Candidate Forum Held for Candidates for Justice of the Peace Election

By Greg Ritchie

Messenger Reporter

HOUSTON COUNTY –  The Crockett Area Chamber of Commerce held a forum for the candidates running for Justice of the Peace Precinct One at the Crockett Civic Center Thursday, Oct. 6.

The entrance area was decked out with snacks and beverages for the public. Each of the candidates had their own table with swag from their campaigns. Republican Mike McCreight and Democrat Kevin Johnson were both nervous – and confident before the forum officially began.

Houston County Elections Administrator Cynthia Lum was on hand with an actual voting machine to show voters how the process on election day would look. She had sample ballots, voting locations and was available to register citizens to vote. The Messenger also had a table available with free newspapers, information about subscriptions and to answer any questions from the public after the forum.

The meeting room had been set up for 80 people – but by the end of the event the partition wall had been opened and some in the very back were standing.

The event began with a word of prayer from Crockett Mayor Dr. Ianthia Fisher. Houston County Judge Jim Lovell thanked everyone for coming out and supporting the event.

“Isn’t it good to live in America – where we have the freedom to vote?” Lovell asked the crowd. “Thank you all for being here and taking part in this process that is unique to America. I am so glad each and every one of you are here. We have the only race in Houston County that is contested this time around. I for one, am glad that my race is unopposed. I enjoy running unopposed – it’s a lot cheaper and less trouble!”

Messenger reporter Greg Ritchie then invited each candidate into the hall to applause. In a coin toss, it was decided Johnson would answer the questions first, followed by McCreight. Most of the questions came from the Messenger – with several sent in advance by members of the public.

The candidates were first asked to introduce themselves.

Johnson began, “My name is Kevin “KJ” Johnson. I am from Dallas, Texas. I am 55 years old. I am married with three boys and one girl. My wife is here tonight – and my daughter is behind her. I went to Prairie View A&M and moved to Crockett. I started with the Crockett Police Department. I also worked at the district attorney’s office as an investigator and a drug dog handler. I also worked with the DARE program – drug abuse resistance education. I also worked with a program called GREAT – gang resistance education and training. This was taught throughout the county – Grapeland, Latexo, Kennard, Crockett and what is now the Quest Academy. I brought the program to the kids to teach them to keep away the temptations of drugs, alcohol and gangs. I worked for Sam’s Club – as an asset protection manager and a membership marketing manager. It was a big responsibility that I had. I had 117 people under my watch, keeping up with state and local compliances. I am currently the general manager for Dollar Tree here in Crockett. I invite you to vote for me. I guarantee you I will not let you down. I will work hard for you.

McCreight continued, “I am Mike McCreight. I grew up here in Houston County. My wife and I have four children. One works at the Crockett Police Department. I love Houston County. I have always lived here. I currently work at the Houston County Sheriff’s Office. I am a patrol sergeant. I started in 2003 in the jail. I moved up from there to patrol. Then I was assigned to the narcotics division for about five years. Then I was transferred into the criminal investigation division. Then I became the criminal internal division sergeant. Around two years ago when the new sheriff came in, I went back to patrol as a patrol sergeant. I am running for Justice of the Peace for the citizens of Precinct One. They need someone in there who will uphold the law – who knows the law – and that is why I am running.”

The questions continued for the next half hour, covering the candidates opinion’s about how to run the office better, their affiliation to their respective political parties and how they might use the Justice of the Peace position to help unite the communities in the county.

The men agreed on several issues – and where they disagreed – the issues seemed minor and more about process than policy. The issue of their political parties did show one major difference between the two. Johnson told the crowd party came second – local issues matter more. McCreight agreed that the position was not an overly political one, but noted due to several of the positions of the Democrat party, he could never support that party.

Before the forum broke up into the entrance hall, the final question gave each candidate an opportunity to sum up their efforts to win the election – and the position.

What would they say to someone who came to the forum undecided? Why give you their vote?

Johnson answered, “Come talk to me and I can prove to you why you should vote for me. Not just by how I look or what party I belong to – but how I do things. Look at my history. Do your research. I am transparent. I want you to vote for me. I am honest. I have integrity. I work hard. If I tell you I am going to do something – I am going to do it.”

McCreight responded, “I have always served the citizens of this county with integrity. I have always been honest and treated everybody fair. That is the same job I will do in the Justice of the Peace office. I have met a lot of people – and there’s a lot I have not met – this is a big county! I never really realized how big it was until I ran for office. I feel that with my law enforcement background – and my experiences in this job – make me the better candidate for this position.”

Neither man was challenged aggressively as this was a forum and not a debate in the traditional sense. The attendees were invited to visit with the candidates after the forum to follow up with them on particular issues. Remarks from the people present and online were positive. All agreed Houston County needs more of these events.

The Messenger would like to thank everyone who attended or watched online. Our participation in elections – local, state, and national – is the only way to keep governments accountable and representative of our needs and desires.

When asked what kind of a government these new United States would be, Benjamin Franklin answered, “A republic – if you can keep it.”

Greg Ritchie can be reached at [email protected]

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