May 30 is quickly approaching, and with it comes the special election to fill Ward 5's vacant seat on the Starkville Board of Aldermen.

The Ward 5 race is nonpartisan and features three candidates: Hamp Beatty, Kayla Gilmore and John Michael VanHorn.

Each candidate answered a series of questions for the Starkville Daily News to express their platforms.

Polls for the special election will open at 7 a.m. on May 30. Ward 5 voters will vote at Fire Station 3 at Highways 389 and Garrard Road.

HAMP BEATTY

Age: 64

Job: Business and Economic Development MSU Extension; Center for Government and Community Development

Family: Married to Kim Beatty for 38 years, Father to Lauren Beatty Priddy and Grant Beatty

Hometown: Newton, MS

Education/Experience: B.S. from Mississippi College; Starkville Historic Preservation Commission; Former Mayor of Newton, MS (1992-2005); Business owner for 34 years

Hamp Beatty

Hamp Beatty

Q: Why did you decide to run for the Board of Aldermen?

A: “I am deeply rooted in Starkville, having lived in Pecan Acres (1981-83) as a married, working college student, and in 2005, I fulfilled a dream to move back. I was lucky to have a father whose life was an inspiring example of public service. I don't condor myself a politician but instead feel that it would be a privilege to be able to serve. My love of Starkville combined with my experience in both municipal government and business gives me the ability to positively affect the future of our city. I want to use this experience to work with the Mayor and Board of Aldermen on their current issues/initiatives, and I also have some ideas that I think are important for the City to consider. I am very concerned about crumbling infrastructure in Ward 5 and the lack of sidewalks. I want to preserve the character and integrity of our neighborhoods, both historically and architecturally. We also need to know what other progressive college towns are doing and emulate them in ways that will improve Starkville. My goal is to be an innovative and responsive municipal official for Ward 5 and the City of Starkville.”

Q: What do you want to do differently on the board that hasn't been done before?

A: “I would like to see a little less formality in the meetings that would encourage better dialogue among board members. Mayor Spruill has helped to make board meetings more participatory for attendees, and this should be continued. I would also like to see citizens be able to comment or voice a concern from their seat in the board room rather than having to stand in front of the board table as if they were on trial. People should be allowed adequate time to express their concerns without being limited to three minutes. This format can be intimidating, and they have a right to be heard in the most comfortable and informal way possible. This would be a way to show that we welcome and acknowledge the concerns of our tax payer constituents that we work for and represent.”

Q: What do you think is Ward 5's biggest challenge?

A: “Ward 5 is a neighborhood full of beautiful, historic homes, which is why I worked with the Starkville Historic Preservation Commission to get the Oktibbeha Gardens subdivision listed in the National Historic Register in 2017. However, there are still maintenance and improvements that need to be done, such as replacing failing infrastructure. Starkville will get a new source of revenue starting in 2020 from the Mississippi Infrastructure Modernization Act (MIMA), which when fully funded will produce an approximately $750,000 per year in additional revenue to be used for water, sewer, and street infrastructure. Other issues include installing new sidewalks to improve walkability of major thoroughfares, finding a solution to extended or permanent on-street parking in residential neighborhoods, and the cleaning up of neglected and abandoned properties to maintain the character of our neighborhoods.”

Q: What did your predecessors do right while representing Ward 5?

A: “Our former aldermen including, Matt Cox, Jeremiah Dumas, Scott Maynard, and Patrick Miller, all did a great job in representing the interests of the citizens of Ward 5. From getting the new City Hall built, to increasing the sidewalk and paving infrastructure, all of my predecessors took action to move the City of Starkville forward. Most recently Patrick Miller worked to solve the issue of on-street parking, and worked to make Critz Street more pedestrian friendly. He also supported the Starkville Pride Parade, to make Starkville more welcoming and inclusive.”

Q: Would you continue these successful tactics or change them?

A: “Like my predecessors I intend to be available to my constituents and represent them to the best of my ability, and to continue these important projects to move Starkville and Ward 5 forward.”

Q: What political party will you join if you win the election?

A: “Democrat”

Q: Do you support the planned annexation? Why or why not?

