(Editor's Note: The race for mayor of Mississippi's third-largest city, Southaven and its future, was recently the topic of three candidates vying for the post. In today's edition, a look at that hotly contested race. Today's story is part of a continuing series of stories on the municipal races upcoming for the May 2 primaries and June 6 general election.)
Striding up to the microphone at the Southaven Public Library, incumbent Southaven Mayor Darren Musselwhite's first words delivered into the microphone were decidedly "tongue-in-cheek."
"I'm the real Southaven mayor," Musselwhite deadpanned, eliciting a few chuckles. Musselwhite was apparently referring to an opponent's web site which included the official mantle of mayor.
On a more serious note, Musselwhite reiterated that he feels his administration has restored the trust by the citizens in their government after several years of scandal under the former administration.
"In 2013, our city was in the middle of scandal, corruption and negativity. We had to walk around the media to get to work," Musselwhite said, referring to the media circus that accompanied the firestorm during the waning days of the last administration.
"On day one, I went into a difficult situation," Musselwhite said. "There was a lot of corruption in our city. I am not a politician. I am a businessman. I promised nothing to no one. I only promised to get the city out of the mess we were in."
Musselwhite said that he stopped "bid manipulation" and put a stop to "contractor inflation" in which bids were inflated.
"There are some people who no longer work for this city," added Musselwhite. "They were toxic for this city. They were part of the Greg Davis mess. We got rid of the buddy deals. You asked me to do that. I restored trust in the City of Southaven. All the vital signs are great in the City of Southaven."
James Weifenbach, who formerly ran in an unsuccessful bid for DeSoto County Sheriff, took his turn at the microphone next.
Weifenbach said he grew up in the military and has a certain directness to his approach to governing.
"When I say something, I mean what I say," Weifenbach said, adding he thought government officials in general were "out of compliance with the law." Weifenbach made reference to the U.S. Constitution and made what seemed like to many a startling assertion that the Republic was set up to "have a government where you don't need an executive branch. You don't need a mayor. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to be a mayor."
Weifenbach went on to say that he would never support a property tax increase but said in the same breath that he was an advocate for the city building a theme park.
Tommy Henley, co-owner of an industrial cleaning company, said his appearance at the forum marked his "first political speech."
"Twenty-one years ago, I started a business called Team Mobile (Team Mobile Industrial Cleaning Inc.) with a truck and a trailer," Henley said. Henley said his main challenge at that time was building a business through hard work and reinvesting in his company.
"I'm financially conservative in my business everyday," Henley said. "I will bring that kind of transparency to the city."
While Henley acknowledged that Snowden Grove was "immaculately maintained," he said other parks such as Cherry Valley Park were in need of repair and were marked by graffiti.
Henley proposed more security cameras and better streetlighting as a means of combatting increased crime. He also said the city's foreign trade zone was underutilized.
"I will push back the crime that is coming into our city," Henley said. "I will actively recruit industry in our city and I will focus on dollars not pennies."
Robert Lee Long is Community Editor of the DeSoto Times-Tribune. He may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 662-429-6397, Ext. 252.