STARKVILLE — All around the city, as supporters of candidates for aldermen and mayor stood near polling places, they held placards and waved.
At one polling place, the displays elicited horn honks.
Many residents passed the supporters on their way to polling places around the city Tuesday, to cast a ballot. Some were acting on disapproval of their current leaders; others simply expressed hope for the future.
Turnout at the National Guard Armory, where Ward 1 residents voted, remained steady throughout the morning, said James Little, the bailiff there for the duration of the election. (Polls were open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.)
“I think today”s a little above average,” he said, comparing the day”s turnout to that of previous elections during which he had served as bailiff in Ward 1.
Jim McKell, one of Starkville”s five at-large election commissioners, said he was hoping for a 30 percent turnout around the city — a jump upward from the primary runoff, which took place May 19.
A handful of students at Mississippi State University said they voted for Democratic mayoral candidate Parker Wiseman after he had visited their sororities or fraternities. In fact, said one such voter, Erin Mitchell of Ward 4, as she was leaving City Hall, “He came to all the houses.”
Another MSU student from Ward 4, Andrew Heard, chose Republican mayoral candidate Marnita Henderson over Wiseman, who had spoken at Heard”s fraternity, Sigma Chi.
Leslie Brett of Ward 3 knew Wiseman at Starkville High School, and later she saw him go on to become president of the Student Association. “He”s a great guy,” she said.
Joe Evans of Ward 3 was once an MSU student, and he couldn”t help but think of current ones when he made his decision about whom to support for mayor. “I think it would be good to have a young mayor,” Evans said, after voting for Wiseman. There is he said, “sort of a resentful relationship with our students,” and a young mayor could help heal the rift.
Plenty of other voters were influenced to vote for Henderson after she visited their homes. Shelby Daughtry of Ward 3 falls into this category.
I like her ideas,” Daughtry said. “She firmly believes in what she believes in,” yet is also willing to listen to others.
Others who voted for Henderson were trying to avoid siding with Wiseman.
“I don”t trust the Wisemans,” said Keith Koenig of Ward 3 at his polling station, the recently opened sportsplex. “Just too much glitz and glamour in their work. I think they”re (mainly) interested in promoting themselves in the community.”
Ready for change
And then there were those who didn”t care one way or the other who won, having seen Mayor Dan Camp eliminated from the race. Bob Jones of Ward 1 found Camp “over-opinionated.” The man has “strong convictions,” Jones said as he was leaving the National Guard Armory. “We need people who are going to take care of the town,” he said. He voted for Henderson.
And Shirley Ross of Ward 3 said she settled on Wiseman because, unlike Camp, he is “really not associated with commercial building,” she said.
Voting on aldermen
As for the candidates for the Board of Aldermen, most voters surveyed said they had been swayed by personal interaction.
Koenig said he chose John Gaskin, the Democrat running in Ward 3, over Eric Parker because he said Gaskin has “done a lot for our particular subdivision in the past, and we needed that kind of support.” Koenig further explained Gaskin had pushed for single-family housing above larger options.
And Mitchell and Heard, the MSU students, both opted for John Michael VanHorn, the Republican running in Ward 4, over Richard Corey, the incumbent. “He”s a student, and he represents the students, and I think it”s important to have a student in office,” Heard said.
Little was just happy to see the democratic process at work without disruption. “Everybody vote their choice, and that”s what it”s all about,” he said.
The Dispatch Editorial Board is made up of publisher Peter Imes, columnist Slim Smith, managing editor Zack Plair and senior newsroom staff.