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4 run for District 1 commissioner

By Clyde L. Stancil
DAILY Staff Writer

cstancil@decaturdaily.com 340-2443

MOULTON — Lawrence County's majority black District 1 escaped elimination three years ago, now the only commissioner the district has known is trying to do the same.

Mose Jones Jr., a five-term commissioner, faces opposition from Della Miller, Wes Holland and Danny Dotson, whom Jones defeated in 2002 primary with 61 percent of the vote.

They will vie for the Democratic nomination in the June 6 primary. There is no Republican challenger, which means the Democrat who wins the primary likely will become the winner in the Nov. 7 general election.

Few residents are aware of it, but District 1 faced a challenge in 2002. A federal judge ordered Alabama counties that were affected by a 1980s voting discrimination lawsuit to return to the system of government they used before 1986.

In Lawrence County, that would have meant a return to the at-large voting system and four commission districts. The system included an elected, full-time chairman.

District 1, which was carved around the majority black population in the county's valley area, would have been eliminated.

Old voting system

A return to the old system of voting, however, would have forced an election, thereby jeopardizing the sitting commissioners' positions.

Instead of returning to the at-large system, they persuaded legislators to pass a 2003 local act that preserved the present system of government, giving Jones another opportunity to defend his seat.

"Most people say I have done a good job," Jones said. "We have accomplished several things in the last 20 years. We built several roads in District 1, and I have voted to support county fire departments, our schools and our senior citizens. We continue to progress in District 1, and I continue to be fair and just and abide by the law."

Two of his challengers said it simply is time for a change.

"The incumbent has been in there for (20) years," Dotson said. "It's not that he does a bad job, he's just been in there too long."

Jones earned 1,002 votes to Dotson's 558 votes in 2002. Steve McCurry, then a Hillsboro councilman, earned 47 votes.

Miller also said the district needs a change.

'New direction'

"It's time for new direction," she said. "We need to promote tourism so that people can come into Lawrence County, and our schools need attention."

She also said District 1 needs to develop a place for children to get off of the streets.

"They need something to develop their skills and occupy their minds with positive things," she said. "That way, the negative aspects of the streets won't influence them that much."

Riverfront property

Holland, who challenged Barkley Lentz for the District 5 seat in 2002, wants to be District 1 commissioner so that he can make use of the only riverfront property in the county. The northern boundary of District 1 is on the Tennessee River.

"We have the industrial development park and there is not one plant in it," Holland said. "I want to work to get a larger tax base without raising taxes, by recruiting industry."

Holland also said he would vote to give equal funding to the recreation parks in the county, including those in Hillsboro and Town Creek. The County Commission does not own the parks in the municipalities.

Lawrence County Commissioners work part-time and earn $19,577.16 annually.

Who are the candidates?

Danny Dotson

Age: 53

Political experience: None.

Occupation: Painter at Delphi.

Education: Courtland High School graduate.

Personal: He and his wife, the former Donna Conner, have two college-age children, four adult children and six grandchildren.

Wes Holland

Age: 30

Occupation: Owns The Grill, a Hillsboro restaurant

Political experience: Lawrence County Democratic Executive Committee member, Lawrence County Democratic Club member and president of Future Fowl Foundation of America.

Education: East Lawrence High School graduate and attended Calhoun Community College.

Personal: Single.

Mose Jones

Age: 54

Political experience: commissioner since 1986.

Occupation: Operator at 3M Co. for 34 years.

Education: Hazlewood High School graduate, County Commissioners College graduate.

Personal: He and his wife, Ella, have 5 children and three grandchildren.

Della Miller

Age: 41

Political experience: None.

Occupation: Nutrition instructor with the Alabama Cooperative Extension System.

Education: Courtland High School graduate, attended Calhoun Community College and majored in accounting at Alabama A&M University.

Personal: She has three children and one grandson.

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