RAGLAND — During municipal elections, people running for office post signs asking citizens to vote for them. It happens in every town and city.
In Ragland, a few homemade signs appeared – and one was derogatory toward Mayor Lanis White.
The sign said, “White, the Hemorhid (sic), and hip, and big mouth kill you. Vote Estes.”
Police Chief James “Bubba” Brown said the sign was displayed in a yard on Main Street.
“My daughter spotted the sign, and it upset her and she was crying,” White said. “I approached the man who lived where the sign was. He told me he did not know what was on the sign, but just a man had asked him if he could put a political sign up in his yard.
“The man just took for granted that it was just a regular political sign. He told me he had no idea it had all this other stuff on it.”
White said the man told him as a homeowner in Ragland, he found it to be offensive, and didn’t want anything like that in his yard.
“He was really nice about it,” White said. “I took the sign to the police department.”
White and Brown said the challenger in the election, Greg Estes, had nothing to do with the production or posting of the sign.
“I had the officer on duty to write up an incident report, and we’re looking at a harassment charge,” Brown said. “It is a misdemeanor, and Mayor White has up to a year to sign a warrant (against the person who posted it).”
White said in the past four years as mayor, he has been attacked in similar ways such as this. About two years ago, someone posted on Facebook that White should be shot.
“I don’t think this reflects a large majority of the people,” White said. “Even the people who voted against me – I don’t think this reflects a large majority of them. There were a lot of good people who voted against me who would have no part in this.
“This kind of attack comes from a very small group of people – very small, but they are relentless in their efforts.”
White said he did not believe his opponent, Greg Estes, had anything to do with this sign being made.
“Between Greg and myself, this was as clean a campaign as I’ve seen,” White said. “This was not about voting for Greg as much as it was a hatred for me. I truly believe that.”
Brown said regardless of whom the opposition would have been against White, these attacks would have come from these same people.
White retained his seat in the Aug. 28 election, which was certified officially on Tuesday.
The mayor said he wants all the citizens of Ragland to know they have come a long way in four years.
“I want to encourage everybody to not allow a very small handful of people affect the positive things we have going on here,” White said. “Let’s have harmony and work together for the betterment of the town.
“For the past two years, there has not been any drama at the council meetings. Even if there was a difference in our voting, people were still pleasant about it. We got up from the table and we were done with it. There were no lingering folks standing around criticizing. It has been a real good place to be the past two years.”
White said due to the positive attitude being displayed at City Hall, some great things are happening in the small town.
“We are seeing some good things happen because the council and mayor are working together,” he said. “That’s why it is so important to me to see this small handful of people stop with whatever it is they are doing. Whatever their mission is, I hope they will just stop now. I hope they stop for the town’s sake, and for my family’s sake.
“I’ve got young daughters, and they hear daddy is being called an SOB. When they ride through town and see a sign like this, it hurts, and it hurts a lot.”
White said when he ran for public office several years ago, he knew he opened the door for criticism.
“But should we really expect these kind of attacks?” White asked. “Is this what it has come to in politics? I think we have gone too far. I think Facebook has opened these kinds of doors. It has gotten to the point where people think they can say anything without any repercussion.
“They think they can say whatever they want to say, no matter how hurtful. I’ve had people come up to me and apologize to me after they had posted something, and then had time to think about what they had said.”
Brown said regardless of whom Ragland citizens supported during the campaign, White is going to be the mayor for the next four years.
“I think everybody needs to support him and do what is right,” Brown said. “We need to do what is in the best interest of the town, and see how we can move it forward in the next four years.”
Brown also said the man who made the sign has been interviewed by the Ragland Police Department and the St. Clair County Sheriff’s Department. The incident is still under investigation.