A “I support annexation of the Highway 182 corridor. I think that the City of Starkville has a compelling case for the annexation of the Hwy 182 four lane corridor and can prove that it meets most or all of the indicia (indications) of reasonableness for this annexation to a chancery judge. This commercial area certainly would not exist except for its proximity to the City of Starkville. The residential areas being considered do not necessarily meet this burden of proof for annexation.”

Q: How do you feel about the planned industrial park?

A: “The new industrial park at U.S. Hwy 82 and MS Hwy 389 is essential to economic development and job creation in Starkville and Oktibbeha County. I fully support the City's and County's efforts and their understanding of the need for developed, shovel read industrial sites in Oktibbeha County within close proximity to U.S. Hwy 82. The capital expense incurred to build this park will eventually result in new industries and good paying jobs for the people in this area. In my experience with industrial recruitment professionals, they stress the importance of having developed sites available when industrial prospects are considering a city of county as a potential location for one of their plants. The new park shows our commitment to industrial recruitment. It is certainly an asset to our region.”

Q: How will you plan to work with the university to better your ward?

A: “Mississippi State is a tremendous economic asset to Starkville and the Golden Triangle Area. I believe that Starkville and MSU understand that they need to work together for the benefit of both entities as they did with the first major expansion of Davis Wade Stadium in 1986, and the recent renovation of The Mill. This working relationship continues with the City of Starkville providing excellent fire protection for the MSU campus and MSU providing expertise in economic and community development that is being utilized by the City of Starkville to facilitate growth in a planned and deliberate way. Any efforts involving MSU and Ward 5 would need to be coordinated through and vetted by the City of Starkville and receive feedback from the citizens before a proposal would move forward.”

Q: What concerns have your constituents been the most vocal about?

A: “1. That Columbus has a larger variety of retail business for shoppers that produces more sales text revenue.

2. Lack of attention paid to our aging infrastructure and the need for proactive replacement.

3. Allowing extended or permanent on-street parking in residential neighborhoods.

4. Additional and completed sidewalks.

5. Regulation of short-term rentals.

6. Dilapidated properties.

7. The need for inclusiveness and respect for diversity in our community.”

Q: Do you support the Cornerstone Park tax plan?

Answer: “Yes. 100%.”

Kayla Gilmore

Age: 35

Job: Owner of KMG Creations Dance, Fitness and Productions; Professional dancer; Professional choreographer; Sales associate and volunteer for Habitat for Humanity Restore

Family: No spouse, no children, mentor to a multitude of children

Hometown: Brookhaven, MS. Resident of Starkville since 2001, Ward 5 since 2007.

Education/Experience: Bachelor of Business Administration-Marketing; Bachelor of Business Administration-Risk Management, Insurance, and Financial Planning; Minor in Communication-Theatre; 2-term City Election Commissioner; Creator/Organizer/Host of "Starkville Dancing in the Park"; Creator/Organizer of Starkville's first ever Veterans Day Parade; Starkville Police Academy Graduate; Board of Directors of Healthy Starkville; Member at First United Methodist Church

Kayla Gilmore (color)

Kayla Gilmore

Q: Why did you decide to run for the Ward 5 Board of Aldermen position?

A:” I am a visionary, a planner, and with the expectation of achieving my goals. I previously ran for Ward 5 Alderman position in 2017 and do not believe in giving up. I did not let that stop my community service. I listened and heard the voice of citizens wanting to give homage to our veterans. So, I produced the first ever in history Starkville Veteran's Day Parade. I have worked and will continue to work in the Starkville community as a community unifier. I think it is very important all candidates promote transparency and accountability if elected. I would like to ensure that everyone is treated fairly and equal. And that the voice of the people is heard.”

Q: What do you you want to do differently on the board that hasn't' been done before?

A: “Work extremely hard at all times to enhance and promote the best interest of Ward 5 and the city of Starkville, Mississippi. I would like to have town hall meetings on a regularly basis if elected. Town hall meetings will allow interaction with constituents so that I can hear their concerns.”

Q: What do you think is Ward 5's biggest challenge?

