Leader Blues

Friday, May 29, 2009

TOP STORY >> Runoff held on Tuesday

Leader staff writer

Tuesday’s vote will decide who will lead Jacksonville for the next 18 months — either Alderman Gary Fletcher or Alderman Kenny Elliott.

“We are both good men,” Fletcher said, “but we do have two different personalities and two different styles.”

Fletcher, in his last interview before the runoff, wants residents to focus on the issues. “We’ve got to push for our schools. As the campaign winds down I’ve discovered that the schools are the number one issue and nothing comes close second. The schools are the heartbeat of our community,” he said.

Elliott is asking voters to look at his leadership and experiences. “I have the qualifications to lead this city. I truly care about Jacksonville and can get a lot accomplished.”

Elliott was pleased with the early voting numbers through Friday since 858 residents have already voted.

“That’s a large number and I hope those numbers and the excitement carry through Election Day,” he said.

Elliott said he has run a strong, positive campaign. “We’ve tried to stress the positives and what we can do for the city. I will have an open- door policy and get the whole community involved.”

Fletcher agreed with Elliott on the positive note of the campaign. “It’s one of the most positive campaigns that I’ve ever been a part of. I’m proud of the work of our people,” Fletcher said.

He is concerned about the recent brouhaha over the city’s boys and girls middle schools. “I’m upset with the district and don’t feel they have a clue how to give us a quality education. Every day that these problems persist is another day that it hurts our children.”

Fletcher is displeased with the movement of administrators and putting all the middle school students back under one roof.

“That building is undersized and not up to code,” he said.

Fletcher said as mayor he would offer the district an olive branch. “I want to play nice, but if they continue not to listen to us, we can play hardball with the best of them. I don’t want that to sound like a threat, but there are things we can do,” he said.

Fletcher has tried to call Bill Vasquez, Jacksonville’s representative on the county school board, numerous times to discuss options, but has not received any calls back.

Elliott, who works for the Pulaski County Special School District, at least until he’s elected mayor, said, “I’m very sad with the discourse going on. I’m saddened to see so much disagreement between staff and administrators and parents.

“Schools are the number one priority for us in Jacksonville, and I will be heavily involved in doing what it takes to improve our schools and to get our own district.”

In the May 12 special election to replace the retiring Mayor Tommy Swaim, Fletcher received 952 votes, or 39 percent, and Elliott received 789 votes, or 32 percent.

Elliott, 56, is a native of Jacksonville and has been an alderman since 1996 and is the coordinator of energy management for the PCSSD. He is married and has one daughter, twin sons and two granddaughters.

Fletcher, 54, has been a resident of Jacksonville since 1968 and has been on the council since 1978 and is president of Fletcher Homes, a residential homebuilding company. He is married and has two children and five grandchildren.