Hattiesburg has a special spirit that has made our community stronger and uniquely cohesive through inclusion and collaboration. Both are hallmarks of a city that continues to celebrate our past and push towards a progressive future.
I am the product of a fatherless home. I’ve encountered poverty, and became a husband and a father as a teenager. Through it all, I’ve relied on my faith in God to be the best husband and father that I could be to my two daughters. I have been blessed to obtain a bachelor’s and master’s degree from the University of Southern Mississippi (USM) in Political Science and doctorate degree in Urban Studies from Jackson State University. Professionally, I was a manager a Sears, Inc. for 15 years, and have been a licensed real estate broker since 1988. My wife and I served as president of the Camp Elementary School Parent Teacher Association, and served as president of the Hattiesburg Public School District Board of Trustees. Additionally, I’ve served in several elected positions before becoming mayor, including the Forrest County Board of Supervisors. I am proud of the fact that I was the first African American since Reconstruction to be elected to run for Governor of Mississippi by a major political party. Even so, my proudest moments are when I’m partnering with individuals here and abroad to enhance my community.
Being elected as the first African American mayor of Hattiesburg in 2001 was a momentous occasion. I view my evolution from a child growing up on Mobile Street to the mayor of Hattiesburg as proof of what is possible. Since my tenure, we have endured many catastrophic natural events as well as man-made tragedies. However, the light and resilience of our community shine brightest in times of trouble. One of the traits that I love most about our community is how we respond to difficulties. We are quick to act, and we work diligently to fulfill the short and long-term needs of victims, as in the case of the recent deadly tornado. As I comforted disaster victims, surveyed the destruction, and worked to secure funds to help victims rebuild adequate housing, I witnessed families, businesses, nonprofit agencies, and churches come together as one to restore a sense of normalcy. Moments like these reiterate that together we can accomplish anything. As I reflect on the essence of our community, we have truly exemplified our motto: “Enhancing Cultures, Changing Lives.”
Everyone is important to me and my administration, especially children and volunerable members of our community that suffer from mental and physical disabilities. Nearly 30% of the citizens of Hattiesburg have a disability. Last year, we became the only city in the state of Mississippi to hire a Disability Advocate to protect the rights of residents with physical, intellectual and mental disabilities, and connecting them to resources within the community that promote inclusion and safety. The City also partnered with USM’s Institute for Disability Studies to acquire a grant to help area teenagers successfully transition into adults, particularly those with disabilities. The City has also unveiled a new home for Living Independent For Everyone (L.I.F.E.) of Mississippi.
Collaboration is essential to the success of our city. Hattiesburg is always the smallest city in the nation at the table of huge opportunities. Fighting for a seat at that table has led to groundbreaking initiatives such as Hattiesburg becoming the first city in Mississippi to hire a homeless coordinator.
Another initiative we are proud of is the E3 (Enroll, Educate, Empower) Health Initiative which connected eligible citizens into Medicaid and CHIP insurance program. The partnership between the City, USM School of Social Work, and the National League of Cities was such a success that it landed USM a $1.2 million Mississippi Health Access Collaborative Grant to expand the blueprint of E3 to provide access to health coverage for hard-to-reach citizens across the 24 southernmost counties in Mississippi. This grant then led to a $910,000 Kids Health Access Collaborative Grant. In closing, I desire to continue to fight for a seat of the table of life-changing opportunities. There’s so much more to accomplish, but I cannot do it without YOU. I humbly seek your support in Moving Hattiesburg Forward.