A: “Ward 5 has and will continue to see significant change in the coming years. Like in much of Starkville, the construction of high-density apartments creates opportunity for small business to spring up to serve those neighborhoods. More residents and more businesses require better infrastructure with regards to roads, sewers, and utilities. We need to meticulously plan the development. Newer highways have been built on three sides of Ward 5, but the city streets that take drivers to the highways are not always ready for the heavy traffic. Several major business have also gone into that area. Yet, the ward offers just a few gasoline stations and dollar retail establishments. We need to consider helping some local restaurants and other businesses establish themselves in the area of Ward 5.”

Q: What did your predecessors representing Ward 5 do right? Would you continue this or change it?

A: “With regards to this question, if elected, I will work hard to render and provide the best of service for Ward 5 and the City of Starkville.”

Q: What political party will you join if you win the election?

A: “At this time, I am focused on winning the position of alderman for Ward 5. I will try to examine all issues and candidates before I lend my support or cast my vote. I would not label myself a Democrat or a Republican.”

Q: Do you support the planned annexation? Why or why not?

A: “As to the matter of annexation, I do not have all the facts at this time. After listening to all the facts, proof and evidence regarding annexation, I will then deliberate and make the decision that I think is best for Ward 5 and the City of Starkville, Mississippi.”

Q: How do you feel about the planned industrial park?

A: “Economic development, businesses and growth are very important to our city. I am pro-business, pro-growth, and pro-economic development. As an alderman I will always take actin to support and enhance the betterment of Ward 5 and the City of Starkville, Mississippi.”

Q: How will you plan to work with the university to better your ward?

A: “That is one of my platform points: Creating and continuing the relationship with Mississippi State University. I would continue dialogue with Mississippi State leaders to connect the city to the campus. There are many students, professional families, and professors who work for the university. Many chose to walk or ride a bike to work on campus. For example, continuing and creating a sidewalk on Old West Point Road would be beneficial for our residents. Residents will have the opportunity to walk safely to work with sidewalks.

MSU is a part of our community and family. I fully support partnering with the University so that we have a stronger community. A partnership with MSU will provide for a lot of business opportunities. Collaboration between the city and the University is the foundation for viable partnership demonstrating that we are ONE. This is a win, win for our city, county, and MSU.”

Q: What concerns have your constituents been the most vocal about?

A: “Better infrastructure. Better roads. Better drainage. Better sidewalks. Better water. Constituents want to look at ways and means to improve safety in Ward 5, such as speeding. They want remedies to the flooding and drainage issues due to heavy rain fall and to open drainage areas. Many constituents have indicated that Old West Point Road is a heavily walked area with families and students walking to and from the University. The addition of sidewalks could improve safety in that area.”

Q: Do you support the Cornerstone Park tax plan?

A: “I STRONGLY SUPPORT. This is another platform point: preserving and promoting the integrity of our parks. This tax is simply a meal tax which not affect property taxes and etc. It will pay for itself in the long run. The Sportsplex brings families into town for games and tournaments. Visitors increase our tax revenue, which means there is more money to provide services to the people of Starkville. This is simply a "choice tax." You either choose to eat prepared food or not. These moneys will be earmarked for the specific purpose for new and improve existing parks. I personally use our parks. For the past 10 years I have held Dancing in the Park at McKee Park. This event attracts dancers who have performed from Carnegie Hall to venues in Paris. I take pride in our community and parks. I fully support this advancement for our city. It does not cost anything to take your family to the park.”

JOHN MICHAEL VANHORN

Age: 30

Job: Associate Director for Fraternity & Sorority Life at Mississippi State

Family: Married to Avent VanHorn, raising a six-year-old foster son an a dog named Bo

Hometown: Winona, MS

Education/Experience: Bachelor's in Communication with an emphasis in Public Relations; Master's in Counselor's Education; Seven years in higher education administration

John Michael VanHorn

John Michael VanHorn

Q: Why did you decide to run for the Board of Aldermen?

A: “I have been interested in an alderman position in Starkville for over ten years. My wife, Avent, and I are proud to call to Starkville home and I am excited about the possible opportunity to be able to give back to the community. During our time here, we have built relationships through community groups where I have heard both the positive and negative aspects of Starkville from different demographics of residents including college students, young professionals, families, and retired couples. I am ready to be a representative for all Ward 5 residents to ensure their interest are heard at the city government level. I am passionate about the continued success and progress of Starkville and I am eager to put in the work to move our community forward.”

