Candidates for Pittsburg County Commissioner District 3 participated in an election forum Thursday evening.
The forum — hosted by the McAlester News-Capital, Ignite McAlester, and the McAlester Chamber of Commerce — was held at the McAlester Campus of Eastern Oklahoma State College.
Democratic incumbent Ross Selman and his Republican challenger Trent Myers, answered questions asked by News-Capital staff.
Candidates were first asked about their top priorities if they were elected.
Myers, a former District 3 county commissioner, answered first by saying he would work to make the county more efficient.
“The more efficient you can make it run, the more you get done,” Myers said. “The more money you save, the more you can do.”
Selman said his main priority would be to continue the work the current commissioners are doing and brought up the example of the new asphalt plant the commissioners recently purchased.
“We can get more roads done, make more roads better,” Selman said.
Candidates were then asked how their political beliefs differed from their national parties’ beliefs.
The incumbent said he has never made a decision in his four years as a commissioner based on politics.
“I don’t care what party they are, I don’t care what color or anything else,” Selman said. “ If I can legally help you, I’m going to help you.”
Myers said he doesn’t let national politics influence what he does.
“If it’s legally, morally, and the right thing to do, that’s what you need to do,” Myers said.
Candidates then faced the question of the best approach to work with cities and towns within the district.
Myers said from his past experience as a commissioner, the best approach was to get to know the people in charge of the towns and cities.
“The more people you can build a relationship with, the more you can help them, the more they can help you,” Myers said. “There’s strength in numbers, everybody knows that.”
Selman agreed with Myers that strong relationships with cities and towns were key and said that he has built those relationships during his four years as a commissioner.
When asked about the most important functions of the job outside of road construction, Selman said he could not explain all the functions in the one-minute span candidates were given to answer — but said roads were about 20 percent of the job.
Myers said he believes the important functions of the job are to hire good employees, improve efficiency, and focus on county finances.
“People don’t realize the thought and the foresight and the work that goes into running a county,” Myers said. “This is a big deal.”
The next question focused on improving the condition of county roads.
Myers said the county is getting tax money now and has the money to properly build roads.
Selman said the new asphalt plant is a step in the right direction.
“We are going to improve these roads,” Selman said.
The final question of the night asked the two candidates if there was anything county commissioners could do to help combat the opioid crisis.
“Our DA, our law enforcement, they are working hard,” Selman said. “As far as county commissioners – we try and help the sheriff all we can.”
Myers said it was an odd question to ask county commissioner candidates, but said it was important to understand that county commissioners don’t enforce the law. He noted that who gets voted in for state legislature and district attorney is important in the fight against opioid abuse.
As previously reported by the News-Capital, Pittsburg County Commissioners voted in September to retain attorneys “to address the opioid epidemic” and approved a legal services agreement between the county and the firms of Fulmer Sill, PLLC, and McAfee and Taft.
In closing, both candidates said they are ready to serve in the post.
“I have been faithful, honest, straight up with my work,” Selman said.
Myers in his closing statement reiterated that he believes tax dollars can be spent more efficiently.
“I take that pretty personal,” Myers said.
Both candidates will appear on the Nov. 6 general election ballot.
Contact Derrick James at firstname.lastname@example.org