Under heavy clouds and intermittent drizzle, Jackson Police Commander Tyrone Lewis declared his intention to run for Hinds County sheriff at a brief press conference in front of Lanier High School last Thursday.
"My campaign will be one of honesty and integrity," Lewis said, standing before a small gathering of his family and supporters. "After twenty-three and a half years with the Jackson Police Department, and five years in my current capacity as commander of the Jackson Police Training Academy, along with numerous years of experience and academic preparation, I am prepared to become the next sheriff of Hinds County."
Lewis said his platform would be "centered on reducing crime and saving the taxpayers valuable dollars," though he offered few specifics. In a later interview with the Jackson Free Press, Lewis said: "Law enforcement is about more than arresting people. It's about deterring crime and reaching out to the community. I believe that we, as law enforcement officers, need to reach out to our young people and get them involved in programs that will keep them out of trouble. Those are some of my drivers. I would rather prevent crime than make an arrest, though that has to happen, too."
Lewis is running against long-serving incumbent Sheriff Malcolm McMillin in an election voters won't decide until Aug. 7. There was early controversy in the campaign when Jackson Mayor Frank Melton accused McMillin of trying to orchestrate a deal whereby he would retire mid-term and choose Lewis as his replacement. McMillin immediately called that accusation false, firing back in The Clarion-Ledger: "He (Melton) is a liar. His statement is a lie. I made no deal concerning that with anyone. I intend to get elected, and I intend to serve out my term."
Lewis said he had no comment on any alleged deal with McMillin.
McMillin did not immediately return calls for comment.
Melton Chief of Staff Marcus Ward was present at Lewis' announcement, along with city employee Stephanie Parker-Weaver and city temp Bob Hickingbottom. Hickingbottom claimed that he had no formal role in the campaign, but he did help organize supporters before the event, and he prompted the crowd to clap after some of Lewis' statements. Hickingbottom and Parker-Weaver have helped direct the mayor's efforts to defend himself politically in the aftermath of felony indictments against him, and both have long attacked the mayor's critics.
Lewis said later that he did not even know that Hickingbottom was at the event. "I don't know who all was there," Lewis said. "I know my parents and my siblings were there, along with some of the older people in the community."
Lewis stressed his local roots, pointing out that he had graduated from Lanier and that his family is from Hinds County. "I've always been taught to shoot for the stars," Lewis said, "That's why I went back to Lanier to make my announcement."
He also stressed his considerable experience with the Jackson Police Department. Lewis joined the police force in 1983 and worked his way up through the ranks, serving as a beat officer, a crime prevention officer, a shift sergeant, an acting precinct commander in Precinct 3, commander of a team that targeted street-level crime and an instructor at the training academy, Lewis said. Currently, he is director of the training academy, and he serves as the city's spokesman.
Lewis said that he had wanted to run for sheriff before Melton was elected mayor: "Just because I'm the city spokesman does not mean I'm the mayor's man. I believe I have a strong record, and I stand on my own. I served the city of Jackson long before Mr. Melton became mayor."
Councilman Kenneth Stokes, who also attended the announcement, said that he endorsed Lewis over McMillin in the race. "It's not that McMillin hasn't done an OK job. I'm saying that his crime-fighting methods were good in the 1980s, '90s. You need a young go-getter like Tyrone Lewis if we're going to make this city and county safer," Stokes said.
OK Kenny Stokes, so you say that McMillin's crime fighting methods were good in the 1980s and 90s and that we need "a young go-getter like Tyrone Lewis." Why in the sam hell won't he (Kenny) take this message to the council and ask for a dismissal of all of the council people except Chrisler?
If this theory of people being too old to do a good job, I know that Tillman and Bluntson have out lived their usefulness. This is so very hypocritical of Kenny Stokes.
He is just a big bully and a Big Nothing. I sincerly hope that the people in his ward will see that he has not contributed anything to their well being. He has eaten all over George Town while using that step-and fetch it rhetoric. I am sick of Kenny Stokes!
Back to the issue of Tyrone Lewis: He has started by telling lies. He pretends that he did not know that Hickingbottom and Parker-Weaver were present at his news conference. This whole thing is politically contrived by fm and his gang of criminals. This City will be in a hell of a lot of trouble if it put another one of frank's links in this chain. Black folks and White folks had better be careful on this one. I see a major train wreck going someplace to happen. Watch out!