Ward 5 field grows: Meet the candidates



Three names have now entered the race for the Ward 5 seat on the Starkville Board of Aldermen, featuring two Democrats and one Republican.

Republican Chase Neal was the latest to qualify on Feb. 10, with no other Republicans qualified to run against him in the primary as of Friday.

Democrats Patrick Miller and Kayla Gilmore both qualified on Feb. 3 and will face off in the primary on on May 2.

The seat will be vacated by Alderman Scott Maynard, who will not seek re-election.

The SDN recently caught up with the three candidates to hear how they plan to approach election season.


Neal, 33, grew up in Meridian and became interested in government after seeing the revitalization of the city’s downtown.

“I always thought when I was a kid I wanted to be a senator because they help make big decisions, and if you love the state of Mississippi, then you can really love the people from that position,” Neal said in an interview with the SDN on Friday.

Neal said he plans to fund his campaign out of pocket and with help from his family. A 2011 graduate of MSU, Neal has a marketing background and plans to do most of the design and communication work on his own.

He said it is still too early to focus on individual issues, and said he looks forward to meeting with residents of Ward 5 to discuss what they would like to see accomplished.

“Every town has the basic issues like ‘Are our roads good?’ ‘Is infrastructure good?’ ‘How can we improve upon this?’ and moving forward into that is probably the thing on everyone’s mind,” he said. “There are always times to reach out and swing for the fence.”

Before studying at MSU, Neal served for seven years doing logistical work in the Mississippi Air National Guard.

“I’ll have volunteers, basically folks that I know in the community, help me go door to door and talk to people and just get that name recognition and put my face to the name, and that’s where the learning what the issues will come from, - being right there with the folks,” he said.


Unlike his Republican opponent, Miller will have competition in the Democratic primary, but is already laying the groundwork for his campaign.

Miller - a 26-year-old native of Ocean Springs, Mississippi - currently serves as the Ward 5 commissioner on the Starkville Planning and Zoning Board.

“I’ve been very fortunate in my time in Starkville,” he said. “I have gotten to get to know a lot of people within Ward 5, within the city, and various people gave me the nudge to run.”

Miller said the most common issue he is hearing from voters is that they simply want a nice place to live.

“They want a budget that is well maintained so we can have capital improvement campaigns, improve infrastructure,” he said. “They want their property protected and … want to see their property value goes up.”

Schools will also be on Miller’s mind if elected. Miller coaches travel basketball and youth soccer, and said the connections he has made with the kids he coaches and their families have given him a firm understanding of what the community needs.

“I really plan on supporting our public schools and making an appointment to our school board,” he said. “I plan on being present at our schools and they deserve to see our public officials face to face.”

Miller has a master’s in public policy and administration from MSU and currently serves as a faculty instructor with the MSU Extension Center for Government and Community Development. He also serves as the institute director for the Municipal Clerk program with the city.


The other Democrat on the ticket will be Kayla Gilmore, 33, who is a small business owner and has been involved in many different community organizations.

“I feel i am a community unifier,” she said. “I help bring the community together and I feel it is time for the community to join together … it all starts with Board of Alderman to lead the way.”

Gilmore is no stranger to municipal government. She served two terms as city election commissioner and also serves on various boards, including the Area Art Council.

She said a primary concern she has heard from Ward 5 residents are problems associated with sewage and draining. On the upside, she said the north side of Starkville is growing, which provides a strong opportunity for more growth moving forward.

“We are looking at different things in the ward, such as historical neighborhoods,” she said. “Overall, Scott Maynard has done a great job serving.”

In terms of outreach, Gilmore soon plans to have a campaign website and presence on social media.

Gilmore then said her past public service will underscore her commitment to the city.

“People know me for doing great deeds,” she said. “I’ve touch a lot of lives. I’ve heard concerns and know I can be a voice for the people because I reach so many people in the community.”