Mississippi University for Women”s new campus police chief is running for re-election as a member of the Meridian City Council, but his new job requires him to move to Columbus.
John Harris was hired as chief by the university earlier this year. He previously was employed by Meridian Community College, where he also served as chief of campus police. He also serves as Ward 5 councilman and board vice president for the city of Meridian.
State law requires Harris hold residency in the area in which he serves politically; however, the Mississippi Legislature”s Joint Committee on Performance Evaluation and Review has issued an opinion stating Harris must live in Columbus to be constantly available to the university.
“Yes, Mr. Harris will be residing in Columbus, but he is going to finish out his term on the City Council,” said MUW Assistant to the President and University Counsel Perry Sansing. “Mr. Harris is going to be taking the appropriate action regarding the election. Mr. Harris has committed to MUW and serving as its police chief.
“We are extremely happy he has joined us. He has commitments and responsibilities he is finishing up in Meridian. MUW is respectful of those obligations he has, and we respect his desire to tie those matters up in a positive constructive way.”
Currently, Harris maintains a residence in Meridian, but also has an apartment in Columbus, he said this morning.
Harris, a Democrat, has served as a member of the Meridian City Council since 2005. His term expires July 1. Harris qualified to run for re-election earlier this year before he accepted the job with MUW. He is running against Republican Bobby Smith.
Harris” name is still on the ballot in Meridian, and he won”t say whether or not he intends to withdraw from the race.
The qualifying deadline to run for the office was March 6, and the primary election is May 5. If Harris withdraws from the election, Smith — who previously served as Ward 5 councilman — will win the seat unopposed.
“No one”s sure what”s going on; it”s a big question mark,” said a Meridian citizen familiar with the race, who did not wish to have her name printed.
While MUW”s new police chief remains mum about whether he will officially withdraw from the race or not, Harris did respond when asked if he could be effective as both a campus police chief in Columbus and a city councilman in Meridian.
“It”s been done before; I think I can,” he said.
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