Our view: Sistrunk is the obvious choice in Starkville

May 17, 2013 12:17:26 PM



On Tuesday, the remaining city council and alderman seats will be decided in Columbus and Starkville. 


While The Dispatch does not typically endorse candidates in municipal elections, we feel there are compelling reasons to endorse incumbent Sandra Sistrunk in her race Tuesday against Lisa Wynn for Starkville Ward 2 Alderman. 


In Sistrunk Starkville has an all-too-rare blend of experience, skills and attitudes we feel are most essential for those who serve their cities as council members or aldermen. 


We can think of no sitting aldermen or candidate who is better qualified to serve in this position than Sistrunk.  


A retired accountant, Sistrunk has been on the Board of Aldermen since 2009. During that period, her keen understanding of finances has quickly elevated her into leading roles on the board. As vice mayor and former budget chairmen, she is -- without question -- the go-to person on the board when it comes to matters of finance, budgets and how city government operates. 


In addition to having the understanding of often-complex issues, she has also proven to be an independent voice on the board. Her opponents, many of whom have viewed these municipal elections as an opportunity to needlessly inject partisan politics into city government, falsely characterize Sistrunk as being an unfailing advocate for mayor Parker Wiseman. The record shows no pattern of that. In fact, Sistrunk's voting record indicates that she has stood in opposition to the mayor's position on numerous occasions.  


Although she has a progressive view of what the city of Starkville can be, she has proven herself to be fiscally conservative, a good steward of the taxpayers' money. She has earned a reputation for being thoughtful and accessible. She holds no discernible political agenda and has demonstrated no inclinations toward attaining or abusing power. 


In her Democratic primary runoff with Wynn, Sistrunk held a two-vote lead after the ballots were counted. When serious questions over the validity of some affidavits ballots emerged -- and with the vote evenly divided at 181 votes each -- both candidates were gracious in agreeing that another election be held. 


Given Sistrunk's record, it is hard to imagine she would have faced a serious challenge in her bid to retain her seat on the board of aldermen. 


But in the city's most diverse ward, there is some legitimate reasons to suspect that race could play a role in the outcome. Sistrunk is white. Wynn is black. Inevitable as it is regrettable, there will be some votes cast in this election based primarily on race. Some voters will not vote for a black candidate. Some will not vote for a white candidate. There's no use pretending otherwise. 


But if ever there were a case where race is irrelevant, it is this one. 


The board of aldermen would be seriously damaged by Sistrunk's absence from that body. Her loss would create a vacuum of experience, knowledge and ability. 


Sistrunk has proven to be a responsible, well-informed and fair representative of the people of Ward 2 and the city at large. 


There are far too few people of Sandra Sistrunk's caliber in city government in either Columbus or Starkville. Elections should be based on qualifications. By any objective means that can be used to evaluate qualifications for office, this is really no contest. 


That is why we urge voters in Ward 2 to return Sistrunk to her seat on the board of aldermen.  


She has earned both your trust and your vote.