What the Coast needs to know about the race for transportation, public service commissioners

On Tuesday, people across Mississippi will head to the polls to vote for local and state leaders. On the ballot will be candidates to help lead the Public Service Commission and Department of Transportation.

The PSC’s Southern District Commissioner represents 27 counties including Hancock, Harrison and Jackson counties, regulates essential utility services such as energy, telecommunications and water, according to the PSC website.

The agency also has jurisdiction over gas pipelines and all public utilities. The commission answers complaints, handles investigations and conducts hearings based around utilities.

MDOT’s Southern District Transportation Commissioner is responsible for the supervision of all modes of transportation in the state including aeronautics, highways, ports, public transit and railroads, according to the MDOT website.

The commission is also responsible for planning, developing and coordinating an intermodal transportation policy for the state.

Here’s the full list of candidates running for those offices, along with their plans if elected:

Public Service Commissioner, Southern District

Sugar Stallings (Democrat)

Sugar Stallings is the former City of Biloxi Architectural Historical & Review Commissioner. She also ran for mayor of Biloxi in 2016.

If elected as public service commissioner, she hopes to “provide a fair market rate at a fair market price, end harassing robocalls and provide transparency to the constituents with more public hearings and forums to inform the public with vital information.”

Dane Maxwell (Republican)

Dane Maxwell is the mayor of Pascagoula, and said he has worked for the PSC’s Southern District and served as chief of staff for the commissioner for nearly 10 years. If elected, he hopes to “end robocalls and telemarketer calls and work with state and federal agencies to eliminate all invasive calls.”

Maxwell hopes to maintain “fair and competitive rates” for Mississippians and to communicate with communities in the southern district to keep them informed about companies requesting rate increases. His goal is to be “as transparent to the ratepayers as the law allows.”

Lastly, he wants to work with state and federal leaders to “move grant funding opportunities to our cities and counties within the southern district to assist in infrastructure repairs and work hard to open more opportunities to extend broadband to all residents of the state of Mississippi.”

Connie Moran (Democrat)

Connie Moran was the mayor of Ocean Springs from 2005-2017. If elected, she plans to “support reliable alternative renewable energy sources to replace coal and to create jobs in emerging technologies.”

Moran also supports “fair, affordable and efficient utility rates to create jobs.”

She hopes to encourage young people to stay in the state by providing fast internet and full cellphone coverage across South Mississippi, including rural areas.

She plans to extend natural gas to rural areas, ensure clean water for everyone and “strengthen no-call laws to stop scammers.”

Kelvin Schulz (Republican)

Kelvin Schulz has been a licensed general contractor and home-builder since 1973.

If electe, he hopes to ensure that “utility rates are fair, that rates match the services provided and that service is available to the 27 southern counties.”

Schulz also wants make sure “complaints are responded to timely,” and to stop “all spoof and robocalls for good.”

Transportation Commissioner, Southern District

Tom King, incumbent (Republican)

“In the 7 years that I have been transportation commissioner, I’ve overseen conservative initiatives that have reduced MDOT’s workforce by 13% as a cost-saving measure,” King said. “We have also reduced our fleet of vehicles 13% and reduced travel costs by 47%.”

“Changes to our road and bridge construction strategies have translated to over $25 million in savings. MDOT has increased transparency on projects and spending, including expanding information available on our website and social media.”

King hopes to continues working on those projects as he seeks a third term.

Chad Toney (Republican)

Chad Toney said he has nearly 30 years of experience working with MDOT, inspecting and constructing highways. He’s also a former mapper for Amite and Wilkinson counties.

If elected, his key focus is funding for roads.

“Mississippi has no dependable source of ongoing funding to build and maintain a first-class road system.” He believes his experience with businesses and communities will help him “remedy this deplorable situation.”

Tony Smith (Republican)

Tony Smith is the current Alderman of Poplarville, and a former Mississippi State Senator for District 47.

If elected, he hopes to tackle issues like “roads, funding, and rail and transit service.” Smith says it’s important that he is a “communications link between the people and the state” and an advocate for the southern district.

He also hopes to “strengthen our community foundations to bring more jobs to South Mississippi.”

Britneé Davis is McClatchy’s South Region Digital Producer. The south region includes the Sun Herald, the Telegraph, and the Ledger-Enquirer.