Community holds forum for next Jackson County Sheriff

VANCLEAVE, MS (WLOX) - The voters of Jackson County have one question they're waiting to get answered: How will the newly elected sheriff change the image of law enforcement following the resignation of longtime sheriff Mike Byrd.

It was the hot topic of discussion Thursday night in Vancleave where six running candidates presented themselves and explained how they would shine the tarnished image of the Jackson County Sheriff's Department leadership.

The current interim sheriff, Charles Britt, took the stand first. He said four months after being placed into the position, he knows the county needs a facelift.

"The most important thing I think I can bring to this county is a fresh view. Everybody says they're tired of the same old thing," Britt said. "I have the ability to come in, look at the situation on a clean slate, and make the best decision for the best reason for the people."

Jeff Barnes serves as a Lieutenant in Pascagoula and said his priority stands with the people of Jackson County.

"Jackson County is going to have to restore the faith from the people, to start with. The public's lost trust in its law enforcement, and it's going to take a strong man or woman, to bring forth that trust again," Barnes explained. "It's going to need some proven leadership, and my ability to lead people has been proven over and over again."

Bob Cochran also serves as a Lieutenant in Pascagoula, and he believes in bringing in ethics.

"I feel that some things just need to be tweaked a little bit. And with that, bringing in the ethics and bringing in that sort of thing is going to make a big difference in this county," Cochran said.

Mike Ezell, who's the Captain of Campus Police at Singing River Health System, said the county needs someone of morals.

"The sheriff is actually, really and truly the face of the county," Ezell said. "They're expecting a man of integrity, a man that operates under the rule of law."

Training Coordinator of the Pascagoula Police Department, Bruce Lynd, feels his leadership qualities will put the county's priorities back in place.

"I can be a leader, be a leader that Jackson County can be proud of. We have to change a lot of things at the sheriff's department. First and foremost, we have to stop the wasteful spending. We need to bring the integrity and the values of that department up," Lynd said.

Scott McIlrath took the stand last, and also emphasized his importance of bringing a strong, honest leader to take over the duties of the next Jackson County sheriff.

"The first thing they need is they need a leader in the sheriff's department. You know, they need someone that cares about the county and cares about the people that live here, work here, come here to play. And the department itself needs a leader," McIlath said.

All candidates have until the September 5, 2014 to comply with state qualifications to hold office. The election to determine who will finish Mike Byrd's term is set for November.

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