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Crowder, Phillips meet Tuesday in GOP runoff

By By Fredie Carmichael / staff writer
Aug. 25, 2003
Roger D. Crowder is seeking the Republican nomination for state commissioner of agriculture.
Crowder, 56, ran for the job as a Democrat in 1995 and 1999 and lost both times. He meets Max Phillips, also 56, of Taylorsville, in Tuesday's GOP runoff.
The winner will meet incumbent Democrat Lester Spell and Reform Party candidate Bob Claunch in the Nov. 4 general election. At stake: A job heading the state Department of Agriculture and Commerce. The commissioner of agriculture earns $90,000 a year.
Crowder met with The Meridian Star's editorial board last week to talk about his campaign.
The Meridian Star: How do you think your educational background in agriculture helps you in this race?
Roger D. Crowder: No one cares that I know how to do chemistry. They're not looking for a state leader with those types of skills, although it's good to have it how many soy beans to plant per acre. I know those types of things. What they're looking for, I think, is someone who can put it all together, put all under one umbrella and then look at the total state as we try to grow our economy.
The Star: You list "added-value processing" as one of your priorities. What happens now to our agricultural products and what would you like to see happen?
Crowder: Look at cotton in our state, which is no longer king. It used to be the No. 1 crop. There's little to no added-value processing of that crop. We don't make garments or cloth out of that cotton here. If we could, that would create thousands of jobs in Mississippi.
If we take the timber industry where we cut that tree down, haul it to market and take it to the sawmill and then ship it out of the state. We get little, in terms of job rotation, when we do that.
But if we took that same tree and made a table out of it here, that's the finished product and that's where you actually grow the jobs and grow your economy.
The growth takes place on the rotation. The more times you can turn a dollar over, the more impact it has on our economic future.
That's what Mississippi is weak in. We only have about a $52-$53 billion economy in this state. We're what, 15 miles from Alabama? Why do we just have $52 billion here and they have a $250 billion economy? What's so different between Mississippi and Alabama? I know what the difference is it's the leadership.
If you think small, you have small results. There's no need for there to be that type of difference. If Mississippi is to ever move forward economically, we must base our economy on our natural resources.
The Star: How do you feel your background as a county agent will help you?
Crowder: County agents come from a broad spectrum background, we've had a lot of training. If you have a farming question, whether it relates to chemicals or the variety of a seed, we are considered the authority in that area.
The Star: You say that Mississippi needs more honest leadership. Explain what you mean by that.
Crowder: There are things that I won't do to be elected. There are things I won't do to remain in office.
One is I won't hire individuals who are incompetent or who can't do their jobs. It doesn't matter if you put up signs for me all day and night, I'm not going to hire your son, your cousin or your friend because you were involved in my campaign. I'm just not going to do that.
Chemicals are very, very dangerous now. We have fuels that, together, can be an explosive thing. We have a responsibility.
I will be slow by granting premature approval of pesticides. If a chemical company comes in and they've got a particular pesticide they want to go ahead and get on the market, that may not have gone through the complete testing process. It's going to be hard for me to approve that. That's where my background and knowledge will come in, because I know the potential danger of these chemicals.
Why is going to be easier for Roger Crowder to do that? Because I have not received one penny of chemical money. You may say money doesn't influence people but I say it does.
The Star: You ran in the past two elections as a Democrat. What has changed over the past four years and what attracted you to the Republican party?
Crowder: I was recruited and asked to serve in my first campaign by the Republican party and I refused. Again in 1999, they contacted me. They said my views were more Republican. But, again I refused.
I was starting to lean that way and then I met with a man I knew, Charlie Hull, from Vaiden. He's someone I'd known for a long period of time. He made several visits with me and he had a lot of impact on my decision and helped me realize that's where I needed to be.
I think the Republican party is broad enough to be inclusive. I think the party has a broad enough spectrum to include people with different demographics. All of my experiences in the party have been very, very available.
I like the meetings. Every meeting with the party I've been to, we've opened it with prayer. That's impressive to me.
The Star: What separates you from Max Phillips? When people go into the voting booth on Tuesday, why should they cast their vote for you?
Crowder: My work experiences and background are fitted for this position better. This is not to be negative to Mr. Phillips, we're good friends. If he had had the same training, he'd be just as qualified. But our training backgrounds are different. Max Phillips is not my enemy.