By NATHAN GREGORY
Former Alderman Mary Lee Beal has announced her qualification to run for mayor in this year’s municipal election Tuesday, making her the third candidate in the race.
Beal will run as a Democrat. Incumbent Parker Wiseman, also a Democrat, announced he will run again Monday. Republican Dan Moreland announced his qualification Jan. 2.
Beal, who represented Ward 1 from 1977-97, said she received bipartisan support to seek office. She served as mayor pro-tempore from 1993 until her departure.
“Throughout the last several political election cycles, people have encouraged me to run. This time I had a large number of people ask me to really seriously think about it,” she said. “After careful consideration and lots of thought and prayer, (my husband) John and I decided to go for it. My intention this time as always is ... Starkville is first. I have no ulterior motive. I have no hidden agenda. (I want) to try to make Starkville a better community for all of her citizens.”
Beal said improvement of city services and planning have helped spur business growth and quality of life in Starkville since she stepped down. She plans to ensure those trends continue if elected.
“The city government itself appears to be more approachable than in times past. The city departments have increased; the city services have expanded. I for one am delighted with the recycling we have available in Starkville now,” she said. “With the new fire rating, it shows that the fire department has done an admirable job the last several years. Our police department continues to improve and become certified in various associations. I want to make sure Starkville is able to provide at the highest level the essential city services for her citizens. We’re going to have to be fiscally responsible for our tax dollars and how we spend them.”
A main objective of her platform is to develop a plan to address issues with the city’s aging infrastructure with an emphasis on sewage and drainage.
“We’ll have to develop a funding plan as well as a systematic plan,” Beal said. “My past experience with Starkville has been that Starkville is a reactive city in that (leadership) reacts when something occurs. … Because of the expense, we do not prepare for planning ahead. It seems to me that Starkville’s philosophy has been ‘We will get it fixed today for a penny rather than spending five cents and getting it repaired for the long term.’”
Another objective would be to help maintain and improve the city’s financial standing while preparing for funding the city has received in the past to be absent.
“Our spending is going to be cut back because federal government spending is going to be cut back. It’s going to be critical for all cities to watch their budgeting,” Beal said. “I think a lot of the grants … the city has gotten in the past and the city has relied on will not be available (or won’t provide as much funding because) some cuts have got to come from somewhere.”
She said while the city’s participation in the Golden Triangle Regional Development Authority is a step in the right direction financially, more can be done on the local level, and that includes more communication between municipalities.
“I would like to see a better working relationship with (Oktibbeha) County and I would … continue our relationship with Mississippi State University,” she said.
She applauded the current board’s effort to modify some city regulations, such as the sidewalk ordinance, and the implementation of new ones, such as form-based codes.
“I support the form-based codes. Some people may object to them, but I think in the long run it makes Starkville a better place and more business friendly,” she said.
She also supported the board’s authorization of issuing certificates of participation as a funding mechanism for a new city hall and improved police station.
“There is no tax increase for the citizens, so I’m not quite sure why there’s such a dissension about it now. It is something the city desperately needs. It is something that should have been done 20 or 25 years ago. Now it’s going to cost three times as much as it would have cost 20 years ago. I support this decision because this is the only way it can be done,” she said. “Perhaps the process could have been changed, but the decision for a lease purchase is absolutely the best decision to meet these goals.”
Her experience as an alderman and service in various civic committees would serve the city well, she said.
“Even though it has been several years since I have actually served on the board, I have been very interested in the community’s development (and) the city’s government. I think my 20 years on the board allows me to understand … the inner workings of the board, the inner workings of city government and how it runs,” Beal said. “I understand the city needs to be approachable to all of its citizens and to provide the services for the entire city of Starkville and not just certain areas. I have served on several boards since I was an alderman, several civic boards. I understand the workings of a non-profit organization and how it operates.”
She supports the city’s new updated website and how it keeps the public aware of municipal activity.
“Transparency in city government is most important to me. I am honest, I will be straightforward (and) my motive will be to make Starkville to be a better place,” she said. “I know with personnel issues and some other things have to be done in executive session and have to remain private, but anything else is open for everybody.”