Recall election ousts 2 Jasper city council members from seats

Jasper Police Chief Rodney Pearson
Jasper Police Chief Rodney Pearson

JASPER, TX (KTRE) - Jasper voters have ousted two of three black City Council members who had voted to hire the town's first black police chief.

In a heated recall election, voters decided Terrya Norsworthy and Willie Land will lose their council seats, while Tommy Adams will remain.

Land, District 4 City Council member, had hoped he would keep his job.

"When people get in those voting booths, you never know what they're going to do, so I'm just hopeful and I think right is going to win, regardless," Land said. "One way or another, it might not be here today, but right is eventually going to win."

Land, along with fellow council members Tommy Adams and Terrya Norsworthy voted earlier this year to hire the city's first black police chief.  Opponents say more competent candidates were passed over.

"He's got some great qualifications as a DPS officer, that does not make a municipal police officer," said Lance Caraway with the League of Concerned Citizens.

"It's pretty hurtful," Jasper Police Chief Rodney Pearson said. "DPS is one of the finer law enforcement agencies in the nation and I feel proud to have worked for DPS for 21 years, so I feel I'm just as qualified as anyone else."

Caraway is a member of the League of Concerned Citizens, a group that signed a petition accusing the council members of incompetence and misconduct.

Organizers claim they didn't do an adequate background check on Pearson. They say it's a matter of qualifications, not race.

"The mere fact that there's three of the city council people that are black, the chief of police is black, someone that does not know or has not been keeping up with what's been going on throughout this whole process, it may be indicative of a racial issue," Caraway said. "It is not a racial issue."

"To me, it's just like they are Klans, but they're not wearing the sheets, they're bold Klans," Jasper County resident Dexter Cheatham said.

The U.S. Justice Department's Civil Rights Division was in Jasper monitoring the election as people came to the polls to make their decision.

Land said they did not hire Pearson because of his race, but said he feels he is up for the recall election because of his race.

The council members' supporters went to federal court to block the recall election, but were unsuccessful. They contend it was racially motivated and said some signatures on the petitions were improper.

Regardless of the outcome, Pearson said he can't worry about how the voter's decision will affect him.

His plans are to continue doing his job.

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