Dykes, Dickerson, Comegys bringing new blood to Board of Supervisors
A new sheriff and an old sheriff won two of the most hotly contested races in Jones County.
Joe Berlin will be the new sheriff in town and former sheriff Larry Dykes will have a seat at the Board of Supervisors’ table starting in January.
“It’s been a long, stressful 11 months,” said Berlin, who is believed to be the first Independent to win office in Jones County. “I’ve been all over Jones County and I’ve heard the people.”
Berlin, who is a sergeant in the Laurel Police Department, said he felt confident all night as the history-making results came in during his watch party at the Rogers-Green House in the Historic District of Laurel. He led from the first to final returns over Republican Macon Davis, who beat embattled three-term incumbent Alex Hodge in a runoff with 58 percent of the votes in August. Berlin received 53 percent in the General Election. He said he’s glad the campaign is over because he’s ready to go to work as sheriff.
“I’m not intimidated at all,” said Berlin, who lives in Ellisville and has more than 20 years of experience with the Laurel and Sandersville police departments. “I feel ready to take Jones County forward. Our goal is to run a high-energy department and address some of the problems these communities have been having. We’re going to be proactive.”
Berlin introduced the man who will be second in command at the Jones County Sheriff’s Department. Mitch Sumrall will be Berlin’s chief deputy. Sumrall is also an LPD sergeant and has been with that department for 17 years, but he is no stranger to the county. He was a deputy under Sheriff Maurice Hooks in the late 1990s, plus he worked for the Sandersville PD and served two terms as constable. His twin brother Mike is now constable and a Mississippi Department of Corrections officer after serving as a deputy and investigator for the JCSD.
“We’re going to treat everybody equal, because I was raised like that,” Sumrall said. “I was raised to be courteous, and that’s going to carry over to the (sheriff’s department). There’s been a lot of praying going on. My mom told me she prayed this morning and she told me that Joe was going to win … I’ve been relaxed ever since.”
Berlin also said he believed that a higher power helped him in his first foray into politics. He was the first person to qualify to run for sheriff against Hodge. Paul Sumrall and Davis followed, qualifying as Republicans, and Davis outpolled them all in the primary then knocked out Hodge in a runoff.
“I give God all the glory,” Berlin said. “We’re going to bring change.”
But that doesn’t mean everyone in the department will change.
”I hate the rumors going around that I’m going to fire everyone,” Berlin said. “That’s not the case. A lot of people who work there have reached out to me … and I admire that.”
Berlin also offered kind words for his opponent.
“He said he was going to run a clean campaign, and he did,” Berlin said. “I wish him nothing but the best.”
Davis had similar comments for Berlin.
“I want to congratulate Joe and thank him for running a clean race,” Davis said at a gathering at Studio 550 in downtown Laurel. “I wouldn't have done anything different. I worked hard but people made their choice. Now, I'll go back to concentrating on my family and business, but my loyalty will remain with the people of Jones County.”
Berlin said from the beginning that he was running as an Independent because he wanted to “be for all of the people” in Jones County, not just one political party. But the rest of Jones County, like the rest of the state in recent years, remained a Republican stronghold.
New Beat 5 Supervisor Travares Comegys was the lone Democrat to win a local race. Other than Berlin and Comegys, the rest of the county winners were Republicans who took more than 70 percent of the votes.
Dykes won the Beat 2 supervisor seat with 53 percent of the vote over school board member, neighbor and friend Ronnie Herrington. It is the third local office for Dykes, who has served as constable and sheriff before throwing his hat into the supervisors’ race after incumbent Danny Roy Spradley announced he was not seeking a sixth term. Eight people qualified to run for the seat.
Dykes, sitting with his four grandsons, said he felt like he had “come full circle” to win the seat that was held by his late father Thurman from 1984-92.
“He’s looking down right now saying, ‘What in the hell is your problem, have you lost your mind?’” Dykes joked when asked what his father would say to him after hearing the results of the race.
Then he looked at his grandsons and got serious for a minute.
“I’m not looking out for my future … I’m looking out for their future, and the future of everyone in Beat 2 and all of Jones County,” Dykes said. “Like I said from the beginning, I’m not running for money or prestige … My only purpose is to help the people of this county. The hard-working taxpayers of this county have been left out. They haven’t had a voice; but they do now. Can’t nobody buy me off.”
The General Election appeared to be a mere formality for Republicans in other opposed races.
Phil Dickerson, who knocked off four-term incumbent Barry Saul in the primary, got 80 percent of the votes to win the Beat 3 seat over former supervisor Donald Dale Holifield.
Beat 1 incumbent Johnny Burnett cruised to his fifth term with 75 percent over Independent Bobby Brady Jr., and Beat 4 incumbent David Scruggs took 76 percent to win his second term over Independent challengers Bobby Barber and Michael James.
Comegys, a two-term Laurel City Councilman, also won 76 percent over Independent challenger Chris Holifield to complete a five-man board that will have three new faces in January. Long-time Beat 5 incumbent Jerome Wyatt did not seek reelection.
“We’re going to have a group that works together, not one brow-beating the others,” Dykes said. “We’re all going to have a voice, and we’re going to help the people of this county.”
Circuit Clerk Concetta Brooks won her second term with 80 percent of the votes over Democrat Colenia Ross, who is her employee.
In the District 1 Justice Court Judge race, former District Attorney Grant Hedgepeth won 72 percent of the ballots to beat Democrat Marian Allen and Independent Larry Blakeney.
Former JCSD Deputy Danny Gibson won the District 2 Constable race with 70 percent of the votes over Democrat Le’Byron O. Jackson.
The turnout was 49 percent, up from the 41 percent of voters who cast ballots in the primaries. A total of 21,354 of the county’s 43,850 registered voters participated in the General Election.
— Jim Cegielski contributed