Normally political endorsements are not made on the local level in a small town. Everybody knows everybody, everybody goes to the same four churches and, at least where I grew up, basically everyone is related to each other. Such endorsements don’t make for good Thanksgiving gatherings.
However, there comes a time when what was the norm just doesn’t work anymore. Such is the case with this year’s race for mayor in the City of Baldwyn.
For twelve years Michael James has led the city as mayor. James came into city government from a background in the world of automobile sales. His experience in the business world made him a good fit at that time for the office of mayor as the position is effectively that of chief executive officer.
James is being contested once again for the position by Roslynn Clark. Clark is well known in the area for her community organizing efforts, such as with her group, Auntees and Uncles Anonymous.
Both James and Clark are good people. Anyone willing to put themselves out there to be mayor of a small town in Mississippi, knowing full well it’ll be a tough and often thankless job for at least four years, is worthy of respect.
That said, The Baldwyn News believes Michael James remains the best candidate to lead the city for the next four years. Here is why.
James has led the city with a quiet, focused demeanor, yet been a strong advocate for the city with our local leadership in Jackson. He has been pivotal in helping attract hundreds of industrial jobs to the community in the past decade at a time when such jobs were declining elsewhere around the nation. He has directed the city in obtaining millions of dollars of grants to fund major and badly needed upgrades in the way of this city’s natural gas and sewer system infrastructure. He has been conservative with advising the Board of Aldermen on the use of the limited dollars available for projects in the community. The list goes on; we’ll leave that for his campaign materials.
While Clark, a veteran with a nursing background, is a competent and capable leader, some of the proposals she has set forth raise concerns about her potential for walking in on Day One and helping Baldwyn not miss a beat. Campaign promises of raises for all city employees and catered town hall meetings every three months sound great, but where will the money come from to fund these efforts? If people won’t even bother to show up for a monthly Board of Aldermen meeting and never request copies of the approved minutes of Board meetings from the city clerk (yes, we asked), why would they show up for a town hall meeting for anything other than the promise of free food? While we believe Clark has some good ideas, we question the fiscal responsibility of some of these plans (a snow plow?) and whether some of them are even areas where a municipality can and should venture. Home buying workshops and credit repair/management workshops are good things in and of themselves, but these are not necessarily things a city government should do. Ideally these are things the private sector should handle. And while a Family Resource Center is a good idea, many cities larger than Baldwyn find it difficult to properly fund these type ventures. Other plans expressed have been too vague. What is empowerment of infrastructure?
Of equal concern is social media posts Clark has made that could be viewed as racially or politically divisive or insensitive, such as an image shared last year depicting then-President Donald Trump hanging on a cross and stating many evangelical voters could no longer claim Jesus Christ as Lord because they had made Trump their savior. While her campaign material has touted the need for “cultural diversity training for city employees and others,” the distribution of such material as the Trump post could be seen as counterproductive to those efforts and could cause division in its own right.
This should in no way be seen or viewed as a personal attack on Clark. It is not. Clark is a good person whose heart is in the right place on her desires for Baldwyn. We do not question at all that Clark wants the best for Baldwyn. That mindset should absolutely be praised. The News just simply feels that, at this time, based upon the specific experience of both candidates in the way of municipal government operations and business leadership, James is the best candidate to lead the city from the mayor’s seat.
Is there room for improvement in the city? Absolutely. There has been too much turnover in the way of city employees in the past two years, but Baldwyn isn’t alone in battling this issue. Other local governments have had the same problem. But too many things have been going right, from the infrastructure improvements to the moves to clean up blight in the city, to justify replacing James as mayor at this time.
Neither candidate was informed ahead of time about this column and neither candidate paid anything to The Baldwyn News for the information included in this column. The column is strictly the opinion of the writer.
Jason Collum is owner and publisher of The Baldwyn News.