Poplarville candidates for Alderman talk city fixes

Published 7:00 am Thursday, April 27, 2017

After Poplarville’s mayoral candidates concluded their statements during Monday’s debate held at the Dixon Theater, five candidates for office of alderman spoke about their platforms.
Incumbent Shirley Wiltshire, a 30-year resident of Poplarville, has served as alderwoman since 2005, spending much of her first term working through the after-effects of Hurricane Katrina.
During her current term, Wiltshire said she worked through a $2.1 million budget with almost an entirely new Board and mayor. With that budget, Wiltshire said repairing all of the city’s roads would be impossible to do in one year because it would cost $3 million to complete the project.
In response to complaints about property assessments increasing last year, Wiltshire said property values went down eight years ago during a previous assessment. Since all candidates were confined to three minutes, Wiltshire concluded by saying resources like the community theater, the Chamber of Commerce, local retailers and social media have helped the city grow.
After moving to Poplarville four years ago, alderman candidate Tony Smith, owner of Stonewall’s BBQ in Picayune and former Mississippi State Senator, spoke of his experience in government.
Smith said the city cannot depend on the state or federal government to bring economic development, however, he noted that due to his experience in the state legislature he has access to Governor Phil Bryant and Lt. Governor Tate Reeves. In order to bring in money, development in the way of technology could set Poplarville apart, he said.
Smith emphasized the role of Pearl River Community College in the Poplarville community, saying Highway 11 should not be a divider between the city and the resources of the school.
Alderwoman candidate Rochelle Holliday, a Poplarville native, said her experience with her family’s company, Holliday Construction, has given her business experience across the South.
“When someone does work and it fails, it’s at the cost of taxpayers,” Holliday said. “That’s what leads to the issues with our streets.”
Development will occur by getting more people to invest in the city and contribute to the tax base, not by creating a tax-free state, Holliday said.
Using her family’s theater, the Dixon, as an example, Holliday said not every investment in the community is going to make a lot of money, but just like the theater investments can bring people together.
Incumbent Margaret “Maggie” Smith said she moved to Poplarville in 1995. She now works at Pearl River Community College. Coming to the end of her first term in office, Maggie Smith spoke about her research of the city’s ordinances and zoning laws as well the classes and certifications she’s received while in office.
Maggie Smith also addressed the need to force the Pearl River County Utility Authority to conduct repairs to the city’s sewer lines before the streets are repaved.
Another issue she’d like to fix concerns the city’s 44 percent water loss, more than twice the recommended rate, she said it would cost $404,405 to repair the water meters.
“We have to have more businesses in here folks,” Maggie Smith said. “Taxing is not the way.”
Former Alderwoman Anne Smith wrapped up the night by speaking about her experience in helping to balance the city’s budget during her term from 1996 to 2005.
Anne Smith said when she was first elected, “I sunk my teeth into it,” poring over the budget to determine what was most effective.
She said she worked with the city to solve budget issues due to overdue water bills, saying residents didn’t need to lose their water service.
Anne Smith said part of working for the city entails bringing everyone to the table to find the best ideas.
Candidates Heather Holliday and Kevin L. Tillman, Sr. did not attend the forum due to scheduling conflicts.

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About Julia Arenstam

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