Candidates ready to compete in region’s college towns

news_election_greenBy Caleb Bedillion

Daily Journal

In Oxford, three incumbent aldermen and a new mayor will sweep into office with no opposition, while in Starkville a sprawling field of candidates are competing for municipal offices.

Both cities have a seven-person board of aldermen, and both cities also saw incumbent mayors decide against seeking new terms.

In Oxford, Democratic mayoral candidate Robyn Tannehill is unopposed in her bid to replace incumbent Mayor George “Pat” Patterson.

Tannehill, 46, is currently an alderman representing Ward 2.

She has described the next four years a pivotal time for Oxford as the city implements a new zoning map and manages continued growth.

In the Starkville mayor’s race, Johnny Moore, Damion Poe and Lynn Spruill are competing to replace the incumbent Parker Wiseman.

All three candidates are Democrats. That means the means the next mayor of Starkville will be decided by the outcome of the Democratic primary.

Moore, 56, is an attorney primarily dealing with real estate. He previously told the Daily Journal he wants to help Starkville shed what he believes to be a reputation for hostility to business interests.

Poe, 26, works for a telemarketing company and served for a time with the Mississippi National Guard. He has highlighted a need to retain young college graduates in Starkville and wants a more diverse business community.

Spruill, 64, owns a property management firm. She was chief administrative officer for the city of Starkville under two different mayoral administrations from 2005 to 2013.

She was also mayor of Addison, Texas, from 1988 to 1993.

Spruill has emphasized her experience and touted a vision for economic development and regional partnerships.

Oxford Board of Aldermen

In addition to the mayor’s race, several Oxford aldermen races also have candidates running with no opposition. Democratic incumbents Ward 3 Alderman Janice Antonow, Ward 4 Alderman Ulysses Howell and Alderman at Large John Morgan are all unopposed.

In Ward 1, incumbent Rick Addy faces a Democratic primary challenge from Patrick Herbert. The two will compete during the May 2 primary.

Addy owns a photography business in Oxford.

Neither candidate could be reached for comment late last week.

In Ward 2, a pair of candidates are hoping to replace Tannehill. Republican Mark Huelse and Democrat Paula Shanks will face each other in the June 6 general election.

Huelse, 52, is co-owner of interior design firm Simply Southern and sits on the Oxford Planning Commission.

He cited his experience in the corporate world, as a small business owner and on the planning commission as assets to his candidacy.

“It’s time for me to give back to the community,” Huelse said. “With my experience on the planning commission, it’s something I’ve thought about for a few years.”

Shanks served on the Vision 2020 committee and ran unsuccessfully for the Ward 2 seat in 2005. She could not be reached for comment late last week.

In Ward 5, incumbent Democrat Preston Taylor faces a primary challenge from Theressa Hilliard.

When reached for the comment, Taylor said he did not have time to discuss his candidacy but did say he believes he is known with the voters.

“I’ve been on the board 16 years so they are well acquainted with me,” Taylor said.

Hilliard, 55, has worked in the banking and insurance fields. Hilliard said she is running because of her concerns about affordable housing in Oxford.

She admitted to scant political experience but believes she is nonetheless well suited to make a difference.

“As far as political experience, I have none. But I feel that I am a smart person and I am capable of grasping processes and the things that need to be done,” said Hilliard.

In Ward 6, Republican incumbent Jason Bailey will face a general election challenge from Democrat Wayne Andrews.

Andrews, 50, is director of the Yoknapatawpha Arts Council. He believes he is well positioned to serve as a constructive voice for a stronger civic life.

“I am a community leader in my professional life,” Andrews said. “My job has been to bring people together and build partnerships. That is what we need to be working on right now, working together as a community and build partnerships so we can be the community we want to be.”

Bailey could not be reached late last week for comment.


Many of the city’s races for the Board of Aldermen are crowded, with four races featuring fields of three candidates.

Only incumbent Ward 3 Alderman David Little, a Republican, and incumbent Ward 6 Alderman Roy A. Perkins, a Democrat, are unopposed.

In the city’s Ward 1, Republican incumbent Ben Carver faces a primary challenge from Jason Camp.

Carver, 36, works for an insurance firm. Camp, 29, is a member of the Planning and Zoning Commission and works for the Mississippi State University Extension Center for Government and Community Development.

The Republican primary winner will face Democratic challenger Christine Williams, 44, in the general election.

Williams is pursuing a doctorate degree in public policy and administration at MSU where she is also a teaching assistant.

In Ward 2, the incumbent Lisa Wynn is seeking re-election as an independent. Wynn, 48, initially qualified as a Democrat.

She will face two challengers in the general election: Republican Jesse Carver and Democrat Sandra Sistrunk.

Jesse Carver, 32, is the brother of Ward 1 incumbent Ben Carver and also works in insurance.

Sistrunk, 66, previously represented Ward 2 on the Board of Aldermen before current incumbent Wynn defeated her in 2013.

In Ward 4, Democratic incumbent Jason Walker faces a challenge from Republican W.B. “Pete” Ledlow Jr.

Walker, 42, is a professor of landscape architecture at Mississippi State University completing his first term.

Efforts to reach Ledlow for information about his candidacy were unsuccessful.

Ward 5 has no incumbent in the race. The Democratic primary features a race between Kayla Gilmore and Patrick Miller. The primary winner will face Republican Chase Neal in the general election.

Gilmore, 33, owns KMG Creations Dance, Fitness and Production and was formerly a city election commissioner.

Miller, 26, sits on the Starkville Planning and Zoning Commission and works at the MSU Extension Center for Government and Community Development, features he shares with the Ward 1 candidate Camp.

The 33-year old Neal is a social media consultant who worked a stint at the MSU Office of Public Affairs.

In Ward 7, Democratic incumbent Henry Vaughn faces a primary challenge from Margaret Moore. The primary winner will face off with Republican candidate Roben W. Dawkins.

Vaugnt, 64, is completing his second term in office. Moore, 59, works with Mississippi Ability in Healthcare.

Dawkins, 49, is a pilot at the MSU Flight Department.

Twitter: @CalebBedillion

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