By Terri Ferguson Smith / email@example.com
The Meridian Star
A couple of familiar faces will be visible during the upcoming campaigns for City Council.
Incumbent Ward Five City Councilman Bobby Smith announced Monday he is seeking another term. He will face challenger John Harris, who has previously held the post.
Smith served two terms, was unseated by Harris, but was elected for a third term four years ago. Harris also announced his candidacy for Ward Five City Council on Monday.
At a press conference and flanked by supporters on the steps of City Hall, Smith announced his intention to run.
"We have accomplished a lot," Smith said. "There's a lot of stuff we need to do."
Smith told the crowd that it takes more than one person on the council to get things done.
"When a council person votes on something, it takes more than one vote. There's five of us," Smith said. "A lot of things that were voted on, I voted against, and it still passed. So those people you hear talking about 'Those council people ought to be run off, you need to replace them all,' look at the record and see how I have voted so you'll know what I've done."
There have been good things that have occurred also, he said.
"I'm proud to be a part of what's going on here in Meridian," Smith said.
For instance, Smith said he is glad that he helped keep Dollar General department store out of the historical district in Meridian.
"I fought hard to make sure that that place was good for somebody moving in from out of town who wanted to come here and live," Smith said.
Smith also mentioned the paving project approved by the City Council that is expected to start soon.
Smith was critical of the handling of the police department's new building.
"We had money already planned right across the street over here to build a police department, all in play ready to go," Smith said, referring to the old Sears building across the street from City Hall.
The city later decided to lease the former Cowboy Maloney building on 22nd Avenue for a police department after it is renovated.
"Hopefully it's going to be open. Hopefully it's going to be OK. I voted against that 100 percent," Smith said.
Smith said he is proud that he was able to help pass a smoking ordinance in Meridian during this past term also.
In an interview Monday, Harris said he wants to serve on the City Council again because he wants to help the people of Ward Five.
"I understand that the City Council position is a legislative position. I've held the position before so I know what it takes to hold that position. I think that qualifies me to be in that position," Harris said. "My whole desire is to be a voice for the people, to be an advocate for the people, to be a person that will be a diplomat for the people. That's what I want to do. I just want to help the people and my desire has always been the same."
Harris says he will work to bring jobs and economic development to Meridian. That's the best answer to the city's crime problem, he said. Harris would like to see more job opportunities for convicted felons who have paid their debt to society.
"I know it would take action from the state Legislature to do certain things, but I believe that we can push deals in order to open up doors and avenues to be able to have a right to work law for those individuals as well," Harris said. "Everybody deserves a second chance, a third chance, a fourth chance, whatever it takes. I think if these individuals are working, if these individuals are in school, I think all of that plays a part in it."
More jobs would also help keep more people from getting into trouble with the law in the first place, he said.
"As a community I think we need to be responsible and try to make sure that we adequately have the type things like jobs in order for people to be able to support themselves," Harris said. "We talk about people don't want to work, talk about people don't want to do anything but sit around. Give them the opportunity to work, give them the opportunity to hold a job and just let them prove themselves."
Harris said he would like to see the city and the school system work together more and pool their resources to curb some of the issues in education here.
Political newcomer Randy Hammon has also qualified as a candidate in Ward Five. He and Smith are both running as Republicans. Harris is running as a Democrat.
Other candidates who have announced plans are:
George Thomas, the incumbent, is running as a Republican.
Brian Keith McCary is running as a Republican.
Mary Perry, the incumbent, is being challenged by Kenneth Dustin Markham, Nathaniel L. Pringle Jr. Martin M. Jack, and Terry L. Stennis. All are running as Democrats.
Barbara Henson, the incumbent, is running as a Republican.
Kim Houston is running as a Democrat.
Incumbent Jesse E. Palmer Sr., a Democrat, is as yet unopposed in his bid for reelection.
Two people have filed qualifying papers for mayor of Meridian. Incumbent Cheri Barry is seeking reelection as a Republican. She is being challenged by Rod Amos, a Democrat.
The qualifying deadline for city elections is March 8 at 5 p.m. at Meridian City Hall.
Party primaries will be held May 7; runoff elections, if necessary, will be held May 21. The general election is set for June 4.