Hales returns with hopes for future

Published 2:17 am Sunday, December 30, 2007

When the Pearl River County Board of Supervisors reconvenes after the first of the year, most of the faces will be new, but the District I Supervisor will continue to be Anthony Hales, a man who is starting his fourth term as supervisor.

Hales first began serving as supervisor 12 years ago, and says even when he was first elected, there were problems within the county.

“When I was first elected, the county was trying to adjust to the unit system of doing things. It took some getting used to, and some people did not accept the changes easily…. We made giant steps toward running things properly,” Hales said.

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Over the years of his term, Hales said he has seen much progress made in all aspects for the county.

“I have seen tremendous upgrades in county equipment and the abilities of county workers to do work that we formerly would contract out. One major upgrade has been in our road workers. I know we still have a large number of gravel roads, but it’s a big responsibility and we have made tremendous progress in those areas,” he said.

Hales also touted the jail as one of the major projects he has seen accomplished during his service to the county.

“When I came on board, we had a 27, maybe 28-man jail, and it was crumbling, unsanitary and dangerous. We had between 110 and 115 inmates living in inhumane conditions. After lots of hard work, we were finally able to build a new jail. Our biggest setback was our plan for funding did not come together as we expected it would, because we did not get paying prisoners right away, so the responsibility fell on the taxpayers, and it was a strain on the budget,” he said.

Hales said Hurricane Katrina put a damper on many of the plans for the county that were in the works.

“We had some things moving in the right direction, but Katrina disrupted everything. I don’t think people realize how much of an effect Katrina had. Everyone was in a state of shock, and it made us realize how unprepared we were…. All our efforts went into making things better. The only thing was, people got the idea the board was being mean. The only thing we ever had was a desire to serve,” Hales said.

Hales said he feels like the board’s responsibilities to the citizens are to make certain that the standard of living in the county is no different from anywhere else.

“We should try to operate at the highest standards possible. Our standards should not be lowered just because we’re in Pearl River County. I don’t think the quality of life in Pearl River County should be less than any other county in the state, or less than in any other state.”

Hales said he has high hopes for the next four years, and has several things he would like to see for the county, such as the new Chimney Square building in Picayune.

“Chimney Square will be built. There is no doubt in my mind about that. It may not be the same building we have picked out right now, but it will be built as soon as we possibly can. Every supervisor is for it,” he said.

Hales said he also would like to see the Lake Troy project discussed further, although he said he has not heard the supervisors mention it much at this point.

“It would probably depend on the funding. I think if (the Lake Troy project) were to involve spending a lot of local money, I don’t think it would have a lot of support. I think it would be a good economic decision for the county, but we have to prioritize right now…. If there is a way to do it without placing a financial burden on the taxpayers, I would like to see that.”

Some of Hales’ other concerns include county roads and housing.

“I would like to see if there is a way for the county to maybe borrow some money and do a county-wide paving project and just eliminate all the dirt roads. I don’t know if we will ever catch up at our current rate…. Also, there needs to be more quality affordable housing in the county, and I would like to see how we can go about getting that.”

Hales said serving as a supervisor has its challenges as well as its rewards.

“When people have problems, they are going to call you. You have to send them to the proper people, because a lot of the time, you can’t help them…. I get a lot of complaints and bad-mouthing, but I’ll tell you. For every complaint or bad word I hear, when I manage to help someone in some way, that makes it all worthwhile,” Hales said.

Hales said that even though he will begin the new term with a new set of supervisors, it is no different for him than it has been in any other term he has yet served.

“I have served with basically three different administrations. This is my fourth board I have sat with. You build friendships and relationships and you try to get along. Ultimately, you aren’t very popular. The moment you make a decision, you make enemies… but this continues to be my aim and my desire. I know that God put a calling on my life to do what I am doing…. I am going to put forth every effort to try to serve the people. I hope that we will treat each other with respect and act like gentlemen. I hope we can bring positive things to the table, and I also hope we can all see down the road, because we are there to represent all the citizens of Pearl River County,” he said.