February 2, 2011 5:47:00 AM
Mike Tagert, who touted his economic development and administrative experience, was elected transportation commissioner Tuesday night in a runoff in north Mississippi.
Tagert, of Starkville, campaigned as a candidate who would blend economic development with the transportation administration.
Complete, but unofficial, returns show Tagert, president of the Tennessee-Tombigbee Waterway Development Council, with about 53 percent of the vote over John Caldwell Sr. of Nesbit.
Any remaining absentee and affidavit ballots would be counted today.
Tagert will fill the vacancy created when Transportation Commissioner Bill Minor of Holly Springs died in November.
Tagert will serve nearly the final year of a four-year term.
Tagert this morning said he''s appreciative of the support he received from Golden Triangle residents and the people who worked on his campaign.
"We feel very good about our campaign," he said. "We ran a very clean and smart campaign. It was lean, but I believe we did it the right way. I''m just very proud of our campaign and our support and the people who worked with us. It was only a couple of months, but it was a lot of effort.
Tagert plans to resign from his position of president of the Tennessee-Tombigbee Waterway Development Council and his role as administrator of the Tennessee-Tombigbee Waterway Development Authority. He said he is anxious to get to work as the new MDOT transportation commissioner.
"We''ll communicate today with (MDOT) and get all the details on being sworn in," Tagert said. "The sooner, the better. I''ve got a lot of work to do and need to get to work as soon as possible."
The three-member elected Transportation Commission oversees one of the largest agencies in state government, with responsibility over highways, bridges, ports and airports.
Caldwell, the DeSoto County School District transportation director and a former county supervisor, had emphasized the need to get more input from local communities and county supervisors about roadways.
Minor had defeated Caldwell in the 2007 election.
In Lowndes, Oktibbeha and Clay counties -- the only three Golden Triangle counties in the district -- Tagert was the clear victor.
Official results from Lowndes County, which include affidavits and absentee ballots, showed Tagert had 2,122 votes, 85.3 percent of the total vote, while Caldwell had 367, or 14.7 percent.
In Oktibbeha, Tagert''s stronghold, he won 2,480 votes, or 93.3 percent, to Caldwell''s 178 votes, or 6.7 percent, according to official results.
Final but unofficial results in Clay County showed Tagert earned 1,098 votes, or 88.8 percent, to Caldwell''s 139 votes, or 11.2 percent.
In a separate runoff election in Harrison County, Biloxi businessmen Casey Eure defeated Jim Atchison Tuesday in House District 116.
Complete but unofficial returns showed Eure, a business owner, getting more than 54 percent of the vote against Atchison, owner a Biloxi real estate company.
"It''s been a long three months and there''s been a lot of hard work," Eure told The Sun Herald. "I have really enjoyed meeting the voters of House District 116. I''m thankful to everyone who supported me."
Eure, who said he is a Republican, will fill the vacancy created when then-Rep. Steven Palazzo of Biloxi was elected to the U.S. House in November.
He will serve nearly the final year of a four-year term.
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