In a competitive election fraught with delay, Republican James Brumfield continued the statewide trend of Republican dominance by winning a tight contest for Pike County sheriff and unseating first-term Sheriff Kenny Cotton on Tuesday night.
“Thank you, Pike County,” Brumfield said. “Thank you for believing in me. I will work hard to make Pike County a safer place and I will be a sheriff for all of the people.”
The election was close, just as the competition for sheriff was four years ago, when Cotton beat Republican Tim Vanderslice by roughly 4% of the vote to win the position.
Republicans outperformed Democrats handily throughout Pike County, but this year’s race for sheriff was certainly an outlier.
Brumfield, 66, received 6,505 votes (51%) to Democrat Cotton’s 6,245 votes.
Voter turnout in Pike County was 53%.
Brumfield gave the credit for his success to the people who supported him throughout the campaign and to the people who believed in him.
“It was a lot of hard work — hard work from everyone who helped me along the way and the people of the county wanting to see a change,” he said.
Brumfield will take over operations at the sheriff’s department and the jail in January.
He is a graduate of South Pike High School, Southwest Mississippi Community College and the University of Southern Mississippi.
Brumfield started working as a sheriff’s deputy in Pike County after graduating from law enforcement school at Louisiana State University, where he specialized in juvenile crime, which he said is one of the challenges facing Pike County.
The former local Coca-Cola executive ran on a platform emphasizing his unique combination of business and law enforcement experience. He served as a deputy in the early 1980s before moving into private business. He said his message helped push him through the first two rounds of elections and ultimately into the sheriff’s position.
“It was our overall campaign,” he said. “The message that we put out, the hard work of everyone involved in my campaign and by the grace of God.”
He is active in the First Baptist Church of Magnolia, serving as a deacon and Sunday school teacher. He’s served as chairman of the Pike County economic development board and was a founding member of the Scenic Rivers Development Alliance. He’s also served on the Southwest Mississippi Community College board of trustees.
Brumfield said his business experience would give him a leg up on running the sheriff’s department and the jail, which has a budget of about $4.5 million and a fleet of vehicles to maintain. That figure is about half of what he was tasked with managing while serving as vice president of local operations at McComb Coca-Cola.
Throughout his campaign, Brumfield noted that one of the major issues facing the county is supporting communication and cooperation between regional law enforcement agencies. He said he would make coming to the table with other law enforcement agencies one of his top priorities upon election.
He campaigned rigorously, bringing with him along the way career law enforcement officer Bruce Fairburn, who served as chief investigator with the Pike County Sheriff’s Department before Cotton was elected to office in 2015.
His choice to campaign with Fairburn, and later Liberty Police Chief Brad Bellipanni, who also is expected to take a high-ranking role in Brumfield’s administration, reinforced one of his campaign promises — to introduce an experienced team of professional law enforcement officers to the sheriff’s department.
Brumfield said throughout his campaign that building strong and effective teams is one of his strong suits.
“I’m very excited,” he said. “I’m very humbled and ready to get to work.”
Cotton did not return phone calls for comment.