HATTIESBURG, Miss. (WHLT) — A new era began today in Hattiesburg as new city officials were sworn into office.
Supporters filled the Saegner Theater for the inauguration ceremony of Mayor Toby Barker, Council members Jeffery George, Ward 1, Deborah Delgado, Ward 2, Carter Carroll, Ward 3, Mary Dryden, Ward 4, and Nicholas Brown, Ward 5.
A new name behind mayor is something residents haven’t seen in 16 years.
Former Mayor Johnny Dupree served since 2001.
“The council each brings a unique perspective, both in terms of their life experiences and who they represent,” said Barker.
There are two new council members. The youngest being 23-year-old Jeffery George.
“We definitely want to increase the transportation, infrastructure, specifically pedestrian [safety] around the University of Southern Mississippi,” said George. “We have talked it over as a council with Barker and city engineers.”
George received his Bachelor’s degree from the University of Southern Mississippi and is will receive his Master’s degree in August.
Also new to the board, Nicholas Brown representing Ward 5.
“We need a lot of roads fixed, a lot of ditches that we need cleaned out real good,” said Brown. “To make sure the water is flowing well to help out with the flooding issues.”
We spoke Michael and Maxie Brooks, who are new to the community. The two say they are excited to see new minds in office.
“Some people don’t like change, but change is a good thing,” said Maxie.
Her husband Michael would like to see Barker assist the public school district by appointing strong leaders to sit on the Hattiesburg Public School District Board.
“It’s kind of ashamed to be in a district where you got Oak Grove, North Forrest, Petal; all these guys got A and B+ ratings and then we have a D rating,” said Michael Brooks.
Barker added, “So we ask residents to be patient with us, not only as we put our administration together but as we start to tackle some of these challenges.”
During his speech, Barker appointed Ann Jones to serve as his Chief Administrative Officer.
“She will help us in the day-to-day routines. Specifically helping me in terms of their knowledge in municipal government, knowing the city employees, being able to interact with them and also just setting the example in terms of work ethic,” said Barker. “I think we have a great pick at Ann Jones. She is a loyal employee, anyone who has ever worked with her knows how hard she works and how much she loves this city.”
Barker’s first official day of work will be Monday, July 3rd. The council’s first official board meeting will be Wednesday, July 5th.
Brooks adds, “It looks like these people are going to be cooperative, so, with a cooperative spirit they are going to be able to get a lot of things done.”