May 22, 2009
With city-funded curbside recycling pickup, a "green" city building ordinance, bike and walking paths (and plans for more) and a smoking ordinance, Starkville leads the Golden Triangle in innovative movements.
When Dan Camp took the helm four years ago, he ran on a platform of change.
And though voters ousted the Democratic incumbent in the primaries, they came to expect a steady diet of progressive moves, including a complex to consolidate city services into one building or group of buildings.
The unrealized promise is at least part of the reason voters ousted Camp in the primaries. Another part is his gruff, take-it-or-leave-it manner. Knowledgeable and straightforward, Camp will never be accused of sugar coating.
After the June 2 general election, the city will have at least four new aldermen, -- already decided in the primary and primary runoff -- a new mayor and more of an opportunity to embrace change and progress.
Having defeated Ward 5 Alderman Matt Cox -- 1,649 to 1,570 -- in the Democratic primary runoff Tuesday, Parker Wiseman likely will be the next mayor.
The 28-year-old with no experience in public office will offer sharp contrast with developer Camp, 67, who often had a polarizing effect.
Comprehensive planning for economic development is Wiseman''s bag.
Wiseman faces Republican Marnita Henderson in the general election.
The 66-year-old retired nurse likewise has no experience in public office.
While Henderson has seemed aloof during most of the mayoral campaign, it''s hard to gauge her support base since her efforts mostly have been grass roots.
"I''m doing it all myself," Henderson says proudly. "There are only 300 single-family residences (in Starkville) where I have not knocked on the door."
She previously said she wanted to stay out of the limelight until after the primaries were over.
But many think of Henderson as a bit too conservative, a label she wears proudly. She''s stood against Sunday alcohol sales but notes the issue should come to a public vote.
Wiseman hasn''t taken a stance on Sunday alcohol sales, hoping to avoid it becoming a key issue in the election.
He considers himself a "moderate," refusing to be "pigeon-holed into a box" and reserving the right to his own opinion.
The practicing lawyer also sees his youth as an advantage.
"You find oftentimes that, when people have been around the process for a very, very long time, they have been burned by it so much that they can miss opportunities because they are afraid they won''t work," he said.
Other than attending Board of Alderman meetings for the past 10 years, Henderson can be considered as much of a political rookie as Wiseman, who touts his master''s degree in public administration from the University of North Carolina''s School of Government as his primary experience.
Though Henderson says she has "real-life experience," most local politicos are banking on Wiseman.
But if and when he does earn the mayoral seat, Wiseman needs to continue to build the momentum already growing in Starkville.
Neither of the Starkville mayoral candidates have voiced any specific plans, both speaking in generalities about issues like economic development, infrastructure improvements and the like.
And now is no time for the city to lose its steam.