Charles Barbour has name recognition. But the nephew of former Gov. Haley Barbour is quick to say that he was elected to office first. He served on the Hinds County Board of Supervisors from 2000 to 2008. There, he helped the board pass eight straight balanced budgets, which he touted as an accomplishment at a Ward 1 city council candidate forum in October.
Barbour calls himself a soldier—he is retired from the Mississippi Army National Guard where he served as a lieutenant colonel. He works for Fluorescent Maintenance Service (FMS) lighting as a salesman and raises cattle on a property in the country. His wife of 24 years, Rosemary Barbour, operates a portable toilet-rental business in Jackson called Go Potty. She attracted national headlines after accusations that her company, Alcatec, misused funds in a contract with the Federal Emergency Management Agency in the wake of Hurricane Katrina when Haley Barbour was governor. They have two children together.
Barbour, 52, studied criminal justice at the University of Mississippi. As a city councilman, he would like to see the Jackson Police Department adequately funded but given financial oversight.
He sat with the JFP for an interview at an office space he rents from his wife at Go Potty's Jackson office on Galaxie Drive.
What specific ways were you able to balance the budget as a Hinds supervisor?
Well, the Board of Supervisors balanced the budget, but I'm part of it. And I like to think that I was a positive influence on my fellow supervisors. Counties are not allowed to operate a deficit, so when you say you balanced the budget, I don't want to say, "big deal," but you have to—but it's the manner in which you do it.
We balanced the budget, but we still had operating funds to do things like road repairs and road improvements and road expansion, which is very expensive. Of course, your question was how did we do it. Well we did it by prioritizing the spending in the county.
The thing I want you to remember about the balanced budget is, and you know, me bragging or whatever about finances, is, you know, it ain't bragging when it's true.
While I was county supervisor, our bond rating and credit rating was examined two different times by (Standard and Poor's). Both times they upgraded the county's credit rating. So, that's Wall Street saying that Hinds County was taking care of business financially. So I can say what a great guy I am, but Wall Street said we were taking care of the business of the county. Unfortunately, since I've left and the board has titled a little bit back to the left, the bond rating has declined. They got a new makeup of the board now, and hopefully the bond rating will improve.
What kind of priorities do you have for the city budget?
The main three I'd be looking at is the operations and the financing of the Jackson Police Department; and I'll start off by saying the Jackson Police Department does not work for Charles Barbour. They don't work for the city council. They work for the mayor; and they work only for the mayor. That's the chain of command. However, I would be very happy to be able to go down there and visit with the chief and talk about his finances and what the situation is.
The police chief is a police officer. He's not a CPA. He needs to have a top-notch or top-flight individual who is watching the money of the police.
I would like to assist the Jackson Police Department in finding ways to manage their money and be effective with it. Another thing I would like to assist the Jackson police with is the police reserve. I understand there were over 200 officers at one time in the police reserve, and it's dwindled. Can you imagine if they had 200 officers extra for like a state fair, Jackson State ball game, to where you're not having to pay officers overtime? How could that affect the city in a positive manner? It could.
Another thing I think is awful important is roads, bridges and drainage. We've got all kinds of problems. Some of these streets are embarrassing.
How would you ensure transparency with residents on projects like the city's water lines and infrastructure?
Obviously, this is going to be done in public meetings. However, sometimes you go into what's called executive session, which is a bad idea. I didn't like doing it when I was a county supervisor because people say things in executive session they won't say in public, and I think if you don't want to say it to your constituents then, you know, don't say it.
This sales tax, the state has played an oversight role in it, but I want to do everything I can to make sure it is a transparent process. And not only transparent in word but in deed.
You mentioned that you were the only conservative Republican on the board, and then you'd be the only Republican now on the council. How would you work with people with different ideologies than you?
I was elected president of the Hinds County Board of Supervisors by my Democrat(ic) colleagues. There's six members on there right now. They all have different points of view from each other. There's factions within the Democrat(ic) party. I would just be another faction on the board. I've always been able to work with people.
Can you tell me about any problems with the juvenile system that you dealt with as a supervisor?
