CORINTH – Voters will have a new forum in this year’s municipal election to hear candidates for the executive office present their qualifications and issues.
A debate set for 7 p.m. Thursday at the Coliseum Civic Center gives four-term incumbent Mayor Jerry Latch and challenger Tommy Irwin, both Democrats, a chance to answer questions about their vision and priorities for the city for the next four years.
Community members may submit questions to the Daily Corinthian, which will facilitate the debate, by e-mail at debate @dailycorinthian.com. Some of those questions will be chosen by the newspaper’s editorial staff to pose to the candidates.
The candidates spoke about the leadership they offer for the next term.
“We have a lot of accomplishments that we can point to, and will complete many infrastructure projects before this term is over,” Latch said. “The biggest one dollar-wise is bringing water from the Tenn-Tom into Corinth that is going to serve the community and industry for many years to come.”
The projects that city residents can relate to most readily, he said, are ones that improve the streets in their own neighborhoods, and there are several completed paving projects as well as others still under way.
“Our resurfacing has included projects in every ward of the city,” Latch said.
Having a strong reserve fund built up during several years of tough economy has positioned the city to take advantage of federal and state funding through local matches, even though the city’s tax collections are down.
“Corinth qualified for a bond issue last year to pay for the Droke Road project and the city’s portion of the new Alcorn County justice center based on our stable financial situation,” Latch said. “Not many cities can say that right now.”
Work is under way on a major sewer project without any rate increase to customers, the number of emergency warning sirens placed throughout the city almost doubled, a new fire station is due to open any day, and more projects are in the works.
“We’re not sitting around just because the economy is down,” Latch said. “We’re preparing for the future, continuing some things we’re already doing and starting new projects. One example is the police department’s work to become a certified police department. Right now, of the 299 municipalities in the state, only two hold that designation. We want to be the third.”
At 63, Irwin and Latch are the same age.
Reared in Corinth, Irwin graduated from Corinth High School, played football at Mississippi State University, then earned his bachelor’s degree from Union University in Jackson, Tenn.
Before returning to live in Corinth about three years ago, Irwin spent 35 years working in cities across the Southeast as a manufacturing manager and owner. This is his first campaign for public office.
“In North Carolina I was always urged to run for office, but I’m really not a politician,” Irwin said. “I’m a businessman, but I believe the principals that work in business are ones that will work for our city.”
The belief in a business model as an effective tool for local government is something that helped propel Irwin to begin his campaign for mayor nearly three years ago. Irwin said he learned a long time ago to go to the people in the community to find out what the problems are, and also for the solutions.
He’s spent the past three years relationship-building toward that end.
“My dad always had a charitable heart, and being of service to my fellow man is what I learned from him and what I’m all about,” Irwin said. “The Lord has blessed me, I’ve had great experiences in my life, and I want to share those blessings with others.”
Though he may not know the ins and outs of the mayor’s job, Irwin said a key element of an effective business strategy is to become part of a team to create the job opportunities the city so desperately needs.
“There are no guarantees in business, but if you work hard and do things right, many times good things will happen,” Irwin said.
Lena Mitchell / NEMS Daily Journal Corinth Bureau