Petal Alderman-at-Large special election pushed back to June 1

By HASKEL BURNS,

The special runoff election to fill the vacant Petal Alderman-at-Large seat has been pushed back by approximately two months to help ensure voter safety in the face of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

After Attorney General Shad White notified Mayor Hal Marx that the city had the permission to change the date of the election because of the current situation, city officials decided to set the date of the election for Monday, June 1. That date was chosen to coincide with the scheduled vote for the Mississippi Power franchise agreement, which was already set for the first day in June.

“We’re going to have to have an election on June 1 anyway for that particular question – that’s something that’s kind of based on deadlines and what the law puts in place,” Marx said. “So we decided to combine those two elections together so we’d only have to have one more election, instead of having another one and then another one, which would cost the city more.

“Mississippi Power Company said they would pay for their election, so we’re hoping they’ll at least split the cost of this runoff if we have it on the same day that they have their race. That way, we could save the city some money.”

In addition, by holding the election on that Monday, the winner of the election would be able to fill the position at the regularly-scheduled Petal Board of Alderman meeting the next day.

“They could go ahead and be sworn in, and they wouldn’t miss that meeting,” Marx said. “And there’s deadlines that are pretty set in the law (for the Mississippi Power election), so it comes out to be on June 1 when we would have that election.

“So given that we were probably looking a delaying our runoff at least until sometime in May, we just decided to go ahead and have it that same day and not have two separate elections.”

For the Mississippi Power election, voters will choose whether to renew the company’s franchise agreement. If the agreement is accepted, the city will continue to get its current 3 percent of Mississippi Power’s franchise fee; if not, that amount will drop to 2 percent.

“If people don’t approve it, the city will actually lose money on this, but it has to be approved by the voters,” Marx said.

The runoff election is necessitated because none of the seven candidates in the March 17 special election received the required 50 percent of the vote plus one vote. As the two candidates who received the most votes in that election, Mike Lott and Andrew “Drew” Brickson will face off in the runoff.

In final but unofficial results from the election, Lott led the race with 196 total votes (33.2 percent), followed by Brickson with 151 votes (25.5 percent). Five other candidates trailed behind Lott and Brickson: Jeffrey Ginn with 120 votes, John Brady Amacker with 57 votes, Larry “L.C.” Carraway with 30 votes, Ann McWilliams with 30 votes and Jeffrey Sapp with five votes.

Lott is a graduate of William Carey University who serves as principal at South New Summit School in Hattiesburg. He also has served as principal at Runnelstown School, in the Mississippi House of Representatives and as assistant principal in the Petal School District.

“I’m excited (for the runoff),” Lott said after the election. “I feel very firmly that there were some good choices, some good people, running for the right reasons to represent our city and help our city grow in a lot of different ways.

“I’m honored that I get the opportunity to move forward, and I’ve got a lot of work to do in three weeks.”

Brickson is a retired lieutenant colonel with 21 years of active duty as an Airborne Ranger and Army engineer officer. Brickson graduated from the United States Military Academy at West Point in 1993 and is involved with the Petal Children’s Task Force, the YMCA board and the Asbury United Methodist Church board of trustees.

“I’m extremely proud and excited that the citizens of Petal have put their faith and confidence in me with their vote today,” Brickson said. “I look forward to the upcoming runoff, and I look forward to making sure that transparency, accountability and progress is what Petal has in their future.

“I met a lot of people while I was out campaigning, and a lot of them were my fellow candidates. I have some great new friends, and I learned a lot from them – from Jeffrey, from Ann, from Mike and from John Brady. I’m not a politician, but I learned that they all want to serve, and I think that’s very admirable and I respect that.”

The polls will be open from 7 a.m.-7 p.m. on election day, and anyone in line by 7 p.m. is entitled to cast a ballot. Because this is a special election, all candidates were required to run as independent.

The winner will complete the remaining term of King, who officially retired Feb. 1. To run for a full term, that candidate would be required to run for re-election in the summer 2021 election.