Candidates for Transportation Commissioner of the Northern District are celebrating the first day of the year with a 10-day countdown in their campaign.
A special election was scheduled for Jan. 11 after the seat became vacant when Commissioner Bill Minor passed away on Nov. 1.
And a Starkville native, Mike Tagert, is one of the seven in the race.
Though the campaign is Tagert's first, he has experience directly related to transportation issues as the current president of the Tennessee-Tombigbee Waterway Development Council.
"I've made a career of promoting local communities for economic development purposes that require both special transportation solutions and multi-modal type solutions," said Tagert, who also serves as member of the Trade and Transportation Advisory Council for the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta.
He graduated from Mississippi State University with master degrees in science and public policy and administration.
Tagert and his wife, Mary Love, have two children. They are members of the First United Methodist Church.
State Rep. Warner F. McBride, D-Courtland, has tossed his hat in the race to protect the "5,000 private-sector jobs associated with the transportation industry," he said.
The House Transportation chair is also an MSU graduate with a bachelor's degree in engineering after having grown up in Batesville where his father owned an engineering firm.
"I've had a lot of practical experience in transportation," he said.
As state representative, McBride championed safety regulations for pedestrians including the law requiring vehicles to stay three feet away from people traveling on foot or by alternative modes of transportation.
"I'm asking people to put their transportation into the hands of a proven leader," he said.
McBride and his wife, Phyllis, have three sons and attend Good Hope Baptist Church where he serves as deacon and Sunday school teacher.
Also in the race, John M. M. Caldwell Sr. of Nesbit says he wants to make a positive difference for north Mississippi with what he called improved response from its elected officials.
"I'd like to bring responsiveness to the local community and the community leadership," said the seven-year transportation director for the DeSoto County School District. If elected, Caldwell would also focus on making the state's well-traveled roads and bridges safer.
"Safety is paramount," he said. "After that is economic development."
Caldwell and his wife, Lee, have four children and one grandchild.
They attend First Baptist Church, Nesbit, where he serves as deacon.
Grenada businessman Larry Lee brings to the campaign a 10-goal platform including fair treatment in the property acquisition process and development of an efficient maintenance program.
"We've got to get a handle on the repairs that are much needed right now," he said, "and continue the projects already in progress."
Other candidates include Minor's brother, Ray Minor, a contractor and hardware store co-owner from Holly Springs and Dennis Grisham, 28-year supervisor in Tippah County.
Minor and Grisham could not be reached for comment by press time Friday.
Counties in Mississippi's Northern District include the following: DeSoto, Tate, Coahoma, Panola, Tunica, Alcorn, Lafayette, Lowndes, Grenada, Carroll, Calhoun, Pontotoc, Monroe, Clay, Marshall, Tishomingo, Tippah, Webster, Oktibbeha, Prentiss, Union, Winston, Montgomery, Leflore, Quitman, Tallahatchie, Choctaw, Chickasaw, Benton, Itawamba, Yalobusha and Attala.