Boswell, Harper trade verbal jabs at supervisors' meeting
By By Steve Gillespie / staff writer
April 2, 2004
A discussion among Lauderdale County supervisors Thursday over an appointed position erupted into a heated exchange between three-term Supervisor Ray Boswell and first-term Supervisor Eddie Harper.
At one point, Harper said he didn't know the man Boswell recommended for jury commissioner and, therefore, couldn't support him. Harper said he backed 12-year Commissioner Jesse Barnett.
Boswell, the District 5 supervisor, immediately shot back: "Well you've been supervisor for about three months, but I wouldn't ever vote to put (you) back in."
The exchange highlighted a work session of the Lauderdale County Board of Supervisors, which was held in advance of its regularly scheduled Monday meeting set for 9 a.m. at the Raymond P. Davis Courthouse Annex.
Board members were discussing Boswell's recommendation to appoint Gary Huffmaster of Meehan as county jury commissioner replacing Barnett.
In previous work sessions, Boswell told the board the county should give more people a chance to serve in appointed positions instead of automatically re-appointing the same people.
Barnett did not attend the meeting and could not be reached for comment. Huffmaster also did not attend the meeting, but said later he remains interested in the position because he believes he could help the county.
During the meeting, Boswell said Barnett is a nice guy, "but he's been on there for three terms 12 years. I think everybody needs an opportunity to be a part of government."
District 2 Supervisor Jimmie Smith said he could not support Huffmaster, saying he once accused supervisors of being liars.
That drew an immediate response from Boswell: "I've called some of them (supervisors) liars before. Does that mean the board can't support him?"
Smith responded: "I'm just telling you my point of view. I can't speak for everybody else."
Huffmaster confirmed later that he called Smith and District 3 Supervisor Craig Hitt liars at a meeting about three years ago when supervisors were discussing Dalewood sewerage problems.
Smith told the board that he and fellow supervisors should decide at their work session and not at the regular meeting Monday who will be jury commissioner.
Harper said he knows Barnett, but doesn't know Huffmaster. "I wish he could have been up here for us to meet him," Harper said.
Smith said he didn't know Huffmaster personally.
District 4 Supervisor Joe Norwood said he didn't know Huffmaster or Barnett personally. Norwood also didn't indicate a preference.
Hitt said he didn't know Huffmaster, either, and wanted to learn more before making a decision.
The lack of support for Huffmaster then upset Boswell.
Harper suggested that fellow supervisors try to set up meetings between the entire board and recommended appointees in the future.
Harper, who was presiding over the meeting as vice president of the the board of supervisors, then said he couldn't support Huffmaster sparking Boswell's reply that he wouldn't support Harper for re-election.
Hitt told Boswell he didn't have to make personal attacks against Harper. And Smith told Boswell that fellow supervisors board should have mutual respect for each other.
But Boswell said his comments about Harper was not personal, and that he has respect for people who have respect for him. That sparked another bitter exchange between Boswell and Harper.
Harper told Boswell: "You have to earn respect."
Boswell: "Well you ain't earned none."
Harper: "I haven't asked for yours."
Boswell: "And you won't get it either, big boy. You won't get it."
State law requires each county to have a three-person jury commission to manage the jury selection process under the supervision and control of the court. The commission meets once a year. One commissioner is appointed by the Circuit Court judge, another by the Chancery Court judge and another by county supervisors; all serve four-year terms.