Addressing growth in Jackson County was the central theme among the local candidates who participated in last week's online political forum hosted by the Jackson County Area Chamber of Commerce.

Around 75 people viewed the forum via Zoom.

Two candidates declined to participate in the forum: Sheriff candidate Johnny Wood and candidate Jim David, who is vying for the Solicitor of State Court position.

All candidates in the forum are running in the June 9 Republican Primary.


In the Jackson County Board of Commissioner's race for District 2, incumbent Chas Hardy said dealing with growth is the county's biggest issue. He said the county needs to "embrace growth" and county leaders have to provide the infrastructure and enforcement controls for expansion.

On the impact of the virus on the county's budget, Hardy said the pandemic pointed out the importance of distribution centers to the county's tax base and economy. Unlike some communities, Jackson isn't relying on tourism or hospitality for its tax income, two sectors which have been hard hit in the pandemic.

Hardy's challenger, Tommy Rainey, said he was focused on feeding people during the pandemic and that he has a trailer load of chicken and no where to put it. 


Challenger Shannon Stephens said he thought technology, specifically Facebook, should be used more by the county's coroner's office to communicate with the public.

Incumbent Keith Whitfield said he would not get on Facebook due to the sensitive nature of the coronor's position.

Both candidates said helping grieving families was a key part of the cornor's job.


Candidate Gabriel Bradford said he would focus on dealing with the state's new DUI laws in the court and on domestic violence cases.

Bradford said the court will also have to develop a plan for operating under social distancing needs due to the virus pandemic. He said he wanted to increase the court's efficiency through plea conferences and other means to avoid backups in the court.

Bradford also pointed to his experience as a city court judge and solicitor.

Candidate Jim David did not participate in the forum.


Incumbent Sheriff Janis Magnum said that dealing with growth is the biggest issue in the sheriff's office. She said it's "amazing" how much the county had grown since she took office in 2013.

Magnum said her office had always been under budget.

In the jail, she said measures had been taken avoid the spread of the virus among prisoners, including the closure of visitation to the jail.

Candidate Johnny Wood didn't participate. 

In a Facebook post, Wood said:

"I did not take part in the Jackson County Chamber of Commerce Political Forum. I am not a Politician and I believe the Sheriff should not be involved in politics. The Current Sheriff is a member of the Chamber of Commerce and this forum was bias from the start. I was advised not participate is this forum. I will be glad to answer any questions from the citizens."


Challenger Wesley Colley said his focus would be on customer service and cross-training staff for different aspects of work in the tax office. 

Incumbent Candace Taylor Heaton said the biggest challenge in the office is the county's growth. She said a queuing system was being developed for those visiting the office to deal with the impact of the pandemic and that online services are important for customers as well.


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