By Terri Ferguson Smith / firstname.lastname@example.org
The Meridian Star
Saying he wants to hit the ground running, mayor-elect Percy Bland has assembled a transition team to help set priorities for his new administration.
Bland will be sworn in as mayor on July 1. Bland said the team is comprised of volunteer business and civic leaders who will meet for the first time on Monday to begin setting a list of priorities and action plans.
"They are excited and ready to help this city right now," Bland said on Friday. "They are ready to bring their background and experience to the table."
Bland said the team will help him, "move the ball up the field a lot quicker."
"I want the citizens of Meridian to see progress immediately, not six months to a year into our administration," Bland said. "Our administration will be purposeful with a sense of urgency to it. The voters sent a clear message —in the mayoral race and in the city council races — that they wanted to see change. We have put together a team of highly experienced and educated people from various backgrounds to help us identify and map out some of the specific changes the citizens want to see."
There are five groups which will focus on finance, education and community development; public safety, infrastructure, and city/county partnerships. The groups will meet several times in the coming weeks.
"We have a good plan-of-action based on our view of city issues, but it's important that we engage subject matter experts from diverse backgrounds to get fresh ideas and other perspectives," Bland said. "We want to make sure that our plans are the best they can be for all the citizens of Meridian. These groups will be suggesting actionable goals for the first six months of office and beyond. We are especially pleased to have the Mississippi State University Stennis Institute of Government and Dr. Marty Wiseman involved in this process."
Bland said Wiseman, along with a long-time mentor of Bland's, Dr. Elaine Anthony of Belhaven College, will study information given to them by the transition teams and will make recommendations.
"They are going to get that information and present us with a working document of things that we can use to set some policy agenda and initiatives for the city," Bland said.
Bland said the transition team will focus on planning and policy, not on who will be selected to head city departments. He plans to make those decisions himself.
"We have some quality people currently serving in various roles in city government," Bland said. "But there is a natural change that happens with any new administration. It's important that the right people are in place to help me govern this city in accordance with my philosophies and vision. As I said during the campaign, I will make those decisions quickly so that we can move forward. I will select qualified, educated people who will help us make Meridian better for everyone."
Bland said he is grateful for the number of people who have reached out to him in the days since the election who, although they were not supporters during his campaign, have now pledged to help him.
"They understand that we have to move together so we can make this city a premiere city," Bland said. "We all live in Meridian together. We have businesses together. There are a lot of people who want what is best for the city and they are telling me they are going to do what they can to support my vision."
Transition team members are:
• Finance: Eddie Anthony, Curt Goldacker, Labaron Hedgemon, and Hampton Thames.
• Education and Community Development: Dr. Greg Auzenne, Fredie Carmichael, Rebecca Combs-Dulaney, Ricky Hood, Barbara Jones, and Dawn Wright.
• Public Safety: Jonathan Debord, Eddie Holt, Marie Franklin, Neil Johnson, Stacey Thompson, and Stephen Wilson.
• Infrastructure: Rod Hill, Eddie Kelly, Richie McAllister, Bunky Partridge, Jerome Roberts, and Wallace Strickland.
• City/County Partnership: Michael Goggans, Gerald Kidd, John McClure, David McGrew, Gloria Williams, Gloria Willis, and Charles Young Jr.