Q: What do you want to differently on the board that hasn't been done before?

A: “If elected, I will approach each area of my job with an innovative mindset, always remembering that I am representing the best interest of Ward 5 residents. Starkville is in a period of growth that we have not seen in recent history. The growth is exciting and can come with challenges. I am ready and willing to tackle the exciting moments and the growing pains to ensure Starkville is the best community in our state. Since I have not served on the board, I am not sure what has or is currently being done to speak exactly to what I would do differently. I can only say, with confidence, I will listen, learn and work tirelessly for our Ward 5 and the City of Starkville.”

Q: What do you think if Ward 5's biggest challenge?

A: “Ward 5 is diverse not only in the residents, but also in terms of residential and commercial establishments in the ward. Balancing continued commercial growth in the area while still maintaing the integrity and charm of the neighborhoods in Ward 5 will be a challenge. Ward 5 also has a large mixture of short-term and long-term rental properties, weekend homes, and family homes. The Martin Luther King Jr. (182) highway corridor revitalization initiatives will also have a major impact on much of Ward 5. If elected I will work to ensure that all residents are represented as we navigate the growing and developing pains of a thriving community.”

Q: What did your predecessors do right while representing Ward 5?

A: “In my experience, the previous aldermen for Ward 5, Scott Maynard and Patrick Miller, were very responsive to residents' concerns. They were also willing and open to new concepts and proposals brought to them by residents. If elected, I will be attentive to residents' needs and concerns and work to address issues in a timely manner. I will also strive to include residents as much as possible in the decision-making process at the board level and ask questions and for feedback as much as possible. I will work for the citizens of Ward 5 and that will always be at the forefront of my decisions.”

Q: What political party will you join after the election?

A: “At this time, I have no plans to join a political party. I do not believe partisan politics apply directly in most cases at the city level. I believe I will be able to best serve the residents of Ward 5 and Starkville without joining a political party.”

Q: Do you support the planned annexation? Why or why not?

A: “Yes, at the correct time. Starkville needs to continue to grow and the proposed areas are ways that we can quickly add not only population numbers while also increasing our tax base. This is a project that should not be entered into swiftly or lightly as we need to ensure that we are capable of providing adequate services in a timely methodical manner. If elected I will be able to assist in working through all of these aspects of the proposed annexation project.”

Q: How do you feel about the planned industrial park?

A: “An industrial park area is much needed in Starkville. Our two largest employers are currently the University and the Oktibbeha County Hospital. Additional jobs that could be created through development in the industrial park will be very beneficial to the community. The location of the new industrial park will help with development on the north side of Starkville and will benefits large portion of Ward 5.”

Q: How will you plan to work with the university to better your ward?

A: “I work daily with college students and other university administrators where I have built great relationships during my time at MSU. Ward 5's proximity to MSU can be a mutually beneficial relationship and it is important we maintain and grow that relationship. If elected, I will also continue to work to continue to strengthen and grow the city's partnership with the S.M.A.R.T. system and MSU Parking and Transit Services as well as those who utilize portions of the 2% beverage, restaurant, and hotel text at MSU. A strong partnership between Mississippi State University and the City of Starkville is an important piece to the city's continued success and growth.”

Q: What concerns have your constituents been the most vocal about?

A: “I have talked with residents in Ward 5 and across Starkville about concerns with our city and community. The overarching theme that has risen to the surface is the need for a responsive city government and city services and the concern about responsible use of city funds. I have also had many conversations and questions about the upcoming park vote, as well as annexation. If elected I will work to always be available to Ward 5 residents and to help in assisting and addressing issues in a timely manner. I will also work to provide more transparency and better educate residents about the way tax dollars are being used by the city.”

Q: Do you support the Cornerstone Park tax plan?

A: “I will be voting yes of May 30 for the 1% tax. This is a large untapped resource for Starkville that I believe we will see countless benefits from for years to come not only for the city. I do not approach adding taxes lightly; however, after studying the potential impact it is clear that Starkville has much to gain from this initiative. If elected, I will be a voice to ensure that the city will use those funds appropriately and in a way that benefits all parks and Starkville residents.”

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