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Challengers push hard to take Troy Ross' seat


OCEAN SPRINGS -- Two candidates, Democrat Sean Alawine and independent David Venus IV, are challenging Troy Ross in the District 4 supervisor race general election Nov. 3.

Ross, 37, won the Republican primary and is seeking a second term as Jackson County supervisor in the district that includes west Ocean Springs, St. Martin and Latimer. He has out-collected the competition -- reporting more than $47,000 to spend on the race to Alawine's $1,000 and Venus' $4,500.

Alawine and Venus are pushing hard on issues that occurred during Ross' term on the Board of Supervisors, including the financial failures at the county-owned Singing River Health System; long executive-session board meetings that are closed to the public; and a twin-lake project in north Jackson County and south George County designed to affect the flow of the Pascagoula River during drought.

Ross is running on his record and told the Sun Herald he will continue to work to complete Old Fort Bayou Road improvements and work on other roads near the county schools in St. Martin.

The Cook Road project is also a priority, he said. During his time in office, the county began installing computer software that will make it easier for residents to keep up with what the Board of Supervisors is doing.

He said he wants to diversify the economy by helping Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College with its training programs, and continue to create an environment in which business and industry can flourish in Jackson County.

Ross said he plans to see if the county can reduce the number of board executive sessions, and continue work on a resolution for the SRHS failed pension.

About Lake George, he said, "When you start a project, you don't know until you get some experts to weigh in on what it can do, get a feeling and then decide whether you want to be behind it any more or not."

He said he believes if it's not a good project, investigation by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and other agencies will kill it.

Venus, 57 and a local businessman who told voters for the sake of transparency that he spent time in federal prison in the 1980s, said he wants to improve voter awareness and participation and to show voters that "it is good to go with a person from the independent party."

He said Board of Supervisor executive sessions go against what he believes in.

"I want people to be aware of what's happening," he told the Sun Herald. "I want the board to get feedback from the public."

He said he hears more and more about the "ridiculous attorney fees" involved in solving the failed SRHS pension plan and other unnecessary spending of money. He said people are finding out too late to discuss the issues and do something about them.

"Jackson County needs someone with common sense," he said, "who will share with the people and listen to the people.

"We need to encourage people to participate and take an interest in what's going on again," he said. "I'm the man who can do it. I've dealt with all walks of life, I can talk to anyone. I know how to talk to people."

Sean Alawine, 24, is a student working on his masters in history. He has been attending as many Board of Supervisors meetings as he could this year, along with retirees from SRHS. He said he's upset the county is not doing more to help the retirees secure their pension. He also wants to see fewer executive sessions and more dialogue with the public.

"It's frustrating when you want to say something to the board and they run off into executive session and you can't see how they spend public money."

Alawine is also concerned that the Jackson County Board of Supervisors supported a twin-lake project, primarily in George County, that is designed to have an impact on the flow of the Pascagoula River, the largest untamed river in the lower 48 states. Jackson County is on the application to the Corps of Engineers as supporting it.

"Why they want it and why they didn't investigate the negative impact on the county before giving their official support, I don't understand," he said.