May 31, 2009
Tim Pratt -
STARKVILLE -- Voters in Starkville Tuesday will have the opportunity to reshape the face of city politics, though candidates with experience in City Hall are few and far between.
The citywide general election will determine the identities of the next mayor, and several new members of the Board of Aldermen.
In the mayoral race, Democrat Parker Wiseman will square off against Republican Marnita Henderson. Wiseman, 28, is a practicing lawyer while Henderson, 66, is a retired nurse.
Incumbent Mayor Dan Camp was eliminated in his bid for re-election during the May 5 Democratic primary by Wiseman and fellow challenger Matt Cox. Wiseman and Cox then squared off May 19 in the Democratic runoff, and Wiseman came out on top to earn his party''s nomination.
Henderson is the lone Republican in the race. She touts her 38 years as a nurse as "real life" experience in management and supervision, while Wiseman will count on his master''s degree in public administration from the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill as a base for long-term planning in the city.
"I''ve dealt with just about every problem that''s come along," Henderson said of her work experience. "I''ve made some decisions and some have been wonderful decisions, and some have been more difficult to work with, but I''ve always made the best of the situation and the decisions that were made."
With the city continuing down a progressive path -- plans are in the works to begin a citywide curbside recycling program, build new bicycle lanes and construct energy-efficient buildings, among other things -- some worry what the new faces at City Hall might bring. Yet, despite Henderson''s self-described "conservative" mindset, she said she wants to continue making progress throughout the city.
"I am conservative, but being a conservative doesn''t mean I have tunnel vision," Henderson said. "I have a real forward-thinking vision about how to move Starkville forward to make it a more growing community, to increase our tax base, so we have more money to spend on the needs of Starkville."
Wiseman spent his undergraduate years at Mississippi State University, then went off to law school at the University of Mississippi. He then received his master''s degree in public administration from UNC-Chapel Hill.
He is a strong advocate of long-term, comprehensive planning and said he wants to bring a fresh approach to City Hall.
"You find oftentimes that, when people have been around the (political) 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," Wiseman recently said.
Board of Aldermen
Several seats are still up for grabs on the city''s Board of Aldermen.
In Ward 1, Alderman Sumner Davis chose not to run for re-election, so three candidates will square off Tuesday to determine his successor.
Democrat Corey Bagwell is up against Republican Ben Carver and Independent Helen Eaves. Bagwell defeated fellow Democrats Juliette Weaver-Reese and Mark Duncan in the primary and runoff elections, respectively. Carver was the only Republican and Eaves was the only Independent in the race, so neither had any opposition during the primaries.
The race for the Ward 2 alderman seat pits incumbent Rodney Lincoln, a Republican, against Democratic challenger Sandra Sistrunk.
The only other incumbent who will be up for re-election Tuesday, aside from Ward 6 Alderman and Vice Mayor Roy A. Perkins, who is running uncontested, is Ward 4 Alderman Richard Corey. Corey, who is a Democrat, will face Republican challenger John Michael VanHorn, a student at Mississippi State University. VanHorn defeated Nick Papas in the Republican primary on May 5.
Meanwhile, in Ward 7, incumbent Alderwoman Janette Self lost the Democratic primary to challenger Henry Vaughn Sr. With no Republicans in the race, Vaughn secured his seat on the board.
The two remaining seats are in Ward 3 and Ward 5.
In Ward 3, Alderman P.C. "Mac" McLaurin is not running for re-election. Democrat John Gaskin and Republican Eric Parker will face off Tuesday to fill McLaurin''s seat.
And in Ward 5, where Alderman Matt Cox left his seat open to run for mayor, Democrat Jeremiah Dumas will face Republican Mike Allen.