Six Coast cities will have new mayors and a lot of new councilmen and aldermen starting Saturday. We checked in with the new leaders to find out what the people of each city can expect in the coming months.
Bay St. Louis
Getting people to work together is Bay St. Louis Mayor Mike Favre’s highest priority in a city hit by scandals and years of infighting.
“I am truly excited about the opportunity to lead Bay St. Louis as mayor of this great town in which I was born and raised,” Favre said. “My highest priority for the city would be to restore the team concept to City Hall, while having staff focus on providing the highest level of service that our citizens deserve.”
Finances are a major concern.
“Our biggest challenge is one that is not unique to government, and that is addressing financial shortfalls that exist,” Favre said. “I will work closely with the City Council to manage our city in a fiscally responsible way, bringing financial stability and efficient operations to our city government.
“Together, I am confident that we will make Bay St. Louis the place that people choose to live, work, do business, play and pray.”
Gautier Mayor Phil Torjusen said his highest priority is to make sure Gautier provides quality water and sewer services to residents and businesses at a fair price.
“Without that, you can’t do adequate economic development,” Torjusen said. “You have to make sure you can provide that to incoming businesses.
“Our biggest challenge is going to be economic development,” he said. “We’ve got to replace our revenue stream from the (Singing River) Mall, revenue we lost when they tore down the mall in 2014.”
He said in recent years the city has cut services and can’t stay competitive with city employee pay because of that revenue loss.
“We start police officers at $13 an hour, when they can go down the road and work part-time at a security job for $18,” he said. “Other cities and the county pay higher than Gautier.”
Long Beach Mayor George Bass says economic development will be his highest priority.
“The citizens, it was on their backs that we financed everything,” he said. “We have very few businesses and after Katrina there is so much that hasn’t come back. We need to put in place a tax abatement not only for commercial but residential developments. It could be condominium, it could be retail outlets. We need to be able to market ourselves.”
He said with the No. 2 public school in the state and the USM Gulf Park campus, the city should be easy to sell to developers.
The biggest challenge the city faces is getting people off U.S. 90 and into Long Beach, Bass said. A three-day retreat of city officials after the election came up with a five-item to-do list.
“We got 20,000 to 30,000 cars a day pass through Long Beach on Highway 90,” he said. “There’s nothing at the foot of Jeff Davis that lets you know that this is our central business district. We identified (the need for) signage and dressing up Jeff Davis on both sides of 90 and we’ve already put together some architectural renderings of what we want to do.”
Moss Point Mayor Mario King said his highest priority and the biggest challenge will be the same thing.
“It’s finances, getting a grasp of our finances for October (the new budget year) and working with our budget now,” he said. “We need to be able to know where we are and begin moving forward, increasing our revenue stream. It’s the priority and the challenge.”
He said the city needs a finance director to help it become more lean.
“I’d love to incorporate a finance director to help us trim some of the burden — see how we can cut wasteful spending and expand job roles,” he said, “to see how we can cut back.”
Ocean Springs Mayor Shea Dobson said, “My highest priority is expanding our tax base and new infrastructure.
“I believe my biggest challenge will be updating with new technology and procedures to help streamline and update our city,” he said. “Our website is out of date, our internet at City Hall is not that great.”
He said he plans to stream all the city aldermen meetings on the city’s website and on Facebook, but the first meetings probably will be Facebook only, until the city website is updated.
He also is looking at an app similar to D’Iberville’s that will give people quick and easier access to what Ocean Springs has to offer.
Pascagoula Mayor Dane Maxwell said he has a long list of priorities for the city and sometimes, “it’s not the big things that are always the winners for the city.”
He said, economic development, building the tax base, jobs and money “are and will always be priorities. However, our citizens need to see immediate wins. It’s simple things like synchronizing traffic lights that have been on timers for years, repairing small things that have been broken for years, cleaning the city, paving roads, enforcing our ordinances and generally making common sense decisions that seem to be overlooked year after year.”
Maxwell said, “There is no problem Pascagoula has that can’t be fixed with money. So, getting money into the city from state and federal agencies to help us will be ongoing.
“What we can’t fix with money and what is my biggest challenge is the negative attitudes and general lack of pride some have for the city. Many people are discouraged,” he said. “They are tired of seeing our city fail. They are tired of seeing our city neglected year after year, and they are tired of broken promises. The biggest challenge for me is to bring back the pride we once had for this city . Give them hope. ... Pascagoula needs some wins!”