Former Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives Tip O’Neill said, “All politics is local.” O’Neill meant that politicians must never forget the people they promised to serve during the campaign. At a time when many voters have become cynical about the political process, a runoff election for Mayor looms in Holly Springs, MS that will determine who will best serve “The Little City on the Hill.”
Mayor Kelvin O. Buck and former Mayor Andre DeBerry are locked in a hotly contested race that will be decided on May 16. Mayor Buck recently talked with ReelUrbanNews.com about what he hopes to achieve if he is re-elected. Buck says that in the general election held on May 2, he received 962 votes, DeBerry 932 votes and Mr. Lowe 210 votes. Buck says low voter turnout resulted in the upcoming runoff.
“Voter turnout was not as high as it’s been previously,” says Buck. “We anticipated being able to win this one in the first round. But you never know in the case of an election how voter turnout is going to be. In this case it played a huge factor.”
After serving as Alderman for six years, Buck was elected Mayor of Holly Springs in May 2013. “We clearly came into a situation where our city was facing some major challenges as it relates to our finances. Our revenues were very low, our reserve was very low and our reserve funds were almost nonexistent.”
The bottom line for Holly Springs was cuts. “We had to look at what we were spending our money on and began the process of cutting,” maintains Buck. “We began by cutting my own salary and the Board’s salary on Day One, when we first took office.
“We began the process of consolidating some of the City’s departments. This allowed us to save money. We restructured the cost of our health insurance and some of our property insurance, internally, things we knew needed to be done in order to prevent us from facing more serious financial situations.”
Buck maintains that these actions helped stabilize Holly Springs, a Mississippi city of about 7,500 people at the border with southern Tennessee. Buck then turned his attention towards improving local highways, roads and public parks. “We went on to do things like improve our infrastructure. The streets were in bad shape so we started repairing the streets. Our public parks were in bad shape, so we started repairing our parks.”
The county seat of Marshall County, Holly Springs has made the creation of new jobs a priority. The County’s economic engine, according to its Industrial Development Authority, is driven by agriculture, manufacturing, retail, construction and government-based employment.
Buck credits his ability to work with local residents, government officials and members of the Chamber of Commerce to attract local and national business brands. “We had to start from scratch recruiting new businesses to Holly Springs.”
Buck credits nearly two decades of elected public service for helping achieve continued growth and development in Holly Springs. “We’re a part of a much larger picture: the State, the County. That means we have to work with those different levels of government to bring the kinds of improvements and quality of life to Holly Springs that’s necessary and that we are all looking for.
“That means when it come to roads we have to work with the State for grant funds to go along with the money we will leverage with money to improve our quality of place. We’ll have to work with the State Legislature to make sure the funds that are supposed to get to the City, we get those funds at the maximum amount.”
Buck began his career in public service as a Holly Springs Alderman and Democratic member of the State House of Representatives, representing District 5 from 2004 to 2013.
Before his 2013 election as Mayor, Buck’s 2012-2013 Mississippi legislative session included chairing the State Universities and Colleges Board and serving on the Conservation and Water Resources, Insurance and Medicaid committees. “As chairman of the Universities and Colleges Board I built a really good relationship with university presidents throughout the state.”
Buck says relationships that he has developed over time are key to his success in furthering the goals of Holly Springs.
“When I walk into the State Capitol or I walk into a state agency in Jackson, MS, they know exactly who I am,” says Buck. “If I make a call they know exactly who I am on the other end of the phone. I developed a reputation of being able to work across the aisle with anybody who had something positive to offer. This makes a huge difference when governing on the local level.”
Holly Springs has a majority African American population but is a diverse community in terms of ethnicity, race and religion affiliation. Buck believes that diversity and inclusiveness must be at the center of the governance of every American community in the 21st century – what he calls “a bipartisan and a bicultural approach to government.”
“It is the most essential part of any developing city, any developing state that there is cooperation and teamwork between races and between generations. This is the best way to compete on the local and national stage.”
Special thanks to Sue Watson and The South Reporter staff.
By: Michael Reel/Reel Urban News