Two of three Picayune mayoral candidates speak with Item

Published 7:00 am Saturday, February 27, 2021

Two of three candidates running for mayor of Picayune took time out of their day to speak with the Picayune Item about their goals and stances should they be elected to office.

Leavern Guy

Guy said he chose to run for mayor because in the eight years that he has been out of politics he feels there has not been much progress in Picayune.

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“It appears they are on autopilot,” Guy said.

The only progress he noted was the paving of streets.

“That should not be the whole economic development plan, it makes no sense,” Guy said.

Guy also said that the millage rate in Picayune has increased since he left office. According to city records, the millage rate in 2007, when Guy was in office, was 25.5, which included 23.5 mills for the general fund and 2 mills for the library. The current millage is 38.61. The current rate includes 26.91 mills for the general fund, 2.16 mills for the library, .25 mills for a fire levy, 8.44 mills for long term debt and .85 mills for tax collection costs.

Guy said he is running on the idea that Picayune’s administration needs to think big.

Guy lists a number of qualifications why he would make a good mayor, including his time on the City Council in which he worked under mentors Harvey Nixon, A.L. Franklin, Glade Woods and Woody Spiers. He has served as mayor pro tem and was on the board of the Mississippi Municipal League. Guy also owns an insurance business in town, Guy Insurance.

In his time out of office, Guy said that his leadership style has evolved to become more progressive and to think bigger.

As to whether he supports emergency responders, Guy said he has always been supportive of the local law enforcement, fire services and EMS personnel as long as they “are right.”

His contention is that the current administration did not question the presence of a “militia group” near the police station in town when a vigil was held for Willie Ray Jones.

As for how the public coffers should be used, Guy said he would like to employ the services of professionals to create a comprehensive plan and capitalize on the city’s proximity to Stennis Space Center to help the city move forward. He feels that forming an economic development team with political weight will help the city change its current pace.

To help spur economic development, Guy said he would like to see the city take advantage of the current hub zones and provide tax incentives to attract more businesses.

As for maintaining or building infrastructure, Guy said he would be proactive and focus more on just paving roads, such as ensuring the quality of city water is “good.”

Guy said he is against raising taxes and the focus needs to be on investing in the community.

Guy said he would also like to see a group other than the one used in the past to help fix Kids Kingdom properly. He said he has seen that playground built or rebuilt three times in the recent past using the same individual’s assistance. He declined to name that individual on the record.

Tammy Valente

Current Councilor Tammy Valente said she is running for mayor because she has seen a number of inconsistencies and things fall by the wayside. As the owner of two businesses and self proclaimed supporter of the city, she said her qualifications can help move Picayune forward. She is concerned that Picayune is not reaching its full potential. She cited litter as one of the city’s main issues.

As for her experience, Valente said her eight years on the Council and time managing two businesses give her an edge to determine the best way to develop the city. Valente owns Valente Real Estate and Valente Investments LLC.

Her involvement in real estate has shown her that there are several road blocks preventing people from moving here, such as a confusing process to build a home or commercial property. Streamlining that process would make the city more enticing, she said.

In relation to supporting emergency responders, Valente feels law enforcement personnel may not be getting everything they need in the budget. She has noticed that the most important things needed by that agency are typically added at the last minute or cause the budget to increase after it’s approved.

She said the current city manager form of government is preventing the Council from getting all the information it needs to make critical decisions. She believes the current form of government could work, provided that position was occupied by someone who is not more interested in being in the spotlight or politics.

Her plan for spending tax dollars would include better roads, a cleaner city including the exits along Interstate 59, and installation of welcoming signs at those entry points.

She also wants those dollars to take care of first responders and improve quality of life for the citizens.

Her leadership experience includes being on the Pearl River County Board of Realtors board of directors, owner of two businesses and retail management in her earlier years.

To build on the local economy, she would like to make it more affordable to build out the vacant areas within the city limits to increase available housing, which would lead to an increase in population to at least 15,000 that would open opportunities to apply for grants and to attract industry. She would also like to partner with the Board of Supervisors and the Board of Aldermen and the county’s current economic developer to create a group economic development effort.

As for the infrastructure, Valente is not happy with the current paving project, especially with the end result on Goodyear Boulevard where only the travel lanes were overlaid and not the parking lanes.

She also wants to see something done with Kids Kingdom other than it be used as a topic to divide the Council. Improving Friendship Park would help increase economic development due to its ability to act as a venue for baseball and softball tournaments.

“I’m very unhappy about Kids Kingdom being held hostage,” Valente said.

Valente is also against raising taxes.

When reached via text message to set an interview time, the third candidate Jim Luke told the Item that he would “be unable to meet” to conduct an interview and requested the uniform questions asked of all candidates be sent to him via email. Since providing the questions via email was not afforded to the other candidates, including those running in Poplarville, the Item declined to provide them to Luke and asked that he meet with staff.

A time for that interview was not set by Luke by the deadline.