By NATHAN GREGORY
Dan Moreland announced his qualification as a Republican for the Starkville mayoral race on the first day of municipal election qualifying Wednesday.
Moreland, a local businessman and longtime chairman of the Starkville Parks Commission Board, owns Moreland Inc., a property-leasing business that includes residential and commercial real estate. His previous public service includes serving as an elected judge for 15 years and serving on the Tennessee-Tombigbee Waterway Board during then-Gov. Kirk Fordiceâs term in office.
Moreland said he is running on the platform of transforming Starkville into a more business-friendly city. In a release announcing his candidacy, he said Starkville has become âone of the most unfriendly business communities in the stateâ due to overregulation.
âWe are riddled with a checklist of regulatory ordinances that assures small business will not set up shop in Starkville, and that checklist is growing under the current administration,â he said in the release.
Moreland said he also plans to broaden the tax base of the city to ease taxpayer burden and to repeal and replace the current sidewalk ordinance with one that provides âsidewalks in areas of common interest, but eases the regulations it puts on small businesses.â
When asked to further discuss his plans to broaden the tax base, Moreland said loosening strict regulation that pushes developers away from wanting to start businesses in Starkville will go a long way toward changing the cityâs reputation over time simply because it is home to the largest university in the state. He referenced a conversation he had with a congressman who said heâd heard it was difficult to start a business in Starkville.
âWe canât have that kind of reputation. Weâve got to let people know we want them to come do business down here. Weâre putting stumbling blocks in front of businesses instead of stepping stones,â Moreland said. âWeâre sitting on a gold mine having (Mississippi State University) but weâre not taking advantage of what weâve got here. The more businesses we can get in that will pay to our tax base, the more tax base you have without raising anybodyâs taxes.â
Moreland said an example of overregulation spurning potential business is the cityâs sidewalk ordinance.
âWe need (a sidewalk ordinance) but we need some common sense with it, too. You need them in neighborhoods where youâre building a new shopping center or neighborhood, but we donât need to have them in areas where itâs going to be a burden to people,â he said. âBuilding a sidewalk just to be building a sidewalk? We donât need that.â
âWeâve got to use some common sense in our building department,â Moreland continued. âEvery time you pass or modify an ordinance, you stack the deck so you canât wiggle. Weâve just got to get back to a common-sense approach into the building department and ordinances. Weâve got ordinances that make no sense whatsoever to anybody. We need to sit down and go through the entire list of ordinances and scratch the ones that donât make sense.â
During his tenure as chair of the Starkville Parks Commission Board, Moreland said heâs pleased with the work the board did to fund the Sportsplex on Lynn Lane and convert the swimming pool at J.L. King Park to a splash pad, among numerous other achievements. The amount of progress made during his time on the board can translate well to a city leadership position because he would act as mayor like he has as a businessman and commissioner â running city operation as a business and maintaining contact with department heads to ensure progress and efficiency in city business, he said.
âWhat weâve got to do is have a good, strong mayor who is hands-on but lets the department heads run their departments. In regular business one of my commissioners was talking to one of the âŠ aldermen and said, âThe reason the parks are doing well is because Dan is running it like a business.ââ
Moreland says he questions city leaders who have told him the city of Starkville could not be run like a business.
âIf youâve got rent and youâve got a utility bill and payroll, youâve got a business,â he said. âYou canât spend more than you bring in and you canât gamble on it. The key to being successful is making sure you donât let one business venture take you under. Sooner or later, youâre going to make a bad decision, but you have to make sure it doesnât take you under, and I think that carries over to the city also.â
As for recent moves the current administration, he spoke in support of the city and Oktibbeha Countyâs entry in to the Golden Triangle Regional Development Authority but believed more input was needed before the boardâs authorization to begin construction of a new city hall through a lease-purchase agreement.
âWe need to make sure we get our share of (GTRDA profits). If weâre going to get behind a plant that is coming to the Golden Triangle area we need to make sure Starkville and Oktibbeha County benefit from it âŠ It needs to be split among all three counties (including Clay and Lowndes Counties). If all three counties are going to put money in it needs to pay off in the long run,â Moreland said.
âI donât think anybody in Starkville would say we donât need a complex of some kind, (but) you have to come up with a diverse group from all walks of life and get input from the citizens and taxpayers,â he said. âRight now youâve got to be more cautious with your money. You canât gamble with your own money in city business; much less taxpayer money.â
Moreland said as mayor he would be eager to field thoughts from taxpayers on what can be done to ease taxpayer burden and bring more business to the city.
âIf elected, I will work for the taxpayers of Starkville,â he said. âYou work for them and they are your boss.â