As the municipal primary elections approach May 2, Bay St. Louis residents will have three Democratic mayoral candidates to choose from. The primary’s winner will face Republican Jeff Harding in the general election.
Les Fillingame is the incumbent mayor. He was elected in 2009 and reelected in 2013. Prior to entering office, he worked as an administrator in City Hall under then-Mayor Eddie Favre; was a grocery-store manager; a businessman; and worked with the city government following 2005’s Hurricane Katrina to coordinate disaster-recovery efforts with state and federal agencies. He attended the University of Southern Mississippi.
Fillingame said his top priority would be to rebuild the deteriorated relationship he has had with the City Council. He wants a working relationship with the council that guarantees the progress the city has had over the last eight years.
His second goal would be infrastructure improvements, primarily a new police station. He wants to expand the public-safety complex, which houses the fire department, to also house the police and municipal court departments. He said the city would seek grants up to the federal level if necessary to fund the expansion. As for the old police station, Fillingame hopes the city could save it for something else.
Third, he wants to expand the municipal harbor by building a fifth pier to dock large vessels. He said the harbor has owners of larger craft on a waiting list for harbor space. The city also needs to extend the day pier to its full length to accommodate all the day traffic it gets, he said. And over the next four years, he wants to “build out the entire waterfront,” including construction of a boardwalk along the seawall.
Rachael Ramsey is a self-employed accountant. She is a retired CPA, having worked as senior vice president for Hibernia Bank in New Orleans and senior accountant at Capital Blue Cross Blue Shield in Pennsylvania, among other positions. She most recently worked as an academic adviser at Delgado Community College in New Orleans. Ramsey graduated from Penn State before becoming a CPA.
Ramsey’s primary goal is fiscal responsibility. She wants to reduce spending; not interfere with private businesses whenever possible; and explore the possibility of merging some city services with nearby cities.
A self-described conservative Democrat, she said her education and experience make her the most suited candidate to tackle the city’s most-pressing issue — fixing “the financial mess in City Hall,” she said.
Ramsey wants to change the city’s current mayor-council form of government to a council-manager form. Half the cities in the United States use the council-manager form of government, but only seven use it in Mississippi.
“It takes the good ole boy politics out,” Ramsey said. The council-manager form weakens the power of an elected mayor by placing all of the city’s administrative duties in the hands of a city manager, whom the council can hire and fire as it sees fit.
Mike Favre, a councilman-at-large, graduated from St. Stanislaus College and attended the University of Southern Mississippi. He has worked at Calgon Carbon for the last 26 years, mostly in a self-directed team environment operating a $100 million facility. He also held accounting/administrative positions there, including purchasing and accounts payable officer. Prior to his election to the City Council, he spent four years on Hancock County’s Planning and Zoning Commission. He touts an extensive background in grassroots activism, working with organizations such as CASA, the Coastal Conservation Association, the Our Lady of the Gulf Catholic Church and youth organizations.
Favre said his mission would be to bring stability and integrity back to the city’s government.
“We must regain the trust and respect of our taxpaying citizens and work together to move Bay St. Louis forward,” he said.
He wants to reclaim Bay St. Louis’ tagline. “Being ‘A Place Apart’ meant the city of Bay St. Louis was like no other and was a city to be proud of along the Mississippi Gulf Coast. The phrase was coined many years ago and was intended to signify our city’s rich history, expansive culture and uniqueness.”
To reclaim that slogan, Favre said, it must start at the top. He promises to serve the community with solid, trustworthy and dedicated leadership.
“We will become accountable for the decisions we make and make decisions that are practical — bringing common-sense spending to city government,” he said. “We will make Bay St. Louis attractive, and the city that people choose to live, work, do business, play and pray in. As your mayor, I will be fully responsive to every citizen in every geographic area, and transparent so that government is open and easily understood by all stakeholders.”