Keith Gaskin, a longtime Columbus resident and the executive director for the Mississippi School for Mathematics and Science Foundation, qualified Friday to run for mayor of Columbus.
“I have decided to enter the race because I love Columbus and I believe in her people, her progress, and in our potential,” Gaskin said in a press release. “I also believe that, at this pivotal moment, local governments must work both harder and smarter to control the (COVID-19) pandemic locally, foster new and existing small businesses struggling in its wake, as well as avoid wasteful spending in order to re-invest in our aging infrastructure to facilitate prosperity for the future.”
As an independent, Gaskin, 56, is guaranteed a spot in the June 8 general election, challenging incumbent Robert Smith, a Democrat, and will not be on the ballot for the April 6 party primaries.
Gaskin’s other priorities, if elected, will include neighborhood safety, street and park maintenance, bringing “good-paying” jobs to Columbus and providing sufficient resources for schools and health care facilities, according to the press release.
His career has consisted of leadership and fundraising for institutions of higher education, including Mississippi State University and the University of Alabama, in addition to the MSMS Foundation. He holds a Ph.D. in higher education with an emphasis on community college leadership.
Gaskin’s experience “building relationships between the public and private sectors” should come in handy if elected, he said.
Additionally, a former Ward 4 councilman qualified to run for the seat again.
Former councilman qualifies to run again
Marty Turner, 43, first won the seat in 2009 after defeating incumbent Fred Stewart and held the position until Fredrick Jackson unseated him in the Democratic primary runoff election in May 2017.
He told The Dispatch one of his priorities is fiscal responsibility, having served on the budget committee during his previous stint on the council. He also wants to focus on modernizing Columbus’ infrastructure with the goal of bringing new jobs to the city and enhancing the workforce.
“If we get some good infrastructure and hire locally, that will increase our economy,” Turner said.
He said he believes Ward 4 is “one of the most neglected wards” in the city and wants to foster programs to help youth under 18 stay on the straight-and-narrow.
“(We can) be more pre-emptive instead of locking people up,” Turner said. “Let’s try to stop some of the crime before it happens.”
Turner worked in the furniture business for years, including as a consultant training furniture store managers.
Retired educator Pat Fisher Douglas is also running for the Ward 4 seat. She and Turner will face each other in the Democratic primary in April.
Incumbent Councilman Pierre Beard has not qualified to run for re-election, nor has he said he will not be running. The deadline to qualify for candidacy is Feb. 5.
Tess Vrbin was previously a reporter for The Dispatch.