By David A. Farrell, Item Staff Writer
The Picayune Item
In Mississippi, municipal elections are on tap this year, and already three candidates have filed here to run for Mayor of Poplarville. Filing papers to run for either the mayor or an aldermanic post is conducted at City Hall, not at the courthouse.
Current alderman Bill Winborn has filed as a Democrat and will challenge current incumbent Democrat Mayor Billy Spiers in a May 7 Democratic First Primary. Spiers also has filed to seek re-election as a Democrat. Others might get into the race, also, since the filing deadline for all posts up for election, including mayor, is March 8.
So far on the Republican side, Everett Lawrence, a retired businessman, has filed to run for mayor, too.
No one has filed as yet for any of the five alderman positions up for election.
The City of Poplarville operates under a board of alderman-mayor form of government. All five aldermen and the mayor are elected at-large. In other words they don’t run in separate districts. All voters get to vote on all the candidates. The board numbers six, five aldermen and one mayor.
Right before the Jan. 4 board meeting, Winborn told the press he would challenge Spiers, who has been mayor for 24 years. Spiers, when asked by the press at the end of the same meeting if he would run for re-election, said, “I certainly am.”
Spiers served eight years as an alderman before winning election for mayor. Winborn is in his fourth term as an alderman and is a retired Movie Star executive. Spiers is retired, but operated a restaurant here for years.
Winborn said he was running for mayor because he thinks there were some issues that needed to be discussed with voters, including what might be a looming city tax increase because of a tight budget. However, it’s not until Oct. 1 that a new city budget takes effect.
All five incumbent aldermen — Winborn, Dr. John A. Grant, Jr., Johnnie Sherman, Shirley Wiltshire and Byron Wells — were re-elected in 2009. Grant is a retired professor and administrator at Pearl River Community College, Sherman works for the county, Wiltshire is a businesswoman and Wells is an insurance broker and a former Pearl River County supervisor.
Overall, the board works together well and there has been little controversy, but some differences are debated openly at the board meetings.
Some issues the board faces as an election looms are economic development, a tight budget (the board has gone three years in tough economic times without raising taxes) and the need for infrastructure repairs and upgrading, especially streets.
Deadline for filing is March 8. Party primaries take place May 7 with runoffs on May 21 if needed.
The general election occurs June 4. Most cities will elect mayors and local governmental boards. Some cities will elect police chiefs and city clerks.
The city clerk and police chief positions in both Picayune and Poplarville are appointed.
Candidates must be registered voters and live in the city in which they are seeking election.
Candidates for aldermen or city council posts must live in the ward or district in which they run. In Poplarville, however, all aldermen and the mayor run at-large. They don’t have districts.
A $10 fee is required for Republican or Democratic party candidates.
To qualify as an Independent candidate, residents must submit a petition signed by 50 registered voters of the city.