He graduated from Ocean Springs High School a year before Hurricane Katrina.
Shea Dobson is a financial planner by trade and works for a Jacksonville company that has an office in Mobile. His college degree from Southern Miss in 2014 is in political science.
He has Libertarian leanings, but doesn’t like to get caught up with labels. And he lives with his mother, but just because it was an easy address for him to keep while he was traveling and working as a political activist.
He’s ready to go to work for Ocean Springs, he says, and was starting with the Board of Aldermen meeting Wednesday night, the day after the election.
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And while he may have felt he had to defend his age — he turned 31 while campaigning for mayor in Ocean Springs — there’s little more that he needs to say about it now.
He won. He’s Ocean Springs’ mayor-elect.
Still, he explained to the Sun Herald that his generation is the one that will bridge the gap.
“I think we’re able to identify with the younger generation, 18- to 20-year-olds. But I think mine is also the last generation of having played outside. I was in middle school before they had chat rooms and so much of the internet, the start of technology.
“I think my generation is kind of in-between and a way to bridge the gap and build coalitions and work with people from all different perspectives and world views.”
In an interview Wednesday afternoon, he said he wouldn’t care if anyone acknowledges his presence at the meeting Wednesday night. They haven’t at all the aldermen meetings he has attended during the campaign.
He didn’t plan to talk. He said he would be there to listen.
“Obviously there are going to be some big changes on the horizon,” he said. “I’ll be interested to see if there is anything anyone is proposing, or not proposing. I’ll be there to soak up things.”
He said his appointment calendar is filling up fast, and so far, he doesn’t have a designated personal assistant.
There was no one campaign manager to help with the transition.
His campaign manager was “a good team and group of friends and family that I keep close. They keep me driven and honest and humble and focused.”
The group is helping him put together meetings. There will be coffees, brunches and maybe some early evening meetings, he said.
What he’s arranging is to meet with business owners and leaders. He mentioned restaurants downtown and real estate agencies.
“I’m trying to meet with businesses throughout the city, to get more insight on where their head’s are at.”
Back to basics
His approach to government is “back to basics,” he said. “I don’t think government is a magic wand that you wave to make things happen. It’s just getting to work. Working hard and being accountable to citizens.”
He also plans to meet with city employees soon.
He said he’s preparing to hit the ground running. He realizes the swearing in is next month and the city clerk is where he will get his “marching orders.”
He said he received help from Alderman at-large Bobby Cox and Ward 6 Alderman Mike Impey, who were unopposed. Others had their own campaigns to consider, he said, and he knew the mayor’s race was controversial.
But Alderman Chic Cody, who was defeated in the Republican runoff, helped a lot, he said, and he is good friends with Rob Blackman, the former city building official who won the Ward 5 seat Tuesday night.
“A lot of informed people are prepared to help me and are helping me get ready for what’s to come,” he said.
Things to know about Shea
Other bullet points about Dobson:
▪ His mother, Mary DeBell retired from a career in law enforcement. She served 17 years with the Ocean Springs Police Department and then with Jackson County Drug Court and has worked part-time with security at the Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College. She originally qualified to run for alderman in Ward 4, but withdrew after her son qualified in the mayor’s race.
Dobson said they decided there were plenty of good candidates running in Ward 4.
▪ He works for Financial Design Associates and plans to keep his license and some connections to private sector work in case he decides not to run again in four years. But he said he will be a full-time mayor.
▪ He has done a lot of traveling as a political activist. From 2014 to 2015 he was with a branch of the National Association for Gun Rights in Texas. The organization is based in Colorado. He spent a summer in Iowa with the Concerned American Voters, supporting Sen. Rand Paul, R-Kentucky.
▪ He doesn’t see his Libertarian leanings as something he needs “to sweep under the rug.” He said it’s a trend that is on the rise, and “I definitely wear it with pride.”
It’s “the heart and soul of conservatism,” he said.
▪ His father lives north of Tampa, Florida, and stopped at the end of his cross-country motorcycle trip from Tampa to California and back, to help Dobson celebrate his win Tuesday night.
▪ He said he will focus on minimizing the footprint of government in Ocean Springs. He believes in limited government and doesn’t like giving businesses “a bunch of hoops to jump through” to get things done. However, he said he wants to make the rules fair, but make sure they’re followed.
“I believe wealth comes from the private sector. I want to do what I can to get government out of the way and let them put people to work.”
About the low voter turnout Tuesday, compared to four years ago when Mayor Connie Moran successfully defeated long-time Jackson County Supervisor John McKay, he said the rain might have been a factor.
“But if people believe in you they get out and vote anyway. If they don’t believe in you, they won’t.”