Today, Golden Triangle voters have the opportunity to participate in our nation’s most intimate form of self-government.
Although municipal elections rarely generate the interest and passion typically found in state and national elections, the decisions made in today’s primary elections and in the June general election often have more direct impact on the lives of voters than any other election.
The people chosen for office will be entrusted with how our cities operate – everything from taxes to police and fire to streets to public parks, zoning and a host of other decisions that have a direct bearing on the lives of citizens. There is nothing abstract about the roles these officials will play over the next four years. This is governing at its most basic level.
Yet even with a direct vested interest in the outcome, voters do not turn out for the municipal elections as they do for state and national elections. It’s a mystery who so many forfeit their role in determining how our cities operate.
In today’s primary races in Columbus, Starkville and West Point, the winner of the primary in six races will be put into office, having no opponents in the June general election.
In Columbus, incumbent Bill Gavin faces Jacqueline DiCicco for the Ward 6 council position. In Starkville, incumbent Roy A. Perkins faces challenger Santee Ezell for the Ward 6 alderman seat.
West Point, meanwhile, features three selectman races that will be settled in today’s Democratic primary — Linda Hannah is vying to unseat incumbent Leta Turner in Ward 1, Jonas Robinson is challenging Ken Poole in Ward 3 and Colby Pennington faces incumbent Jasper Pittman in Ward 5.
In addition to those positions that will be determined today, there are also Columbus Council primary races in Wards 1 and 4, Starkville alderman races in Wards 2, 4 and 5 and the West Point mayor’s race. Those winners all face general election opponents.
These council, aldermen and selectman positions hold the policy-making power in the “weak mayor” form of government used in our cities. Under that system, the mayor doesn’t vote on policies unless there is a tie vote. That means that any ordinance or policy enacted in our cities is decided exclusively by these voting board members.
The mayor’s role is to implement policies made by these board/council members. The mayor supervisors department heads to make sure those policies are implemented, conducts board/council meetings and provides a vision for the city. The mayor’s ability to execute that vision rests largely on his influence on the board.
Understanding these roles should drive home the importance of voting in these elections.
Polls remain open until 7 p.m. today, so we strongly urge voters to exercise their right and responsibility by making their choices known at the ballot box.