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, Fowler has officially entered the race for the 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 untimely passing of Representative Bennie Turner, who passed away at 64 on November 27.
On Monday morning, the late Turner’s daughter, Angela Turner-Lairy declared her intentions to run for her father’s seat in the January 15, 2013 Special Election.
Turner-Lairy will run on the Democratic ticket, and Fowler will be running as 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 on Friday afternoon. “We have to provide a good, quality education for them.”
Whichever candidate takes the District 16 seat will enter the senate during a session that is said to be primarily focused on education reforms that include the possibilities of charter schools and merit pay for teachers.
Fowler says that he has been researching charter schools so that 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 says that he has always tried to translate a positive message to the youth in West Point and show them that 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 says that 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.
“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.”
Fowler and Turner-Lairy will face off on January 15, 2013.