These Harrison County candidates want your vote. Here’s how they hope to get it.

Two contested races for Harrison County supervisor will be decided in the Aug. 6 Republican primary.

In District 2, Shawn Petro and Rebecca Powers are running for the seat Angel Kibler-Middleton is giving up to run for county constable. In District 5, Richard Todd Herrin is challenging incumbent Supervisor Connie Rockco.

Longtime Coroner Gary Hargrove also is retiring, with his chief deputy, Brian Switzer running for the job against Rosie Robertson.

All four of the supervisor candidates say they have been out knocking on doors and talking to voters.

Also on ballots are contested Senate and House races, along with Republican races for tax collector, tax assessor, chancery clerk, District 5 Justice Court judge, and constable in districts 2 and 5.

Tax increase opponents

Both candidates in District 2 say that, if elected, they would oppose any tax increase.

Shawn Petro believes the county is wasting money, which is why he said he decided to run for office. He pointed to an empty industrial park in Saucier as evidence that supervisors could do a better job of directing economic development.

The Harrison County native also is concerned about pollution created by development in the county. He said a sewage lagoon is currently draining into a stream in his district and the problem needs to be fixed before more housing is added.

Petro owns a business, Event Restrooms, that rents portable toilets.

“Everything I’m hearing from the voters is very positive,” he said.

Rebecca Powers, a journalist who for years anchored the WLOX newscast, said voters in unincorporated areas have been talking to her about the need for better roads, and the flooding they have experienced as more subdivisions are built.

Powers, who owns a media company and also is a co-owner of Newk’s in Gulfport, believes development should be more carefully managed and planned. She said too many subdivisions are filled with concrete and void of trees.

She also has learned that the county’s standards for asphalt are lower than the city of Gulfport’s, leading to uneven paving jobs on roads that cross jurisdictions.She would like to see the county’s standard raised, saying asphalt would last longer and roads that run from the city into the county would be uniform.

Harrison County, she said, “has so much potential. I just want everything to be done right. That’s why I’m running. I want to be part of growing in the best way for the quality of life.”

In District 5, Richard Todd Herrin retired in May 1, 2018, as assistant road manager at the Woolmarket Work Center so that he could run for supervisor.

He sees drainage, paving and recreational facilities as major priorities. He said ball fields need to be updated and a turf-management program put in place. He also wants to make sure senior citizens’ centers are fully funded.

Herrin said he would oppose any tax increase.

He sees himself as a hands-on supervisor, staying in regular touch with constituents to understand and act on their concerns.

“I think we need to provide up to date services for our citizens,” he said. “That’s our job. That’s what we’re supposed to be doing. The citizens need somebody that they can count on.”

Rockco has spent almost 20 years in office.

Over the next four years, she said, she wants to work on bringing faster Internet broadband service to Harrison County, economic development, improved community health care and environmental projects funded with BP money from the 2010 oil catastrophe.

She plans to encourage “clean industry,” such as the medical technology and research facilities being built in the Tradition planned community off Mississippi 67.

Rockco did not rule out a tax increase, but none have been approved for the county during her time in office.

“If there’s a serious need, that’s the only way I would want to raise taxes,” she said, “but it would have to be a serious, proven need. I would rather have economic development to bring in taxes.”

The only supervisor unopposed for re-election is Kent Jones in Distrct 4. District 1 and 3 races will be decided in the general election.

Coroner on ballot

The Harrison County coroner’s race also will be decided in the primary. Longtime coroner Gary Hargrove is retiring. His chief deputy, Brian Switzer, and emergency medical technician Rosie Robertson are running for the job.

Switzer is a paramedic who served as deputy coroner for 11 years before becoming chief deputy in 2015.

He said he has been working with churches to bring chaplains when needed on death calls. He also hopes the crime lab on the Coast will be up and running so the coroner will not have to rely so heavily on Jackson staff for death investigations.

Switzer said he’s running based on his experience and qualifications.

Rosie Robertson has worked for American Medical Response since 1995. She is an emergency medical technician and also has been a teacher for 20 years. Although her EMT duties are now part-time, she used to work full-time at both jobs.

She teaches special education at West Harrison High, where she also is head coach of the girls’ volleyball team.

“We need somebody in there with compassion and integrity and dedication,” Robertson said. “Those are three qualities that I value. I don’t steer from those.”

Stories about races in Hancock and Jackson counties will run in the Sun Herald in the next few days.

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Anita Lee is a Mississippi native who specializes in investigative, court and government reporting. She has covered South Mississippi’s biggest stories in her decades at the Sun Herald, including the Dixie Mafia, public corruption and Hurricane Katrina, a Pulitzer Prize-winning effort. Nothing upsets her more than government secrecy and seeing people suffer.
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