Anybody but Boswell
By By Craig Ziemba
Aug. 24, 2003
A couple of weeks ago, I accepted a position on a panel to ask questions of candidates for county supervisor in a televised forum. In addition to giving candidates a chance to clarify their views on economic development and consolidation of city and county services, I also wanted the chance to ask District 5 Supervisor Ray Boswell about a concern voiced by many voters.
Since Mr. Boswell's verbal abuse of subordinates and his legendary temper have been a well-known feature of Lauderdale County's political landscape, I asked the following question to the District 5 candidates:
In other words, I asked Ray Boswell if he had an anger management problem that affected the governance of Lauderdale County. He responded by having yet another anger management episode.
On camera, Mr. Boswell's answer was a display of bluster and counter accusation in which he justified last year's televised tantrum with Sheriff Sollie by claiming that he was only doing what was best for the taxpayers of his district.
The moment the forum was over and the cameras were off, however, many of us in attendance witnessed a scene that was a cross between Boss Hogg and Buford T. Justice. Mr. Boswell came straight off of the podium, got within inches of my face, and insulted me repeatedly. When I invited him to a debate on news talk radio, he cursed and stalked away.
I was told by several citizens who overheard this exchange, "Never mind him, that's just Ray." Judging from the reaction by the press in attendance, this type of behavior happens often enough that it is no longer news.
My purpose in relating this story is to exhort District 5 voters who are tired of the status quo to get involved in this November's elections. The way our public officials behave in public is a reflection of the citizens of the entire county. When our representatives are polite, well-spoken and self-controlled, we all look good and vice versa.
There are some die-hard Ray Boswell supporters who view his schoolyard bully behavior and profanity as a sign of strength and independence. I, too, believe a man should speak his mind.
But I also believe that what actually comes out of a man's mouth speaks volumes about his character and his ability to use logic and reason to convey his ideas. I can't help but wonder which approach is more conducive to attracting new businesses to East Mississippi.
Local political pundits say that Mr. Boswell is sure to be re-elected for a number of reasons. In a four way race with two Independents and one Republican, a Democratic incumbent with name recognition is sure to get the vote of folks who always vote for the candidate with a "D" by his name no matter who it is. The remaining votes would be split among the other three candidates, all of whom, in my opinion, would do a much better job than the incumbent.
The only way change is likely to come to District 5 is for concerned voters to rally around one of Mr. Boswell's challengers. If that happens, the entire county will benefit.
Craig Ziemba is a pilot who lives in Meridian. His book, "Boondoggle," is available at Meridian Bible Bookstores.