Petal Mayor Hal Marx must resign, and he must do so sooner rather than later. The three-term mayor has been a keyboard warrior on Facebook and Twitter for years, and his controversial statements have made headlines in the past.
In fact, in a 2014 editorial in this very newspaper, we cautioned the mayor on using his @MayorHalMarx Twitter account to bash people who disagreed with his political and religious views.
In that editorial, Publisher David Gustafson wrote that the mayor should slow his online rhetoric and drop the “Mayor” portion of his Twitter handle.
“He should clarify ... once and for all that his tweets don’t represent the City of Petal,” Gustafson wrote.
Marx should have heeded our advice.
It’s one thing for a private individual to have controversial opinions, but to do so in an official capacity like the @mayor handle implied is not appropriate, and it should have been addressed by the Petal Board of Aldermen long ago.
Of course, Marx has now deleted his Twitter account, and the mayor is dealing with the fallout of comments about the murder of George Floyd by police officers in Minneapolis that are widely interpreted – rightfully so – as racist.
It’s safe to say that Marx has lost the support of the majority of his constituents, and even the all-white and very conservative Board of Aldermen has unified to demand his resignation.
The aldermen also took the extraordinary step of censuring the mayor – effectively adding an official black mark to Marx’s last year in office.
Marx has 12 months left in his term, and he’s not planning a re-election bid. There are no legal remedies to removing the mayor; in Mississippi, there’s no recall option for municipal officials.
The only immediate recourse seems to be the potential action of aldermen lowering his salary, which they have indicated they will consider.
The aldermen have also promised to limit Marx’s mayoral powers during his final year.
We don’t know what will become of those options, but the graceful thing would be for Marx to bow out now and allow the city to heal without his divisive words.
We still don’t believe Marx has given a heartfelt apology, and his defenses of “I’m not a racist; I had a black friend in my college years” and “The people of Petal knew my views when they elected me” simply don’t work anymore.
People are sick and tired of inflammatory comments by politicians, and the Friendly City will never truly be friendly with someone like Marx at the helm.
For the sake of the Petal economy, and for the sake of common decency, Marx should go.
He should be allowed to go peacefully and live a quiet life in retirement, and his family shouldn’t be threatened in any way, but he must go.
We appreciate the good things you did, Mr. Mayor, but in the end, your online rhetoric got the best of you.
Let the city you claim to love move forward.