More candidates than voters attend Calhoun County forum in Alexandria
by Laura Johnson
lbjohnson@annistonstar.com
Oct 24, 2012 | 4547 views |  0 comments | 14 14 recommendations | email to a friend | print
ALEXANDRIA — With two weeks until voters head to the polls the Alexandria Civitan Club held a political forum for candidates vying for public offices in Calhoun County, but almost no one showed up to hear them.

Organizers estimated that besides candidates’ families and their close supporters, three people showed up Tuesday night to hear what the 11 office-seekers had to say. The Civitan Club holds a similar meeting each election cycle and leaders said meetings are usually well attended, but they didn’t know why so few people came to hear the candidates this time.

“I knew the crowd was going to be slim, but I didn’t know it was going to be this slim,” said club President Echols Bryant. “We were packed last time.”

The forum may have been sparsely attended, but candidates spoke as if they were addressing a room full of local voters.

Foster Marshall, 44, running for circuit judge, has served as a prosecutor for the Calhoun County District Attorney’s office for the past 11 years.

Marshall graduated from Birmingham School of Law and prior to serving as a prosecutor, he spent three years in private practice. He lives in the Choccolocco Valley.

He touted his own record and criticized his opponent, Bud Turner, for being sanctioned and held in contempt by Circuit Judge Deborah Jones. Jones had issued a warrant for Turner’s arrest after he failed to appear before Jones in the matter of a client he had been defending. Jones ordered Turner to pay $3,630 in the case.

“Do you want a candidate who has devoted his career to fairly following the law? That individual is me,” Marshall said.

Turner, 59, declined to respond to Marshall’s remarks from behind the podium, instead focusing on his career as an attorney.

“I like Foster. I think he is a good person and I won’t take the time to respond to any of the negative things he said about me,” Turner said. After the forum, Turner said Marshall’s remarks were politically motivated.

Turner said he has practiced law for 25 years and served one term as a 7th circuit judge, from 1999 to 2004 when he was defeated by Circuit Judge John Thomason in a bid for a second consecutive term. He has served as the municipal judge for Piedmont and filled that role on a temporary basis in Anniston and Oxford.

Turner lives in Golden Springs and is a 1985 graduate of Cumberland School of Law.

One circuit clerk candidate

Missy Hall was the lone candidate in attendance for the position of Calhoun County circuit clerk. She spoke directly after Turner.

Hall, 40, of Oxford, served as a legal assistant for Circuit Judge Joel Laird between 2001-2011. During that time she also worked part time with the Calhoun County Drug Court. Currently she serves as Laird’s legal assistant and office manager. Laird is now in private practice.

Prior to signing on to help Laird, Hall was a beautician for 10 years.

She told attendees she should be elected because of her experience in the courthouse.

“I will be able to go in with my knowledge and sit down and start to work,” Hall said. “There will not be much of a learning curve for me.”

Her opponent, Calhoun County Commissioner Eli Henderson, 75, of Wellborn, did not attend. When contacted by a reporter after the event ended, Henderson said he did not know about the forum; he said he was at a local Marine Corps League meeting when the forum was under way.

Henderson said his opponent’s courthouse experience was limited, adding that he’s worked regularly with the court system as a Calhoun County Commissioner.

“We maintain the courthouse,” Henderson said, referring to the commission. “Through the years we’ve dealt with every facet of what goes on down there.”

The circuit clerk heads the chief administrative office of the court system, accounts for all the money going in and out of the courts and is in charge of summoning, organizing and paying jurors. The circuit clerk is also the custodian of court records, oversees the issuing of warrants in district court, handles payments of all traffic tickets, handles lawsuits more than $10,000, handles the filing of court motions and handles alimony payments and divorce filings.

School board candidates speak

Eight of the 10 candidates for Calhoun County School Board also attended the meeting. Two of the three Democratic candidates, Paul Ford and Judy West Bell, did not.

The one attending Democratic candidate, Dennis Christopher, said he has never met Bell and Ford and didn’t know why they weren’t there. Christopher, a newcomer, said that though he is conservative, he ran on the Democratic ticket in the primary, in part, because the Republican field was crowded with more than a dozen hopefuls.

“I grew up during the days of the old Democratic party,” said Christopher, 51. “I guess you could still be called a conservative Democrat.”

Christopher said if he’s elected, his main objective would be to look out for the best interest of students in Calhoun County public schools. During the primary season candidates focused on financial woes, capital improvements and lunch line complaints, but like Christopher, most candidates focused primarily on doing what is best for children.

Three candidates — Mike Almaroad, an incumbent, Dale Harbin, an incumbent, and Jeff Winn, a retired educator and newcomer — touted the school system’s direction and said they supported Calhoun County Superintendent Joe Dyar.

David Gilmore, another incumbent, said he wants another six years to work for the students. Phil Murphy said he wants another term to ensure that moral values are instilled in the school system.

School board candidates Deborah Hess and Tobi Burt touched on topics that were discussed in the primary. Hess said she would like to establish a foundation to raise money and that she supports capital project development.

Burt said he wants to help improve the meals that are served in school lunchrooms and promised to donate his board salary to scholarship funds for students. Burt said the salary would total just over $40,000 over the course of a six-year term.

“I’m not a politician,” Burt said. “I’m just a parent.”

Time to register

People who want to have a say in the Nov. 6 election can register to vote until Friday at 4:30 p.m. Calhoun County residents can pick up voter registration forms at city clerks’ offices or find them online at CalhounCounty.org, said Calhoun County Board of Registrars member Carolyn Henderson.

The forms require residents provide their name, address, date of birth, last four numbers of their Social Security number, driver’s license number and a signature. They must be delivered by hand to the Calhoun County Registrar’s office in the Ken Joiner Calhoun County Administration Building or delivered by mail and postmarked by Friday, Henderson said.

The registrar’s office has been busy in recent days. Registration picked up slightly about six weeks ago and picked up drastically three weeks ago, Henderson said.

She said between 300 and 350 people are registering to vote daily. Currently, she said, there are about 74,300 registered voters in Calhoun County.

Staff writer Laura Johnson: 256-235-3544. On Twitter @LJohnson_Star.
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