Robert Akin and Jessie Griffin, two of the three candidates for Drew County judge spoke at the Southeast Arkansas TEA Party’s July 9 meeting while Lynda Hood, wife of Democratic nominee Robin Hood, spoke on behalf of her husband. Hood had a scheduling conflict and could not attend. The following article covering the candidates’ campaign speeches and responses to questions by TEA Party members was provided by Linda Davis, a member of the Southeast Arkansas TEA party.
Robert Akin, who is running as an independent, introduced himself and his wife Cindy Tucker Akin, telling the group that they have lived in Drew County for fifty years. “We live and breathe Drew County,” Akin said.
“I am proud of my lineage,” Akin said. “I am the grandson of the late Dr. Kelton Busby and Mrs. Louise Busby and the son of George and Pat Akin. My lineage tells you that I will do (what’s) right.”
Akin said many in his family are involved in the fields of education and medicine. “I feel that I have a line to good doctors for our community,” he said. “The hospital board should work closely with our doctors to help keep them here.”
Akin said the county needs to work to keep its young people from leaving the county in search of better jobs, and that he is open to suggestions to achieve that goal.
Akin believes running as an independent is a bold move because, “rather than paying a fee to run, you find out whether or not people support you with their signatures.”
Independents submit signatures of qualified electors to get on the ballot while party candidates pay a filing fee.
Akin, a self-described conservative, has served as an alderman on the Monticello City Council and has been a private business owner for many years and can handle large contracts and personnel. His way of dealing with problems is “by doing what is right.”
Akin said that he appreciated meeting with the TEA Party and asked for their support him in the upcoming November election.
Jessie Griffin, who is running as a Republican, introduced his wife Lynda and stated that after serving in the U.S. Army for 26 years, he moved to Monticello and has lived here ever since. He said he feels his experience in the army has given him the ability to be a leader and to know how to manage people, equipment and problems effectively.
“You can be sure that I will surround myself with people who best know how to do the things that need to be done in Drew County,” Griffin said.
If elected, Griffin said, he hopes to be county judge for at least three terms so that he can do some good for the county.
Griffin told the group that it is not the job of the county judge to create jobs, but to make sure the county has the infrastructure to encourage new businesses to locate in Drew County. He said he supports the infrastructure coming to Drew County by way of the I-69 Corridor as well as the new high speed internet currently being installed in the county. He also stated that he will work with the people on the state level to help bring jobs to Drew County.
Griffin said that he has attended hospital board meetings and that the county needs to have its hospital facilities completed in order to recruit doctors to Monticello. “If our local doctors will support surgeons who come to Monticello, we will have excellent surgeons here,” he stated.
Regarding the Monticello Economic Development Commission, Griffin said he has attended their meetings to learn what it does for the city and county. “We have good business leaders here, but we have to force the leaders to pay fair wages to laborers here in the county so we will have people coming here for jobs,” he said.
Griffin believes that more money should be allocated for the area volunteer fire departments so they will have the equipment necessary to fight fires more effectively. He told the group that he plans to spend the county’s money wisely and urged the group to discuss the election with friends and family and to encourage them to vote for him.
Lynda Hood, the wife of Democratic candidate Robin Hood, asked for the group’s support for her husband in the November election. She said he is a Christian family man, a Godly man who is not only a minister, but is experienced in government and law enforcement.
“He has proven what he can do for Drew County,” she said. “He has written grants to help the county by getting financial help to buy such things as police cars and security cameras for the court house.”
She also stated that Hood loves the people of Drew County and very much wants to work for and serve them as their county judge.
Mrs. Hood declined to answer questions from the group on behalf of her husband but said that he would answer any questions if people wished to call him.
Akin and Griffin did agree to answer questions from the audience.
Responding to a question about where the money for a new one percent tax would come from, Griffin said that grants would help bring money into the county. He suggested one way to add to the budget of the Drew County Detention Center would be to open the the jail to other communities and charge them for the use.
He stated that the county must live within our budget. He told the group that the 9.5 percent sales tax in Monticello is not bad; but with the high unemployment rate in Monticello, there are many who are not paying taxes. He also said that a property millage increase is coming, but he will not agree to it “because we should live within our means.”
Akin said if local residents would support Monticello through word of mouth and support Monticello businesses, it would attract more money to the community. He said as long as property values increase, there should not be an additional millage increase on property.
Griffin told the group that Atwoods has helped increase the revenue in Drew County this year. “Drew County is the hub of Southeast Arkansas, and we need to continue to use money from businesses that are here now and try to encourage new businesses,” he said.
Asked about their thoughts on special elections such as the property tax election at Drew Central, both candidates agreed that special elections are a way to get things passed with a minimal voter turnout and very little fanfare.
Akin said the timing of a special election is often very important to passage.
Akin and Griffin both spoke of the importance of the use of grants to add to the county’s income. However, when a member of the audience mentioned that many federal grants are now tied to the United Nations’ Agenda 21 regulations, both men stated that grants have their uses, but care should be taken when applying for them.