Pike County voters elected a new coroner and two new supervisors to fill vacant offices and chose a newcomer over an incumbent justice court judge on Tuesday night.
The winners will begin four-year terms in January.
Republican Bryant “Wally” Jones, a 29-year-old McComb police officer, defeated Democrat and funeral director David Rashad Taylor 6,559 (52%) to 6,078 (48%) to become coroner.
Jones said Wednesday the outcome of the race was as close as he expected.
“I expected it to be neck and neck just because of the kind of guy Rashad is and he’s so respected in the community,” Jones said. “I’m going to put my Christian faith out there. The Lord helped me get through this thing.”
Jones said he doesn’t foresee making any major changes to the office, which he said has been well run.
“We’re going to maintain for the first couple of months,” he said.
But he does have plans to make the position his own.
“We’re going to provide a service to some of the families, taking some of that initial process off of the families so the families will have time to grieve,” he said.
Deputy coroners will be Willie King, who ran unsuccessfully for the position in the Democratic primary, and McComb firefighter Chan Thomas, who ran unsuccessfully for the post as a Republican in 2015.
Jones’ victory will bring some stability to the office. Edwin “Chip” Haskell has been serving as coroner on an interim basis, replacing Jason Jones, who won a special election last year following the death of longtime coroner Percy Pittman.
“We have some big shoes to fill coming behind Percy Pittman,” Jones said, adding that his experience in law enforcement will make him an effective coroner. “I can effectively do the job and provide the investigations and provide the services.”
In the District 3 supervisor’s race, Republican Robert Accardo defeated Democrat Etta Bateaste Taplin 1,650 (62%) to 996 (38%).
Accardo will join three other new supervisors on the five-member board, with only one incumbent, Tazwell Bowsky in District 1, remaining.
While he savored his victory, Accardo didn’t lose sight of the deluge of work to keep the county running that will be facing him and the other supervisors come January.
“I feel a little bit like the dog that caught the wheel,” he said.
Accardo, who will replace Supervisor Chuck Lambert on the board, credited Taplin with running a good race.
“I know Mrs. Taplin ran a very good, a very well organized, a very smart and a very well-financed campaign,” he said. “For anyone who’s never run a campaign like this, this is a very exhilarating and a very humbling experience at the same time.”
Accardo said he wasn’t surprised by his wide margin of victory and attributed it to hard work.
“We didn’t stop,” he said. “We campaigned right up through election day. We just felt like that’s what we had to do.”
Accardo said he and the other new board members — Samuel Hall in District 2, Jake Gazzo in District 4 and Lee Fortenberry in District 5 — all bring their own set of strengths, and the outgoing supervisors have promised to help them get through the transition.
“I think we will use our strengths, but we will also depend on the previous board for that knowledge, history and experience when we need it until we get our sea legs under us,” Accardo said. “The outgoing board has committed to working with the incoming board. Each one of the outgoing members is very committed to Pike County. They’ve done an awful lot of work to get us where we are. We need to pick up where they leave off.”
Fortenberry, a Republican, won the District 5 supervisor’s race, defeating Democrat Eddie Simmons 1,594 (58%) to 1,149 (42%). He couldn’t be reached for comment Wednesday.
In addition to Sheriff Kenny Cotton, another incumbent office holder, Northern District Justice Court Judge Bryan Harbour, lost his bid for re-election. Republican Fulton Dickerson Brewer won that race 2,728 (60%) to 1,790 (40%).
Brewer said the 3-to-2 margin of victory came as something of a surprise.
“I was looking to win but I wasn’t looking to win by that much of a margin,” he said.
Brewer said the operations of the court will continue mostly as they have in the past, although the natural personality changes that come with someone new taking office will probably be the biggest difference.
“There will be a few minor changes but for the most part the court is set how the court is set,” he said.
Harbour, who ran as independent, was appointed to the post in 2007.
“Bryan’s always done a good job as a judge and when I ran in this race I wasn’t running against him,” Brewer said. “I was running to serve the community.”
Brewer noted the success Republicans had throughout the county on election night, and he believes national politics “influenced the election greatly.”
“I think national politics are blending into local politics,” he said.
But the results were something of a mixed bag for the GOP. Brewer and sheriff-elect James Brumfield both ran as Republicans and unseated incumbents, and Republicans won all of the county-wide races they were involved in, and two seats on the board of supervisors, but overall more county voters cast ballots for Democrat Jim Hood in the hotly contested governor’s race.
The county’s two other justice court judges, Melvin Hollins in the Central District and Aubrey Rimes in the Southern District, won re-election.
Hollins, a Democrat, defeated independent challenger Arthur Quin 2,275 (70%) to 962 (30%).
Rimes, running as an independent, defeated Democratic challenger Celdric McDowell 2,345 (54%) to 2,021.
Two incumbent constables, Denny Johnson in the Northern District and Oliver James in the Southern District, both were unchallenged, as was Central District Constable-elect Mark Thompson, who won the Democratic nomination in the primary to replace longtime constable Billy Young.
Tuesday’s ballot also featured a nonpartisan special election for District 3 election commissioner that Danny Creel won, receiving 1,227 (54%) votes over Fay Greer, who had 545 (24%) and Nora Hall, who had 486.