July 30, 2020 10:56:50 AM
With less than a week before the qualifying deadline, former Lowndes County School District Superintendent Lynn Wright is so far the only candidate to file qualifying paperwork to run for the House District 37 special election.
The election is set for Sept. 22, and the qualifying deadline is Monday. There are no party primaries for the nonpartisan election.
Wright, who led LCSD as elected superintendent for eight years, is vying to complete Gary Chism's unexpired term in the Legislature. Chism (R-Columbus) retired June 30 due to family health issues, less than a year after being elected to his sixth term, which will expire at the end of 2023.
The district covers parts of Lowndes, Clay and Oktibbeha counties.
Wright, who identifies as a Republican, told The Dispatch on Wednesday he hopes to put his experience in education to use and contribute to policy making. He was twice elected as LCSD superintendent and served in that position from 2011 to 2019, before which he was the principal of New Hope High School.
After state law mandated boards to appoint all superintendents, rather than allowing those in county districts to be elected, LCSD's board chose not to rehire Wright in December.
"I was hoping to remain as superintendent. ... I loved that job and people I worked with. But it didn't work out and life has to go on," Wright said. "I'm still interested in this area and I feel like I can still contribute and make a difference."
Wright said he would focus on education reform if elected. That would include filling more vacant teacher positions to address the educator shortage, providing better salaries for teachers and other school employees and fully funding the state's education budget, he said.
"They haven't been able to fully fund the education budget for years," Wright said. "Those teachers and administrators, they are out there on the front lines, and they have the responsibility of seeing these kids are ... getting what they are supposed to have."
Lowndes County native David Chism, a Republican who also announced his candidacy on Facebook earlier this month, has not yet filed his qualifying paperwork with the Secretary of State's office, according to the agency's website. David is Gary Chism's third cousin.
The State Board of Election Commissioners will meet Wednesday to rule on the qualification of the candidates, SOS Communications Director Kendra James told The Dispatch.
Two Oktibbeha County candidates vying for state Senate seat
For the open District 15 Senate seat, Starkville businessman Bart Williams has joined what is now a two-candidate race.
So far, only he and District 4 Oktibbeha County Supervisor Bricklee Miller have filed qualifying paperwork for the Sept. 22 special election for that seat, which also has a qualifying deadline set for Monday.
Miller announced her intent to run June 30. Both are vying to fill the unexpired term of Gary Jackson (R-French Camp), who retired in June. His term runs through 2023.
The district covers western and southern Oktibbeha County and parts of Choctaw, Webster and Montgomery counties.
Williams, owner of Starkville-based Security Solutions, is a Republican and Mississippi native, who graduated from Mississippi State University in 1989. He became an engineer until he started Security Solutions in 1993, which he said has now grown to a team of 25 employees. He is also an ambassador of the Greater Starkville Development Partnership.
Williams told The Dispatch his interest in running for office began when he witnessed the legislative process in Jackson in 2013 and 2014. At the time, he said, he traveled to the state Capitol to support legislation that required background check and training for security system companies.
"It's intriguing," he said of the experience. "These people are down here trying to do things for their constituents, their communities, to make things better."
If elected, Williams said he would advocate for tax cuts for "over-regulated" small businesses as a business owner himself. He also calls for cultural and diversity training for law enforcement.
"We are humans first, Americans second," he said, referring to the recent protests against racial injustice and police brutality. "How do we all as one people continue down the path of finding unity?"
He also wishes to focus on education, he said. That includes workforce development particularly in secondary education, reform of the state's accountability testing system for schools and improvements in student broadband access, he said.
"As the future evolves, I think we all see that online activities are increasing exponentially," Williams said. "The need to provide that pipeline to every citizen is paramount."
Miller is the county's first female supervisor and was twice elected to represent District 4. She has been the director of Mississippi Horse Park for almost 20 years. If elected, Miller said she will resign from both positions to become a "full-time senator."
Yue Stella Yu is the local government reporter for The Dispatch. Reach her at 662-328-2424 (ext 106) or follow her on Twitter @StellaYu_Mizzou
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