Spruill shatters Starkville's glass ceiling

Starkville Mayor Lynn Spruill is sworn in during a ceremony at City Hall on Monday. Holding the Bible is her aunt, Frances Jutman (Photo by Logan Kirkland, SDN)
By: 
SARAH RAINES
Staff Writer

There's a new mayor in town - but something will now be different in Starkville's highest office.

On Monday, Starkville swore in its first female mayor, Lynn Spruill, in front of a packed courtroom in City Hall. But being mayor of Starkville is just the most recent achievement on Spruill's list of accomplishments.

Spruill grew up in Starkville. She said she prides herself in being a product of the Starkville public school system. Spruill attended Mississippi University for Women and Mississippi State University before leaving to pursue her dream of becoming a pilot.

"Starkville was about 10,000 people at the time, and we are now 25,000," Spruill said. "It had a small-town feel. I watched Starkville grow for a good bit, and I was ready to go have adventures."

During her years away from Starkville, Spruill would go on to craft an impressive resume leading to her being sworn in as her hometown's first female mayor.

IN THE NAVY:

Spruill's father, Lewis Eugene Spruill, taught her how to fly when she was 8 years old. In 1974, Spruill was the 10th female Naval Pilot to get her wings with the Navy, and in 1980 she was the first female pilot to land a plane on an aircraft carrier.

"Women were not allowed to go on combatant vessels, and a carrier is a combatant vessel," Spruill said. "The laws, changing as they do, allowed us to go on a combatant vessel in a noncombatant role."

Spruill flew Lockheed C-130 Hercules planes in the West Pacific, servicing ships by bringing them mail and transporting personnel and equipment. Spruill said she loved her time in the Navy, from wearing the uniforms and visiting the bases to flying. Most of all, she loved flying in formation.

"If I had nine lives, I would have spent one of them as a career naval officer," Spruill said. "I would have loved to be a Blue Angel."

Spruill left the Navy in 1981 to work as a commercial pilot in Dallas.

SPRUILL'S TIME IN TEXAS:

Spruill first stepped into politics in Addison, Texas, where she served as mayor from 1988 to 1993.

Spruill said Addison is a town not far from Dallas, with a daytime population of 50,000 people and a residential population of 15,000 people. While mayor of Addison, Spruill had to make sure Addison did not fade in the shadow of its neighboring city.

"Part of the problem of a big city is you become less relevant as they grow and expand and spread," Spruill said. "You have got to find a way to stay relevant and have things going on in the community so that people don't want to leave and not come back."

Addison built mixed-use living areas and expanded its downtown events to keep residents in town. Spruill said a two-day grand prix event rode through the streets of Addison, to the airport, and back through, and they had large Independence Day and Octoberfest celebrations.

The town also committed to building more parks.

"I have a park named after me," Spruill said. "A long time after I left, the Town Council developed a policy that would name parks after its former mayors. They turned mine into a dog park."

Spruill said she is an animal lover, so she feels the town's decision to make her park into a dog park was meant to be.

L.E. SPRUILL:

Spruill said she learned about overcoming difficulties from her father, Lewis Eugene Spruill.

Though her father was an accountant, his passion was in running heavy equipment. He worked construction equipment and flew planes, teaching Spruill to fly when she was young.
"My father was a victim of polio, and he was on crutches all his life," Spruill said. "There were things he could not do, but he overcame a lot."

L.E. Spruill bought modifications for his plane that allowed him to fly, and Spruill said he was a role model for her. She saw her father work for his success, and after college she set out wanting to fly in the Navy, and that is what she did.

"You overcome difficulties and you overcome obstacles and you do the things that you want to do," Spruill said. "It had nothing to do with male or female, it just had to do with doing the things that you want to do, persevering and pulling for it."

COMING HOME

Spruill came home to Starkville permanently in 2005, after her father passed away. L.E. Spruill had developed many neighborhoods in Starkville, including Greenbriar and Green Oaks, and Spruill came back to take care of his business.

"I got wrapped up in the political campaign of Mayor Dan Camp, the mayor who preceded Mayor Wiseman," Spruill said. "He hired me to be chief administrative officer, which I was during the four years of his term and then the first four years of Mayor Wiseman's term."

In 2013, the Board of Aldermen decided not to reappoint Spruill as CAO and Spruill focused on running Spruill Property Management, the business that bloomed out of her father's work. Spruill said she stayed in touch with the city's business by attending the Board of Aldermen meetings and staying active by Tweeting and writing articles.

BECOMING MAYOR

Spruill said her biggest challenge in becoming mayor was getting people out to vote.

"I would love to see us get more people engaged and involved so they not only come to volunteer and do things in the community, but also come out and vote," Spruill said. "It matters."

Spruill said she is looking forward to working with Starkville and watching it grow. She said she looks forward to watching the school system grow with the Partnership School and the new superintendent Eddie Peasant.

"I'm also wanting us to do a lot of events, so we're hoping to carry over some of the things I've learned earlier and bring them to Starkville," Spruill said. "We can have a fun place to be, a place people are proud of and a place people want to stay."

Spruill said the community of Starkville ranges from being a playful city to a retirement community, and she believes Starkville can be something to everyone.
"We are going to be the star in the crown of the Golden Triangle," Spruill said.

BREAKING THE GLASS CEILING:

Spruill is Starkville's first female mayor - a distinction she does not take lightly.

"It is another opportunity for me to contribute to the public good," Spruill said. "I want to be a part of making a difference in a positive way to our community."

Spruill said her testimony for young girls is that whatever their dream is, go for it.

"You can do anything you want to do," Spruill said. "That's the message. If you want to do it, go for it."

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