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Q&A with Benton mayor candidates

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Sean Green
sean@bossierpress.com

In addition to electing a new president, member of the Senate, and 4th Congressional District, voters in Benton will be picking new leadership for their town.

There are six candidates running for the mayor of Benton office — Johnnie Brunson (D); James Friday (R); John “Jr.” Hollis (D); S.G. Horton, Jr. (R); Diane Naron (D); and Ken Shiflett.

The Bossier Press-Tribune was able to speak with four of the candidates and asked them the following questions:
1. Why are you running for Mayor of Benton?
2. What will be your priority for the town and why?
3. What do you want to say to potential voters?

Below, you can read their responses [Ed.’s note: calls to Ken Shiflett were not returned by press time].

Johnnie Brunson
1. Why are you running for Mayor of Benton? I know the outside very well — streets, drainage, sewer, and water — and I thought maybe I could help our community out. I’m concerned about our town, I’m not saying the current mayor didn’t do a good job but I want it to be as great as it can be. I’m not doing this for the money. I’m a people person and I want to help people when I can.
2. What will be your priority for the town and why? We’ve got a good town here. I want to treat people fair. I’ve enjoyed this campaign because I’ve had the chance to sit down with people I know and talk to them. I have grandkids here and I want to see more jobs and housing for them. We’ve got some good people working for the town and they know their jobs so there’s no need to go in and change that. But my main goal is what I can do and what i can’t do. I don’t want to tell someone I will do something and can’t do it. I’m a firm believer in being truthful. My deal is I’m not promising anything.
3. What do you want to say to potential voters? I would greatly appreciate their vote. There’s six candidates running and there’s some good ones running, I have no question in my mind that there are people very qualified to do this job. The advantage I have is that I’ve been in the field and have been in business for 43 years — I own a mobile home park and construction business, Brunson Construction — so I know that side of it. But if the Lord wants me there, he’ll put me there. If not, I’m not going to cry about it.

James Friday
1. Why are you running for Mayor of Benton? I have been on the town council for eight years (in the past) and served as mayor pro tem. I have the experience to serve the town and the community, and to help the town to grow and maintain its status.
2. What will be your priority for the town and why? There are several things are important that people aren’t aware of, as to what a mayor should or shouldn’t do. Serving the community and town is my priority. We have an industrial park that very few people know about and we have an old plant that we need to follow up on the cleaning up of, and turn that ground into something more useful than growing weeds. With the town of Benton serving as the parish seat, it needs to be more in-tune with the Bossier Parish Police Jury.
3. What do you want to say to potential voters? I will have an open door policy — whether it be a home owner, business person or student from the school — and anyone is welcome to chat with me about anything or any concerns about the town. My motto is “Unity for the Community.” I think we have some unity problems, as most towns do. I would serve to make sure that unity is filled and has a purpose.

John “Jr.” Hollis
1. Why are you running for Mayor of Benton? I’m 63 and lived here my entire life, my wife and I live on the same block I grew up on. My family and friends live here. I want to work to make Benton a place that al residents would never want to move away from. I think Proverbs 3:27 is a good example: Do not withhold good from those who deserve it when it’s in your power to help them. I’ve been self-employed for 45 years and I enjoy sitting down and problem solving, I’ve been able to make employees’ lives better and teach them. I like people and I really enjoy serving. I like getting to know the people here and I know we have things to make our neighbors’ lives easier. There are a lot of needs in town and when you get out there, you become aware that by sitting down with people, you can solve their problems right there. There are things we know we have to take care of — our infrastructure and things like that — but it can go on past there. I’ve visited the past mayors and they’ve given me insight into the job, I think it’s something I could do to help Benton grow.
2. What will be your priority for the town and why? I would like to continue to improve the infrastructure of Benton. Speaking with the present and past mayors, I understand the importance, hard work, and necessity of this part of the job. The town has an industrial park that has room for growth and I would like to attract additional businesses to come into town to create revenue and new jobs for our people that live here. There are a lot of organizations that do good work in Benton and I want to be involved with them because they play a big part in serving our community. I know many of the town employees and I would love to work with them in order to make their job as pleasant and productive as possible in serving the people. I want to make it where they like to get up and go to work. I’m a goal oriented communicator and I want to have communication as good as it can be for the town employees and the people here.
3. What do you want to say to potential voters? If I’m elected mayor, I will work hard for the people of Benton. I will be active in our community organizations. I will be in your neighborhood to communicate with you and will do all I can to make your life in Benton as great as it can possibly be.

S.G. Horton Jr.
1. Why are you running for Mayor of Benton? I’ve lived in Benton for 30 years, I love the town and I want to keep Benton strong.
2. What will be your priority for the town and why? I have several priorities – I want to continue our street improvement and see progress on our street overlay program, I want to continue our wastewater improvements and develop a master plan for our water system. I have an economic plan to attract businesses. We have a famers market that has been successful and I want to expand that. We have a city park, called the Simpson Street Park, that I want to expand and turn into a multi-use town venue. I want to expand our community center, take that and grow it to include a youth, after school program. I’m really, really big on having a citizens committee that meets monthly or quarterly, where citizens can sit down in a public forum and discuss issues they’re concerned about and that information can then be relayed to town officials.
3. What do you want to say to potential voters? As I said, my goal is to keep Benton on strong footing and moving forward, I want to take Benton into the future with economic development. I want to encourage small businesses and citizens to trade and shop here in Benton.

Diane Naron
1. Why are you running for Mayor of Benton? I just retired from the Bossier Parish School Board and I’m ready to get back to work. I think I can do the job and help the people.
2. What will be your priority for the town and why? I want to repair the roads because they are bad in some areas and I would like to see more playground equipment at our Farmers Market for our children. I would like to see some swings so our kids can stay in Benton and play, so they don’t halve to go anywhere else. I would like to see a few areas cleaned up.
3. What do you want to say to potential voters? Get out and vote on November 8!