August 21, 2011 12:15:00 AM
David Miller -
Johnny DuPree doesn''t need to be overly charismatic or wow crowds with eloquent speeches about how he plans to change the state of Mississippi. He''s done it, albeit at a local level.
DuPree, who''ll face Bill Luckett in the Democratic primary runoff for governor Tuesday, has served as Hattiesburg''s mayor for nine years. His 23-year public service history includes stints on the Hattiesburg Public School Board and Forrest County Board of Supervisors.
"I''m the only candidate who has worked in every branch of government," DuPree said.
He touts Hattiesburg''s growth and progressive economic policies as a harbinger for statewide growth if he''s elected.
Large manufacturers can provide hundreds of jobs when they open new plants in Mississippi, though the economic impact isn''t felt throughout the state, DuPree said. The focus, he believes, should be on arming small business owners with tools to create jobs.
As Hattiesburg''s mayor, DuPree established grants to help small businesses build capacity and retool operations.
"Everybody would like a Nissan or Toyota plant (located in Union County and Madison County, respectively), but realistically, everybody can''t have one," DuPree said. "When you look at the numbers of people employed in Mississippi, 60 to 70 percent are from small businesses. On top of that, 95 percent of businesses in the state are small businesses. They need to be rewarded with incentives the way we do for big companies that create jobs."
DuPree said Hattiesburg''s economic growth has triggered a rise in population. According to the 2010 census, Hattiesburg saw its population of people ages 24-29 grow by 27 percent.
DuPree said Hattiesburg is the only city in the state that has an environmental court and behavioral court and is the healthiest city in Mississippi with a population more than 10,000.
"In my opinion, Hattiesburg is the best place in the state to launch a business and to live," DuPree said.
If elected, DuPree hopes to pass the four-phase Mississippi Education Restructuring Program, which includes tax exemptions for teachers, improved standards for literacy education, restructuring teacher training and a greater emphasis on early childhood development. MERP targets education reform for public schools, community colleges and state colleges and universities.
DuPree has logged 45,000 miles on his campaign vehicle, sometimes driving four hours to speak just 10 minutes. He''s tried to respond to every invitation he''s received, especially hoping to establish himself throughout the northern portion of the state.
Heading into his eighth overall election campaign, DuPree is comfortable letting his credentials replace mudslinging campaigning. He won 43 percent of the primary votes on Aug. 2 using that approach and hopes to parlay a growing disdain for federal government into a history-making moment by becoming the first black candidate to be nominated for governor by a major party.
"People are more interested in me telling them what I can do for them," DuPree said. "It doesn''t take much to get up here and talk about what someone else can''t do. My hope is people take my extensive experience into consideration. I''m the only one that has the experience of when there''s a downturn in the economy. When the taxes are raised, when services are cut, when unfunded mandates are brought down on the city or county, we''ve figured out how to make it work."