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Candidates share ideas, critiques at Fulton County forum
Twenty one candidates spoke to voters at a forum in Hickman on April 26, 2018

(Hickman, KY) - Twenty one candidates showed up to face voters in a candidate forum on Thursday evening in Fulton County seat, Hickman. A crowd of over 100 listened quietly and then applauded candidates for county clerk, sheriff, magistrate, jailer and constable.

The event sponsored by the Fulton County Democrat Committee was nonpartisan. Only one candidate identified his party - or lack thereof - Doug Akers, running as an independent for the office of sheriff.

The format was simple and moved the program along quickly. The whole program was over in well under two hours. Candidates one at a time were asked up to three questions related to the job they are seeking. They then had up to four minutes to plead their cases.

From first to last speaker, here's what we heard them say:

County Clerk: Longtime Fulton County Clerk Betty Abernathy is not running again. Two candidates for the job of being the county's record keeper of fiscal court minutes, deeds and property recording and management of voting were on hand.

Naomi Jones, the only woman candidate present, works in Abernathy's office. Jones said a problem with voter participation was incomplete or incorrect voter registration forms. She said that registration should be only done in the clerk's office.

Brandon Uzzle is an alum of both the county clerk's office and the PVA's office. Uzzle, describing himself as a "outgoing, positive person," stressed working with other agencies and entities.

Jailer: The Fulton County Detention Center, once a money maker for the county, has had some very bad years. Former jailer, Ricky Parnell, was convicted of conspiracy to defraud the county in jail Jailer sentenced in kickback scheme. Then the jail was hit by a tornado West Kentucky Star Two tornadoes hit Hickman 3-11-17 that caused considerable damage.

Of the three candidates scheduled to speak, only Steven Williams showed up to speak. Williams has experience in policing, working in the Fulton City police department. Asked about familiarity with statutes related to his job, Williams said that the over 100 statutes were available and he is familiar with them.

Sheriff: Longtime Sheriff Bobby Hopper died in 2016 after battling cancer for several years. With an open seat, several candidates are vying for the job. In light of the recent school shootings in Kentucky and Florida, school safety was a question for the candidates.

Mitchell "Mickey" Reilly said that as sheriff he would back up any police department that called for help. Reilly said if elected he will press for a clear policy and procedure manual, officer uniforms and high visibility patrol cars. Reilly has an identical twin, Mike Reilly, running for sheriff in Hickman County. If both win, it will be the first time twins won identical offices.

Johnny Smith also has law enforcement experience. When asked about keeping up with taxes, he said that the office secretary does that. School safety and working with other departments are his priorities.

David Thomas: the former project manager who came home and worked in the sheriff's office said that school safety officers must be more proactive. He was asked about the use of lethal force and he said it was only appropriate when an officer or another is threatened.

Robert Woods has been the acting sheriff since Hopper's death. He advocated the use of video and audio equipment in policing. He said that suspects in interrogation should be treated with dignity and respect. If elected, Woods said his door would always be open.

Doug Akers running as an independent won't be on the May primary ballot. He wasn't scheduled on the program but he was present so allowed to speak. He told crowd that he had to get over 100 signatures to be on the ballot. Most of those he spoke to don't know who the sheriff was. Akers is a safety officer in a college setting and he said every child should know who the safety officer is.

Magistrate District 1: Of the three candidates running for District 1 magistrate, only one showed up.

Jim Paitsel, a retired attorney, said that magistrates are paid too much and get too many benefits. According to Paitsel, in addition to pay magistrates are full time employees who get health and retirement benefits. Paitsel said that is excessive for a court that meets once a month.

Magistrate District 2: Of the four scheduled to speak, three candidates were on hand.

Christopher W. Adams, a young farmer from the Cayce community, would move the fiscal court meeting to a more accessible time. Currently the court meets at 9:00 a.m. on the 10th of each month. Adams said he would conduct local town hall meetings with constituents. He agreed with Paitsel on magistrate pay. He predicted cutting pay would generate $200,000 in savings.

J. L. Atwill thought, in response to a question on voter turnout, that getting the vote out was a tough problem in Fulton County. He said that the high crime rate contributes to low turnout. Convicted felons cannot vote. He said he is not upset with present magistrates but he agrees compensation is "a little high."

Mike Cash said that he thinks that there should be more jobs so "people born and raised here can stay here." He too has no agenda against the current magistrates, he is just ready to be a magistrate.

George Jones, the incumbent District 2 magistrate, disagreed with challengers who think being a magistrate is a once a month job. He cited work during disasters, road inspections as some of the work of a 24/7 magistrate. The salary was set 41 years ago. Jones first promise to voters was he wouldn't raise taxes and not everybody would like him.

Magistrate District 3:

Incumbent James Black agreed that periodic town hall meetings are a good idea. He said that jobs are a number one priority for Fulton County.

Hugh Caldwell is the emergency manager for Hickman. Caldwell is the voice that comes over the one call telling residents a storm is coming. Caldwell said a high priority for Fulton County should be road improvement. He said that companies have decided not to come to Fulton County because, while there is a four lane highway through the county, access between it and the Port of Hickman is a winding two lane road with no shoulders. He stated changing magistrate job from full time to part time would generate enough savings to pay for the new county ambulances.

Magistrate District 4: Four of the five candidates scheduled to speak were in attendance.

James Adams is a former truck driver who thinks county cooperation with the two cities of Hickman and Fulton can be better. He thinks there is single action he could do to reduce poverty in Fulton County is to bring in jobs.

Doug Goodman said economic development is a big issue. He served on the board of the River Port and helped put 1000 acres into an economic development zone.

Jacob Goodman works in agriculture. He said that for the first time since 1954, more people are moving from urban to rural areas. To grow the county, he promised to hustle. Goodman said that Fulton County is farthest from Frankfort in miles. He believes it is also farthest in the mind of the capital city because of a lack of advocacy.

Shaun Parks said voters he talked to are frustrated with the roads and feel nothing is being done. He said things need to be fixed. He also said he supports term limits. One magistrate brags he is the longest serving in Kentucky with 41 years of service. Parks said he can't see himself being magistrate for that long.

Constable District 4:

Mark Mayo is the incumbent. He said that he has six years experience and he enjoys helping people.

Naomi Jones, candidate for county clerk
Brandon Uzzle, county clerk candidate
Christopher Adams, candidate magistrate district 2
David Thomas, candidate for sheriff
Doug Akers, candidate for sheriff
Doug Goodman, candidate for magistrate district 4
Hugh Caldwell, candidate for magistrate district 3
Steven Williams, candidate for jailer
Jacob Goodman, candidate for magistrate district 4
James Adams, candidate for magistrate district 4
James Black, candidate for magistrate district 3
Jim Paitsell, candidate for magistrate district 1
Johnny Smith, candidate for sheriff
George Jones, candidate for magistrate district 2
Mitchell Reilly, candidate for sheriff
Mike Cash, candidate for magistrate district 2
Robert Woods, candidate for sheriff
Shaun Parks, candidate for magistrate district 4
Mark Mayo, constable candidate

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