Forces gather to nix alcohol in Pontotoc

PONTOTOC – More than 100 people met Monday night in the Pontotoc County Courthouse to plan their strategy to keep beer and light wine from being legalized in the county.
Bro. Greg Herndon, pastor of Troy Baptist Church and moderator of the Pontotoc County Baptist Association, started the meeting by holding up a bold-lettered sign proclaiming “NO BEER IN PONTOTOC.”
“What do y’all think about that?” he asked, stirring a response of applause and cheers.
The meeting was a response to a current petition drive to gather some 3,400 certified voter signatures, which would compel the Board of Supervisors to call an election on whether to legalize beer and light wine.
In the one-hour meeting, people expressed frustrations, fears and faith. Several people suggested legal maneuvers – most not provided for within the law – from a counterpetition against having any such election to setting a deadline for petitioners to collect the signatures.
Jimmy Russell asked whether petitioners could be made to pay for the $35,000 to $40,000 that Circuit Clerk Tracy Robinson estimated a special election would cost. Informed that the law does not provide for such a requirement, he sighed, “I wish we could. I believe it would stop some signers.” (Robinson noted, however, that adding the measure to an existing ballot – next August’s primaries, for instance – would instead cost $500 to $750.)
One woman based her opposition to alcohol on her up-close witnessing of its worst effects.
“If they’d lived in my family when I was a child, they wouldn’t want it,” she said.
Bro. Doug Jones, pastor of Victory Baptist Church in Pontotoc, was confident that beer could be defeated at the poll, as it was in 1974.
“The last time we beat it two to one, but we didn’t have a meeting like this,” he said. “This time we ought to beat it five to one.”
The group elected Herndon its chairman, Jones vice-chairman, retired school principal Phyllis High as secretary and Bro. Ken Hester, pastor of Pontotoc’s First Baptist Church, as treasurer. The officers were authorized to choose a name for the group and to appoint committees to lead prayer, publicity, telephone campaigning, election-day transportation, finance and youth involvement, respectively.
Herndon said the group would have to pace itself for a marathon rather than a sprint.
“One thing we don’t want to do is to spend a whole lot of money right now knowing the fight may be put off for a few months,” he warned. “We’re going to try to be careful and try to be good stewards and not get ahead of ourselves.”
Contact reporter Errol Castens at (662) 281-1069 or errol.castens@djournal.com.

Errol Castens / NEMS Daily Journal Oxford Bureau