Wednesday, March 29, 2006

TOP STORY >> Three will challenge Privett in Lonoke

Leader staff writer

Lonoke Mayor Thomas Privett, who has drawn at least three primary opponents in his first reelection bid, said Monday that they may have thought he wasn’t going to run again or that misdemeanor charges filed against him alleging that he had prisoners do personal work weakened him.

“They may think I’m vulnerable,” said Privett.

He has been charged with theft of services for having Act 309 inmates at the Lonoke Jail help with his home garden, hang his Christmas lights and work on an air conditioner.

“I’ve already admitted it to the 309 oversight committee,” said Privett, who will be arraigned April 4.
He said he would nonetheless ask for a jury trial, saying he wanted to tell his story.

Privett has a working relationship with each of the three announced challengers in the Democratic primary.
Jim Parks, who ran unsuccessfully against Privett in 2004, is on the city public safety committee. Roy Henderson helped the mayor with the city’s response to Katrina refugees and Wayne McGee is a sitting Lonoke alderman.

Privett said a couple of his opponents may have thought he wasn’t going to seek reelection, but that he had started several projects that he wanted to see through for the town.

Privett has worked long and hard to help attract a manufacturer to Lonoke and pressed to get the town a new I-40 interchange at Hwy. 89.

He said the two were closely related and that Lonoke might already have landed an auto-parts manufacturer if the interchange had been built or assured.

The new interchange design would have a two-way loop to bring traffic on and off westbound I-40 and another on-off loop for eastbound I-40 traffic.

“We met with the Highway Department last week and they gave us their choice,” said Privett.

As for bringing new industry to a site adjacent to the proposed interchange, Privett said representatives of another auto-related industry had flown in by helicopter last week to meet with leaders and see the site.