Former Gator coach Stevens challenging Murphy on school board

Published 11:43 am Friday, September 7, 2012

Former Vicksburg High School head football coach Alonzo Stevens is the first challenger to Zelmarine Murphy’s 24-year District 2 seat on the Vicksburg Warren School District Board of Trustees.

Both candidates had petitions approved this week by the Warren County Elections Commission. Qualifying ends at 5 p.m. today.

Stevens, 60, retired in June after 38 years in the district, including the last 11 as head coach of the Gators, where he compiled a 63-65 record. The 1970 Rosa A. Temple High graduate also played and coached at Alcorn State University, from which Murphy graduated in 1966 and 1985.

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Reached Thursday, Stevens said his attempt to enter politics is about seeing how his experience might work on the five-member school board.

“I just want to bring another perspective to it,” he said. “And at the center of it all is the kids.”

Stevens said he’d give teachers someone “who’d look out for their best interest.”

A call to Murphy was not returned.

Murphy, 67, was first elected in 1988 and was unopposed the past two election cycles after potential candidates failed to garner enough qualified signatures in the north Vicksburg district. The time to qualify was shortened to 30 days this year due to a change in state law in 2011 tailored to VWSD. Unlike the old 60-day period, it allows enough time for the race to appear on ballots in the fall. Elections on the board in 2008 and 2010 were on paper ballots. Requirements of 150 signatures stayed the same.

The District 2 race covers the Kings, Auditorium, St. Al, Cedar Grove, Brunswick and 3-61 voting precincts and is the lone contest this year on the board. Six-year terms on the board are staggered and elections held every two years.

Three other district-level races appear on November ballot. They include contests for three of five seats on the Warren County Election Commission and a position on the state Court of Appeals.

On the commission, District 1 incumbent Petesy Smith faces Jan Whatley, a poll manager in the district. District 4 incumbent John Rundell faces Sara Carlson Dionne, a poll worker in the district. District 4 incumbent Lonnie Wooley faces Gordon Cordes, a retired engineer, and Robert Croisdale, an auto parts supply contractor.

District 2 Commissioner Retha Summers and District 3 Commissioner Elva Smith-Tolliver are unopposed.

In the appeals court race, Judge Ermea J. Russell faces Vicksburg attorney Ceola James. The judgeship covers District 2, Place 2, and is spread over all or part of 24 counties on the state’s western half.