Editor’s Note: The is the first article of a two-article series about the Winnsboro-Franklin Chamber of Commerce political forum held Sept. 10. In the first article, local candidates and some of their responses are highlighted. In the second article, candidates running for house and senate seats will be highlighted and published in the Sept. 25 edition of The Franklin Sun.
State and local candidates running for offices of sheriff, clerk of court, state senator and house were in attendance Sept. 10 at Jack Hammons Community Center for the Winnsboro-Franklin Chamber of Commerce political forum.
The four clerk of court candidates, Anita Gallagher-Wygal, Matthew Hollis, Karah Lochbrunner and Austin Warner were in attendance.
Franklin Parish Sheriff Kevin Cobb participated in the forum while his challenger, Madison Eaton Jr., was a no-show.
Dr. Joshua Stockley, professor of political science at the University of Louisiana at Monroe, was the event moderator which featured opening and closing statements along with three questions for each group.
In his opening statement, Cobb said Franklin Parish Sheriff’s office tried to be a resource to many different areas for the people of Franklin Parish.
As sheriff, Cobb said Franklin Parish Sheriff’s office’s financial standings have climbed while he has been in office.
“We have taken a financially sound office and made it better by increasing our net position by 100 percent,” Cobb said. “We run a $13 million budget with the ability to explain every detail.”
During his three terms as Sheriff, Cobb said he faced many challenges and named several areas where his department has fought crime.
“During my term we have faced many challenges that could have created turmoil in our community, and we have provided swift justice in most every case,” Cobb said. “We have worked diligently to subdue drug activity in our parish, and we have an average of over 300 felony drug arrests per year.”
Additionally, Cobb gave credit to his family, the Sheriff’s office and deputies for his success.
“Without hesitation (officers) are dedicated to each and everyone of you in this parish to protect and serve,” Cobb said. “They do not back up. They do not quit, and they do not give up. If you only knew how dedicated and committed they were to the office and to the parish and to the people of Franklin Parish you would be proud. I promise you I am.”
Clerk of Court
With her opening statement, Gallagher-Wygal highlighted her 20 plus years of experience working at the Clerk of Court’s office. She is currently serving as Chief Deputy Clerk.
“I have spent the last 20 years in the clerk’s office and there is not any area in the clerk’s office I have not worked in,” she said.
Hollis, who is a Winnsboro lawyer, said his transaction-based legal practice gives him the experience he needs to be the Clerk of Court.
“I spend the majority of my time in the Clerk’s office,” Hollis said. “I believe our Clerk’s office right now is well organized, but I do have a little to do list of things I would like to do to make it more accessible to the public.”
Lochbrunner, who has dealt with double pneumonia since being on the campaign trail, touted her 11 years of work experience in Franklin Parish Courthouse 911 office and then Franklin Parish Police Jury. Lochbrunner is the assistant secretary / treasurer of the Franklin Parish Police Jury.
Lochbrunner said she would like to see Clerk of Court documents made available online.
“The publication of Franklin Parish ordinances are on-line for the public to access,” Lochbrunner said. “I have gone through this process before, and it is a daunting task.”
The fourth candidate to speak for Clerk of Court, Warner said he has felt “the call to serve.”
Warner is a nine-year veteran of the Franklin Parish Sheriff’s office as a patrolman. Prior to the Sheriff’s office, Warner worked two years in the insurance business.
“As your Clerk of Court I want to serve the people of this parish,” Warner said. “I always make myself one promise whenever I go to work…always do your best.”
Each candidate agreed technology in the clerk’s office needed to be updated when asked by Stockley.
“I had the responsibility of updating offices (with the 911 office and Police Jury),” Lochbrunner said. “You have to be disciplined in doing it and pay attention to what you are doing and work closely with whatever company you contract.”
Through his parish travels, Warner learned the citizens wanted up to date technology in the Clerk’s office.
“When I have talked to the citizens of Franklin Parish that is one of the main things said - technology in the office and more of it and more on-line to be able to quickly look up items,” Warner said. “I have talked to other clerks about it and it is definitely something we will be willing to look at.”
Gallagher-Wygal said she has been attending classes to see how the Clerk’s office could improve its technology.
“I have been being getting documents on line and have been going to meetings lately to see what we need to do,” Gallagher-Wygal said. “By 2020 we will have to be ready to e-file and we have meetings (scheduled) to make this happen.”
Hollis was concerned over security issues.
“You can take me back behind the woodshed and tell me why we need to put our records on line,” Hollis said. “I am all for electronic indexing and electronic imaging. I want people to be able to walk into the clerk’s office and be able to get on a computer and access civil indexing and civil uniting of all our records in our office. I want it inside our office and not put it online. I will never put our social security numbers on line”