Two candidates join races for citywide offices

Published 6:00 am Friday, January 16, 2009

A current alderman is eyeing a move to the mayor’s chair while aformer city official is looking to rejoin the board as an alderman,according to qualifying papers with the City Clerk’s Office.

Alderman at Large Les Bumgarner turned in qualifying papersThursday to run for mayor while L. Ralph Smith signed up in therace for alderman at large. Previously, Smith, 77, served as WardThree alderman from 1965-69 and alderman at large from 1993-97.

Bumgarner, 61, who has served two terms as alderman at large,said he has previously run as a Democrat. However, going into the2009 mayoral election, he will face his opponents as anIndependent.

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“I just think a lot of things we’ve been able to getaccomplished with this board is because of our willingness to worktogether, and I want to continue that,” Bumgarner said. “Inclusionis the key to success, and that’s why I’m running as anIndependent.”

In addition, he said, party lines can sometimes be divisive in atown Brookhaven’s size.

“I want to represent everybody. I’m not sure that the localelections shouldn’t be more independent, because we all livetogether and work and shop and play together,” he said. “I feellike I have a lot of Republican friends and Democratic friends, andwhen you sign up as one party or another you’ve got 30 percent ofyour friends mad at you.”

Bumgarner said he has been pleased with the city’s progressunder Mayor Bob Massengill, citing projects like the Jimmy FurlowSenior Citizens’ Center, the lighting project at Interstate 55 Exit40 and Linbrook Industrial Park as reflections of the city’sforward momentum at this point in history.

“I feel like we have had a good mayor and we have a good boardand we’ve had a lot of togetherness and continuity and I want tokeep all that in place,” he said.

But there are other needs in the city that have yet to beaddressed, Bumgarner said, adding for example that building housinginside the city needs to be simplified.

“I’d like to develop a plan that would enable and encourage morehousing inside the city limits,” he said. “A lot of that is becauseof the red tape you have to go through to build. It needs to bemore enticing for people to set up inside the city limits.”

Bumgarner also said he hopes to institute a citywide recyclingprogram, in addition to continuing work on the water and sewerprojects, repaving of Brookway Boulevard, and the ongoingmultimodal facility project. He also pointed out that the city firedepartment is in crucial need of a new fire truck.

“I feel it’s important to have someone with a businessbackground steering the city,” he said. “Besides being a businessowner for 30 years, I also taught high school economics.”

Bumgarner was a military police commander in the National Guardin Vicksburg, which he said will give him insight into the concernsand needs of the police department, and also served on theBrookhaven School Board for 10 years and the recreation departmentboard for 16 years.

In order to run as an Independent, a candidate must have apetition with 50 signatures from registered voters.

The City Clerk’s Office confirms the signees are registered tovote within the city limits before the candidate is officiallylisted as qualified. Deputy City Clerk Marsha Fairman said theoffice is awaiting a new voter roll that includes residents of theannexation area before Bumgarner’s petition can be fullyverified.

Running as an independent means Bumgarner will not participatein party primaries scheduled for May 5. He will face party primarywinners in the June 2 general election.

So far, the Rev. Jerry L. Wilson is the only other person in themayor’s race. He is running as a Democrat.

In discussing his reasons for seeking a return to office, Smith,mentioned several mottos of organizations he has been a member of.He mentioned the Jaycees’ slogan of “Service to humanity is thebest work in life” and the Lions Club’s “We serve,” as well apersonal motto of “Together, we can make it happen.”

“I just look for a need and try to fill it,” Smith said.

Smith has an extensive background in oilfield-related service,ran an insurance agency a number of years ago and has experience inother business activities. He is the only candidate so far in therace for alderman at large.

The qualifying deadline for candidates to sign up to run foroffice is March 6.