Editor’s note: This story is the first of two features profiling the candidates running for Miss. Senate District 16’s seat. Independent Kenny Fowler and Democrat Angela Turner-Lairy will face off for the seat in Tuesday’s election. Pick up a copy of Monday’s Starkville Daily News for a feature on Turner-Lairy.
From Daily Times Leader staff reports
When Kenny Fowler approached his wife Lavern of 45 years about the possibility of running for public office, he did not really know what to expect.
Fowler says his wife, a retired West Point school teacher, was immediately supportive, and after exploring the option for some time, he officially entered the race for the Miss. Senate seat for District 16.
District 16 covers Clay County, as well as parts of Lowndes, Oktibbeha and Noxubee Counties.
“I approached my wife about it,” Fowler said and then added jokingly, “We’ve been married for 45 years, so I know when to say ‘Yes ma’am and no ma’am.’”
Fowler says that after praying about it, the two decided that he should go for the seat.
District 16 became open after the death of Miss. Sen. Bennie Turner, who died Nov. 27. He was 64.
Turner’s daughter, Angela Turner-Lairy also declared her intentions to run for her father’s seat in Tuesday’s special election.
Turner-Lairy is running on the Democratic ticket, while Fowler is an Independent.
Fowler is new to the political scene, but he has been a fixture in the West Point community since he moved to the town in 1969. He is particularly well known to the West Point High School Athletics Department, and he has volunteered his time to help athletes and non-athletes in the local schools.
“Children are our most valuable resource,” Fowler said. “We have to provide a good, quality education for them.”
Whichever candidate takes the District 16 seat will enter the Senate during a session primarily focused on education reforms which include the possibilities of charter schools and merit pay for teachers.
Fowler said he has been researching charter schools so he can make an informed decision on how he stands on the issue, but he expressed concerns about how such as system could be funded.
“We’re having enough trouble funding the public schools today,” Fowler said, stressing that he is still reading about the issue.
Fowler is a strong supporter of the local public school system that is in place, and he and others in the community have stayed involved to see many kids to their graduations.
“My youngest son graduated in 1999,” Fowler said. “Five or six years later, someone asked me what I was still doing out there because I didn’t have any kids in the school. I told them, pointing toward the football practice field, to look out there. I said, ‘Those are my kids.’ I feel like they’re our kids.”
Fowler said he has always tried to translate a positive message to youth in West Point and show them someone out there cares about them.
He also sees parental involvement as a key issue in education.
“Whenever you see a child achieve success out there, nine times out of 10, they have a good family structure,” Fowler said.
Fowler said he sees education and economic development as issues which go together. It’s one thing for a child to be educated and ready for the workforce, but there must be jobs for them, he said.
“We need jobs big time,” Fowler said. “We have a good workforce here with no jobs. We have too high of an unemployment rate here.”