them that that we are here. I would love to put our county out in the world to show the industries that we can build here to give our citizens a job they can do here and not have to work offshore or shutdowns.”

The last person running for District 2 is Michael Smith.

Michael Smith:

Smith is a native of Covington County and graduated from Straughn High School in 1990.

He earned an associate’s degree in emergency medical services from LBW Community College and worked in the field from 1991 until he sold the business earlier this year.

He is the head football coach at Straughn Middle School and a Rotarian.

He and his wife, Elaine, are residents in the Straughn area. His children are Jonathan Smith, an Auburn University engineering student; Taylor Smith a student at the Savannah College of Art and Design; and Ethan Smith a seventh-grader at Straughn Middle School. Smith is the son of June Smith and the late John Smith.

“In 1991, I decided that I would get involved in public service and become an EMT,” Smith said. “I have served Covington County as a paramedic since 1993. In 2006, we had two ambulance services here that were competing against each other. So, I went out on a limb and decided to buy both of the services. When I opened my ambulance service in 2006, I had 10 employees. I sold my ambulance service at the beginning of this year after almost 13 years and we had almost 38 part time and full time employees. During that time, I have worked with many agencies in Covington County. I want to work with the people of Covington County to try and increase the revenue and the jobs. I would love to see more industries in Covington County because that would benefit all of the kids in Covington County. We have to keep the kids here in order to make our workforce better. We have a lot of attributes in Covington County that I think could really shine if we have people that are working for them.”