Former Mayor, Incumbent Face Off In Election
Four Of Five Alderman Seats Contested
By David Howell
The polls open next Tuesday at 7 a.m. and there is plenty of politicking in Water Valley as four of the five aldermen seats are hotly contested and two longtime political figures will face off in a rematch for the mayor’s seat.
The rematch is arguably one of the most talked about contests on the ballot as former three-term mayor Larry Hart looks to unseat Bill Norris as a third candidate, Robbie Ashford, has also thrown his hat in the ring.
“I believe in the next four years the best things would be to try to get jobs for our citizens in here,” Ashford said about his mayoral platform. “We need to work to try to get our water pipes up to code where they need to be. Try to bring activities in for our younger generation and do our best not to raise taxes,” Ashford told the Herald.
In 2005, Norris successfully challenged Hart, capturing 56 percent of 1,089 votes cast. Both are familiar faces in Water Valley politics, each serving as both alderman and mayor in previous years.
Hart was first elected in 1985 after he challenged and defeated Cecil “Buddy” Walley in Ward One. Four years later, in 1989, Hart sought reelection in that Ward, but was defeated by Charles L. Harris. He was back on the ballot in 1993, this time competing for the town’s top elected official against Garland Maynor. That bid was successful, and he held off challenges in two consecutive terms before the 2005 defeat.
After that defeat, Hart publicly speculated that future political activity could be on the horizon in a thank-you ad published in the Herald following the election.
Hart told the Herald Tuesday, “As Mayor, I see a challenging opportunity to provide safety and protection for our citizens. We need to keep taxes and utility rates low, recruit jobs and businesses, enhance our city’s appearance and meet the needs of our youth,” Hart reported.
Before winning the 2005 election, Norris served one term as Alderman-at-Large, from 2001 to 2005, and was elected as Ward Four Alderman in 1989.
Norris echoed Ashford’s sentiments about job creation.
“We need everyone working together, working to create jobs and both in the industrial sector and with small businesses,” Norris told the Herald. “I would also like to stress the importance of bettering the overall appearance of the town, looking at sidewalks, street improvements and our abandoned buildings and lots in town,” Norris added.
Regardless of the top vote getter in a two-way race for the at-large position, the winner will be a newcomer to Water Valley’s city government after the incumbent, Lance Clement did not seek reelection. Competing for this seat are Farm Bureau insurance agent Donald Gray and SprintMart store manager Don Simoneaux.
The bid for Ward One Alderman will also be a rematch from 2005, as longtime incumbent Charles L. Harris looks to ward off a second challenge from Bobby Cox. Harris has served since 1989 and narrowly defeated Cox in 2005 by six votes. Cox is also a former Water Valley Alderman, having been elected in 1981 and again in 1985 in Ward Four.
In Ward Two, Fred White is unopposed. He has held that position since 1987.
There is a three-way race in Ward Three after one of the candidates, Kagan Coughlin dropped out of the race after moving out of the Ward. (See related story below) However, his name will appear on the ballot, according to City Clerk Vivian Snider.
The remaining candidates include Rubye Carr, Phillip Tallant and Jeff Welch. This seat was left vacated after Tommy Swearengen passed away earlier this year. His wife, Betty Ruth Swearengen was appointed to fill the remaining three months left in the term, but was not interested in running for the job.
In Ward Four, two political newcomers Terry Allen Jr. and Larry Bell are competing for the seat after Sherry Martin chose not to seek reelection.
The City Hall will remain open until noon Saturday, which is the deadline to vote absentee.
In Coffeeville and Oakland, there will be no Primary Election on May 5 as all candidates are seeking election as independents. This means candidates will compete on the June 2 General Election ballot in a winner-take-all format.
Pollworkers, Polling Places Announced
Voters in Ward One will vote at the Water Valley Electric Department at 110 Gore Circle. Poll workers will be Dana Lee Ross Brunner, Martha Miles, Anne Babb, Margie French, and Traci L. Lee.
Voters in Ward Two will vote at the Yalobusha County Court House on Blackmur Drive. Poll workers will be Pat Schreiber, Dollie Henderson, Beverly J. Davis, Betty Melton, and Beverly Walker.
Voters in Ward Three will vote at the National Guard Armory on Community Park Drive just off Wise Street. Poll workers will be Mary Lou Jones, John L. Hairston, Melba Mayes, Ruby Joyce Campbell, and Jane Franklin.
Voters in Ward Four will vote at Regions Bank at 1200 Central St. Poll workers will by Mattie Campbell, Willie Pulley, Betty Gurner, Ronnie Crenshaw, and Kesha Brown.
Coughlin Pulls Out Of The Election
To the good people of Ward 3,
I am saddened to report that I am no longer eligible to represent you on the Board of Alderman.
My wife and I have been renovating a house on Wagner Street, with the help of several excellent Water Valley craftsmen, and a week ago we moved in. We only moved across the street, (from 302 Wagner to 307 Wagner,) but in doing so we crossed Ward lines. We are now living in Ward 1.
Though now ineligible to help move our town in the right direction from a political seat, I look forward to working in the capacities I can and I encourage you to join me. There are many groups working to improve the parks, buildings, and opportunities in Water Valley, and they can all use our support. Attend a Movie on Main Street, visit on the new shops and gallery downtown, enjoy a Music in the Park.
And if you’re ever short of entertainment, feel free to join me most nights and Saturdays as I continue to plug away on the old Parker building.