With less than two weeks until the Feb. 5 deadline to qualify for municipal elections in June, three candidates have filled out qualifying paperwork to run for mayor of Petal.
Records from city hall show that Jared Gould, Tony Ducker and Karen Hession have filed to run for the position, which will be vacated with current Mayor Hal Marx’s decision not to run for a fourth term.
Gould, 24, was born in Grapevine, Texas, in 1996, and moved to Ohio when he was four. In July 2014, he moved to Petal and graduated from Petal High School the next year. He graduated from the University of Southern Mississippi with a degree in history and a minor in political science.
Gould said he is running for mayor because the people of Petal have an enthusiasm for positive change.
“I want to lead that charge by encouraging engagement, growing businesses, attracting entrepreneurs and residents,” Gould said.
Gould interned in Washington, D.C. in the summer of 2017 before interning for former Gov. Phil Bryant in Jackson. During his senior year of college, he was a contractor for the governor’s state workforce investment board, where he worked on economic development and education policy.
Gould volunteers with the Petal Children’s Task Force, runs a consulting business, serves on a nonprofit that educates members of Congress, and handles data analytics and research. He is running on a platform of restoring public relations – both with the citizens and surrounding governments – and establishing a good pipeline for residents to talk to people in their city.
“I think right now with the censorship we’ve had on Facebook, citizens are reluctant to comment on those pages; they don’t feel like their voices are heard,” Gould said. “I want to restore that.”
Gould also wants to partner with the education community to ensure that high school and college students are aware of employment opportunities in the area. In addition, Gould said he would invest in the Leaf and Bouie Revelopment District and seek opportunities for the city to take advantage of any and all possible grants.
“We’re constantly on a one-year cycle – nobody really has a vision for 10 years down the road,” he said. “It’s always about how we’re going to keep money in the budget for next year.
“I think that the best way to get around that is to apply for grants with specific visions in mind, such as sidewalk development, park beautification, downtown revitalization and business development on Evelyn Gandy Parkway.”
Hession was not available for an interview as of press time.
“We need some God fearing Petal citizens to run for aldermen,” she posted on Facebook. “Petal needs a new direction.”
Ducker, the current Ward 5 Alderman, announced his intent to run for Mayor late last year and recently filled out qualifying paperwork.
Ducker was elected alderman in 2009. Originally from Natchez, he attended Slidell High School and graduated in 1993 from the University of Southern Mississippi. He runs Tony Ducker Insurance.
“I believe that Petal is a conservative town, so I think conservative leadership provides the best path forward for our community,” Ducker said in a previous story. “I believe we need to be streamlining the services that we offer; I don’t believe the residents are asking for a miracle.
“I think they want us to follow the same rules that they have to in their lives – don’t overextend yourself, don’t borrow too much money, and try to provide what the citizens are paying for, which is infrastructure and things of that nature.”
Ducker said although his 11 years of experience on the board has enabled him to better himself with the city and its measures – including certain things that work and some that don’t – he won’t necessarily run on the idea of that experience.
“In some cases that can work against you, but I’m going to keep an open mind from that and try to represent those that can’t always be involved in government,” he said. “They pay water bills, they pay taxes, so they should have a voice as well.
“This will be the most consequential election (in Petal) in the past 12 years, and it’ll be the first election that we have where social media plays some type of role in this. I’m not going to run my campaign totally on social media – I need to go out there amongst the people and the residents and earn each vote, as opposed to sitting behind a computer and running.”
Navy veteran Jake Wilson also previously announced his intent to run, but so far has not qualified.