Voters also elect Baker, Wallace, Stewart
By DON FLETCHER
News Staff Writer
Heath Jackson tried three times to earn the badge worn by veteran Escambia County Sheriff Grover Smith. He came up short the first two times, but the third was the charm.
With Smith deciding to not seek another term, Jackson challenged Chief Deputy Mike Lambert, who has served as the former sheriff’s right-hand man for the past 10 years, for the right to move into the veteran sheriff’s soon-to-be-vacated office.
“I love Grover Smith to death, and when he said he was not going to run again, I was glad to hear it,” the sheriff-elect said. “It certainly made my chances better. I want to thank the people of Escambia County who voted me into office, but I’ll represent everybody, whether they were with us or not. I’m here to serve the public.”
The veteran lawman, who currently serves as a sergeant with the Escambia County (Fla.) Sheriff’s Office and gained the nickname “Jumpout Jackson” for his aggressive pursuit of suspects while a member of a joint federal-state drug task force several years ago, was the candidate of choice for voters at 19 of the county’s 29 polling places.
According to totals provided by the Escambia County Probate Office, Jackson earned a total of 6,426 votes — 53 percent of those cast — and edged Lambert by 733 votes.
Among the 11 polling sites in Atmore and the Atmore News coverage area, Jackson (who also gained a 240-170 edge in absentee balloting) won seven, most of them by a relatively few votes.
His win was built largely on voting in Brewton — where he outpolled Lambert by a 1,359- to 1,002 margin at Brewton Civic Center and by a 232 to 149 count at Thomas E. McMillan Museum — at East Brewton SAIL Center, where he won 562 to 304, and at Appleton Volunteer Fire Department (319 to 99).
He also was the top vote-getter at Riverview Town Hall, Rock Hill Ridge Road VFD, Bethel Roberts, Dixie VFD, Damascus Boykin School, Pineview, Wallace Methodist Church and Catawba Springs.
In the Atmore area, Jackson was the winner in voting at First United Methodist Church (309 to 229); Atmore Public Library (554 to 393); Canoe Civic Club (172 to 118); Little Rock Store (54 to 46); Poarch SAIL Center (136 to 135); McCullough VFD (123 to 116), and Nokomis (239 to 135).
Jackson, who will take office on January 14, suffered through two colds and two kidney stones during the campaign. He said he was “thankful to get some rest.” He announced that he plans to work another month, maybe two, at his current job before taking office.
“My sheriff [David Morgan] has been good to me, and I owe it to the guys and gals who work for me to make sure they are taken care of before I leave,” he said.
Lambert picked up two of his biggest advantages at Atmore polling sites, but took only four of the 11 precincts. The chief deputy gained his second- and third-largest vote totals, respectively, at New Order Missionary Baptist Church, where he won by a 583 to 269 margin, and at Atmore City Hall, where he gained his biggest edge, 541 to 75.
He also was selected on the most ballots at Huxford Masonic Lodge; County Highway Department; Bradley Volunteer Fire Department; Flomaton Community House; Flomaton Town Hall; Little Escambia Voting House; Barnett Crossroads, and Pollard Town Hall.
One of Jackson’s top priorities will be to eliminate the overcrowding and other problems that are rampant in the Escambia County Detention Center.
“My main focus will be to attack the jail problem,” he said. “We just can’t keep going like it is now. It’s not safe for the workers or the inmates, and it doesn’t represent our county well.”
Escambia County’s longest-serving elected office-holder was defeated in his bid for a seventh term.
Scottie Stewart, a political newcomer, will replace County Commissioner Larry White, who has been on the commission for 24 years, as the District 3 representative on the county’s governing body.
Stewart was named on the most ballots at seven of the district’s 12 polling sites and defeated White by a total of 1,510 to 1,201.
Coleman Wallace, who holds the District 7 seat on the Escambia County Board of Education, won a second six-year term with a clean sweep over Mandie Thompson, who ran as an Independent. The sitting BOE member grabbed a majority at all seven of the district’s polling sites and was named on 17 of 27 absentee ballots.
District 66 State Rep. Alan Baker also easily won re-election, defeating Atmore City Councilwoman Susan Smith by a tally of 10,428 to 4,007 in district-wide voting for a third term in the state legislature.
Baker also won by a wide margin (6,857 to 3,530) in Escambia County, receiving the majority of votes at 21 of 24 polling sites. Smith carried the vote at Atmore City Hall, New Order MBC and the County Highway Department sites.