Newcomers in the race for Ward 6

Published 11:41 pm Monday, April 24, 2017

With no incumbents seeking re-election in four of the city’s six wards, there will certainly be some new faces at the table soon.

Ward 1, 2 and 4 will see new representation as will Ward 6. David Phillips isn’t seeking re-election and running for his seat are Republican Gene Buckles, Democrats David McCoy and Andre D. Spiller and independents Shelley Harrigill and Harold Rowe.

Brookhaven, based on its population of  12,513, according to the 2010 Census, is divided into six wards with an alderman-at-large as well. Aldermen are each paid an annual salary of $18.447.36.

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Gene Buckles

As the only Republican candidate, Gene Buckles, 69, of the 1400 block of North Jackson Street, will sail straight through to the general election May 6.

Buckles is married to wife Betty Marie Gill Buckles and they have four children and six grandchildren.

He attends First Baptist Church of Brookhaven.

He is president of Buckles Construction Co. Inc. and has served as finance chairman for the Homebuilders Association. He’s on the executive board of directors of the National Homebuilders Association as a state representative.

Buckles believes the city has made great strides in sewer, street and water improvements, but not the police department. “Our police department is not performing at the level that I feel it is capable of,” he said.

He also wants to see annexed areas receive all the services of the rest of the city. “They pay the same taxes and abide by the same laws and ordinances that the rest of us do that live in the city limits of Brookhaven,” he said. “They deserve to have the same services and benefits that we do.”

He also sees a need for youth-focused activities, more business and industries recruited and abandoned properties cleaned up, remodeled or demolished. “These properties are unsafe, ugly to the eye sight and possibly a health issue,” he said.

Buckles said he’d fund his plan by approaching the property owner first, then relying on grants, loans, donations, “whatever needs to be done will be the goal to accomplish the project. Maybe just some volunteer labor. Whatever it takes.”

One of the thorniest issues facing the Ward 6 alderman is the dilapidated hospital at the corner of North Jackson and West Congress streets. It’s private property and a definite eyesore with broken windows and overgrown landscaping.

“A meeting needs to be set up with the owner and give this person what can be expected to solve this problem,” he said. “A time frame would be most important. If the property owner fails to perform, the city should move forward to resolve this problem.”

Democrats David McCoy and Andre’ D. Spiller

The winner between Democratic challengers Spiller and McCoy at the primary will face Buckles and independents Harrigil and Rowe at the general election.

Andre D. Spiller, 46, lives in the 500 block of White Oak Drive. He is married to wife Rhonda and they have five children. He is employed with American Railcar Industries and attends Mt. Wade M.B. Church.

David McCoy, 49, lives in the 300 block of Hartman Street.

Neither Spiller nor McCoyresponded to requests for information for this story. McCoy also did not provide a photo.

Shelley M. Harrigill

Shelley M. Harrigill, 37, is running for public office for the first time. She is the daughter of Don and Hilda Harrigill, owners and operators of Harrigill Funeral Home. An attorney in private practice, she has been licensed to practice law 13 years this month. She specializes in family law, domestic relations and civil litigation.

She lives in the 100 block of Harper Street and attends St. Francis of Assisi Catholic Church.

A licensed funeral home director for 10 years, Harrigill was named The Daily Leader’s first Top 20 Under 40 in 2016, appointed in 2008 as the Ward 6 alderman’s representative on the Zoning and Planning Commission, and appointed in 2013 by the mayor to serve as the secretary and attorney for the City of Brookhaven’s Board of Adjustments and Zoning Board. She is currently serving in that capacity.

She is on the board of the Brookhaven-Lincoln County Chamber of Commerce and is active with the Servitium Club and Lincoln County Mississippi Scholars.

“Brookhaven has always been my first choice of places to live and work and I want to put my experience as attorney and legal representative to work for the residents of my ward, listening to the concerns of area property owners and putting my skill of counsel and advocacy to work for the residents of Ward 6 to obtain maximum benefits of the goods and services offered by the city,” she said.

Harrigill said she is ready to face the challenge of stretching tax dollars.

“If elected, I want to avail ourselves of every resource available to us by way of grants and state and federal programs that will allow us to stretch our money as far as it can go and to be able to fund our schools, pay our employees well, and maintain the security and safety of our town by continuing to improve our local police department and maintain our existing fire rating that will continue to reduce costs of insurance, and ensure that our city is the best and safest place to live, so we can continue to recruit people here to live and work who will contribute to growing our local economy,” she said.

Harrigill would like to see more parks in the city — at least one in each ward — and will work to secure funding for that. “But the first thing we must do before we can expand and grow is to restore the public safety of this community so that parents and grandparents do not have to worry about their children’s ability to run freely and play as kids, and so that people will want to invest money and resources into our town because they know that they will see a return on their investment,” she said.

She does not think restoring the dilapidated hospital is a feasible idea.

“I think that the best and safest option is to tear the building down and let the empty lots of land be sold and reused,” she said. “If there is grant money available to help the existing property owner in reusing or repurposing the area I would like to see us explore that to help him make the best use of this city property, but obviously it is going to take a joint effort to explore the options and together decide what should be done.”

She said the owner “has not been motivated to do anything and perhaps it is because he does not know where to start.” She said if the owner won’t take responsibility then the property should be added to the list of properties to be torn down and the owner assessed the cost of the clean-up.

Harold Rowe

Harold Rowe, 60, is married to wife Mary L. Rowe and they have four children and two grandchildren. Rowe lives in the 500 block of Red Oak Drive. He owns Rowe Pallets and is a bus driver for the Brookhaven School District. He attends St. James M.B. Church.

Rowe said the biggest issue the city is facing is a rising crime rate. “Unfortunately, the crime rate has risen since I moved here 30 years ago,” he said.

He’d like to see programs for the youth that could curtail mischief and crime, public transportation for the elderly, summer work programs for the youth, better infrastructure and the removal of nuisance properties and the creation of business start-up programs.

To solve these issues, Rowe said he’d collaborate with law enforcement “to form a bond of trust where citizens will help law enforcement solve crimes” and establish Neighborhood Watch programs. He’d also implement programs so the “young generation will know policemen are here to protect and serve.”

For infrastructure, he’d get feedback from his constituents and work with the board and mayor to “strive to complete these projects in a timely manner.”

For the old hospital, Rowe said the owner should be contacted. “Ask if he has a plan to fix the property,” he said. “If no plan, I believe the city should take action to clean up this nuisance property in Ward 6.”

Shelley Harrigill

Harold Rowe

Gene Buckles

Andre’ Spiller