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Poplarville’s mayoral candidates share goals if elected

Poplarville’s next mayor will be the first woman to hold the office.

The three candidates running are Linda Eades Hawkins, Heather Holliday and Louise Smith.

Hawkins

Linda Eades Hawkins is a retired teacher who has lived in Poplarville for 43 years.

Hawkins wants to improve Poplarville’s downtown by refurbishing buildings, getting murals painted and adding benches and flowers to make it more attractive to visitors.

She wants to hire a grant writer to help the city acquire funding for improvements.

Hawkins said she would like to see public money go toward resurfacing roads. She’d also like to work with the town’s Chamber of Commerce to attract new small businesses.

“With everything that’s gone on, we have lost several businesses in town and I hope we could make a deal with the chamber to lure some more smaller businesses in.”

She’s also interested in starting a senior center in Poplarville, and said two local organizations have already promised to donate money towards one if it is created.

“I feel like we need a place for seniors to come and have lunch. Also if we have a building, we could also rent the building out to showers, reunions to make money to cover the expense of the center,” she said.

Her previous leadership positions include serving as a committee member for Paint the Town Pink, president elect of the Rotary Club of Poplarville and president of the Woman’s Club.

“I’m retired. As long as I’ve lived in Poplarville there’s never been a mayor without an outside job. I plan to have office hours, possibly for two or three hours, in case anybody in Poplarville needs to come and talk to me about a problem or an improvement or something like that,” said Hawkins.

Hawkins has volunteered with numerous groups, including Kiwanis, the Leukemia Association and the Veteran’s Breakfast.

“Being involved in civic activities is one of the most important things that you can do,” she said.

Holliday

Heather Holliday owns a Poplarville based real estate business and serves on the Poplarville School Board of Trustees.

Holliday wants to grow downtown businesses by working with the county’s economic developer, ensuring that local buildings are up to code and to make it easier to start businesses by offering incentives, such as tax incentives or waiving permit fees. She also believes the city should work more closely with Pearl River Community College.

“There’s not one person that says, ‘Oh well I didn’t buy a house in Poplarville because there’s not a flowerbed on Main Street.’ I’ve had them tell me the roads, the water, the actual individual properties. Poplarville just needs a face lift,” said Holliday.

Holliday believes the city government should focus more on the community as whole and is critical of the decision to build a stage at the Town Green on Main Street.

Holliday said the biggest problem with the current local government is that members of the city’s Board of Aldermen do not communicate well with each other and believes her leadership would help.

“You don’t need to be developing a strategy for overthrowing the other side. You need to be working together….I don’t want to bad mouth them in any way, shape or form, but that’s just what I feel like, they don’t trust each other to get their jobs done and I think that hurts the town.”

She said it is an honor to serve on the school board, but points to her appointment as an example of an odd leadership choice. Holliday said she had a brief conversation about serving on the school board, and asked for more information. Then the next time she heard about it, she had been appointed to the board.

“That’s a five year appointment. 45 seconds. That’s how decisions are being made.”

Smith

Louise Smith is a retired educator and grant writer who worked as the Poplarville High School principal.

If elected, Smith has three priorities: she wants to improve economic development, improve infrastructure and improve community engagement.

“There’s a lot of community pride, we have the parades that they do, the Blueberry Jubilee, and I think we have to keep doing stuff like that and building on that to create that community pride and awareness of what we have.”

Smith wants to explore bringing in volunteers through programs like AmeriCorps VISTA to help with grant writing to improve the city. She also thinks educational outreach could be used to encourage more citizens to become involved.

“I think we have to promote entrepreneurship and I know that the college does a really good job of workforce development, but I don’t know how many people are aware of the education that they are providing there. I wonder about apprenticeships, I wonder about some of our businesses, would they be willing to mentor some of our young people and help them learn how to be business people?”

She wants to take inventory of public buildings to ensure they are being kept up to code. Smith also wants to explore rehabilitating abandoned buildings and see if some public buildings can be used for more purposes, like to create a community center or senior center.

“I would like to talk to mayors of other small towns and engage with them and look at what they have done to make their town better,” said Smith.

She’d like to see infrastructure improvements to the city’s streets, water system and buildings. Smith believes public funds should be used to support schools, roads and programs that benefit people.

Election Date

The primary election will be April 6 and the general election will be June 8. The next mayor will take office in July. Voters must be registered by March 8 to vote in the primary or by May 10 to vote in the general election.