Hudson seeks tax collector seat

By BETH BUNCH,

Sen. Billy Hudson announced during Monday’s Forrest County Board of Supervisors meeting that he has qualified for the seat of Forrest County Tax Collector being vacated by Delbert Dearman.

Dearman, who was elected in 1992 and has held the seat for almost 30 years, announced his retirement last week, saying seven terms was enough. 

Hudson said he’s always considered coming back to Forrest County, where he served for eight years as a county supervisor. 

“I want to come back and still serve the people, if I get elected to what I qualified for last week,” he said.

“We’ve been praying a spot would be open and Delbert announced last week he wasn’t going to run, I never thought about that spot until then.

“I’ve always loved Forrest County. I was born and raised here; I intend to die here; it’s where I want to live and where I want to serve the people here. I want to be here in Hattiesburg and Forrest County.”

Currently, only Malcolm Berch, who serves as deputy tax collector under Dearman, has qualified for the office.

Hudson also spoke to the board about the money the county will benefit from as a result of the internet sales tax and infrastructure for a new East Hardy Street Bridge. 

As far as the internet sales tax, Hudson said he thought the county would start out getting about $1 million a year or real close to that.

 “It should increase every year from then on,” Hudson said.

Hudson said he was excited about the bridge money which is being doled out through the Mississippi Department of Transportation. 

“I asked the engineer if he thought it would be enough to build it (the bridge) and he said he thought it would.”

He also noted the money that has been allotted for construction projects in both Carnes and Brooklyn.

“All these things together, I’m told, I haven’t added it up for myself, but (Forrest County) got more money than any county in the state.,” he said. “I’m proud to get these bridges opened and safe. It will help our school kids, our school systems, our farmers and everybody. When bridges are closed, like they are in some counties adjoining us, that really throws everything out of kilter and it’s dangerous. Hopefully they’ll get started on all three of these right away.”

On the topic of pay raises for educators, Hudson said with this being a reelection year, everybody would vote for it.

“My mother and daughter are teachers and I’m not proud being the last in the nation in teacher pay,” he said. “We’re training young teachers in our good universities and colleges and they are going out of state. We’re going to get them a nice raise, although I’m not sure how much yet.

Hudson mentioned that some money would have to be put into PERS (Public Employees Retirement System) to shore it up. “More money is being paid out than taken in, so we’re going to have to shore it up. I’ve heard figures up to $70 million, so that’s going to take a bite out of the raise we would have given to education,” he said.

He also mentioned state employees, who haven’t had a raise in eight, nine or some, even 10 years.

“Due to the four pots of money we found last summer, we have more money than since I’ve been up there,” he said. “We’ve been cutting every year. Now is the time to put back. I’ll vote for the teacher pay raise. I’ve heard everything from $2,000 to $8000 per teacher per year, but it’s going to happen. We are trying to figure out these other things also, but it’s going to happen.”

Board President David Hogan thanked Hudson for the work he’s done for the county while in Jackson. “Forrest County has been fortunate to have you. You played an instrumental role in this infrastructure of the bridge funding, the internet sales tax, the State Aid roads, the fire truck acquisition and the list goes on and on,” Hogan said. “We’re honored to have you represent us and the job you’ve done, especially in this last special session.”

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