I was supervisor when the juvenile jail was built. To give you an example, the adult jail was built in the early 1990s, and it's a disaster. And now, of course, our current sheriff has to deal with it. It's not his fault that the jail's a mess. It was a mess the day it was opened. It was built with extremely inferior construction. That wasn't his fault, that wasn't the previous sheriff's fault; that was the board of supervisors' fault. There were a lot of contractors and subcontractors that shouldn't have been used.
We built a juvenile jail when I came on the board, and it's been operating in an exceptional manner. The physical building. The way the people that run it operate it, I don't know enough to comment on it. If they're being mistreated or being struck, that's bad.
I think another thing is just kids being treated the same as adults—a 12-year-old being locked up. It seems kind of crazy.
Why? You want that 12-year-old breaking into your house?
They're in that juvenile jail for a reason. And hopefully they can be rehabilitated so when they get out in a week or a month or a year, they'll look at life a little bit differently. I don't know who runs that facility. I know the board of supervisors oversees it. I don't know who they have in charge, and I don't know what they've been accused of, but you cannot coddle juvenile delinquents.
The Hinds County Circuit Court system sends more people to the penitentiary every year than Jackson Public School sends to the college system, and that is extremely sad, but if someone is a danger to this community, we as a society have to protect our families.
Two-thousand and something people are going to the prison system every year from this county. Ninety-something percent are JPS graduates or former students. It's not Jackson Public Schools' fault; it's the parents fault. JPS has issues, but most of the problems of the Jackson Public Schools are the making of the parents, or the lack of parents, of those children.
That is a societal issue, and the Jackson Public Schools system is not going to be able to fix it. They can't fix the problem when you have 70 to 80 percent of black children being born out of wedlock into single-parent families. They can't fix that. When you have black boys being raised up never to see how a black man is supposed to work. They're never around a positive black male role model. It's very sad, but Jackson Public Schools system cannot fix that.
I know that your wife was accused of the misuse of Katrina funds. What's the latest with that?
She was investigated. And the investigation ended. They didn't write her a speeding ticket. They didn't write her a parking ticket. They looked at every tax form she's ever filed. They looked at everything she's ever done. She was not (charged).
She had to pay an administrative fee. She sued the federal government for millions of dollars that they owed her.
First of all, my wife's not running, as you know. But that was a dispute over payment. In the dispute the judge determined that the federal government did not have to pay her and the judge charged her a fee. She was never charged with a crime of any sort. She did have to pay that fee.
I had read that she—
Was that from the Tea Party that told you that? These Tea Party kooks are always on there saying "Crooked Rosemary Barbour." She's not a crook, believe me.
I had read that they had double-billed for Katrina efforts.
I don't know anything about it. I wasn't involved. My wife intentionally kept me out of it. There are computer problems all over the world. The computer told them—they didn't double bill. They billed for what they did. It's just they just did it twice.
In other words, if you were told to go service trailer number 475, and then the next day, the computer says go do trailer 475. And a different technician went out there to do it. And then the computer did it. The computer billed them. Yeah, it was screwed up. The federal government hired minority companies to do jobs that many of them were not prepared to do.
What do you mean by minority companies?
Well, it's all in there. They're all minority companies.
You mean, like, minority race?
I think. My wife's Hispanic. I don't know—all I know about—I never discussed it with my wife. Scouts' honor. But I know what I read in the paper is that the computer said, "Do this," and they did it.
She was never charged with any criminal conduct of any sort. But, like David Watkins, or other people around Jackson, sometimes you don't do the books right, and you have to pay a fine. Excuse me, it wasn't a fine. To be fair, I think it was what you might call an assessment, kind of like, "this is for the courts trouble for resolving this bullsh*t."
Editor's note: On Aug. 24, 2011, the U.S. Court of Federal Claims ruled that Rosemary Barbour attempted to deceive and defraud the federal government on a Katrina contract by claiming FEMA owed her money while double billing for her company's services. She was ordered to pay FEMA more than $350,000 in penalties and damages.
Read more Ward 1 candidate interviews at jfp.ms/ward1.