During this municipal election cycle, I have spent a great deal of time speaking with candidates and trying to get answers to some of your seemingly, most discussed questions. This post is just a fraction of information from my Q&A and time with Southaven Mayor Darren Musselwhite. You may still have additional questions after reading, and I am happy to answer them. I have also provided links here to Mayor Musselwhite’s FB page and posts addressing particular issues and his platform in greater depth than provided here. I hope you find all of this information helpful. Be looking for my upcoming posts on other Southaven and DeSoto County municipal candidates.
10 Questions Asked of Mayor Musselwhite
1. How much time do you spend at your insurance company now that you are mayor?
2. Do you consider the mayor’s job to be a full time position?
3. Former Mayor Greg Davis had an open door policy, so why do you expect people to make appointments as opposed to just stopping by the office anytime?
4. Some people have had expectations that you, as mayor, should belong to certain clubs or organizations, what are your thoughts on this?
5. Some citizens have complained about the garbage fee, can you explain that situation?
6. Lots of controversy surrounded the Penny for Your Parks program this year. Can you explain your side of this issue?
7. There have been concerns about the budget, spending and in some areas lack of spending. Can you share your thoughts in this?
8. Do you feel that the west side of Southaven has been neglected or overlooked since you became mayor?
9. During your first campaign, did you promise jobs to and subsequently give jobs to any people in exchange for helping you with your campaign?
10. What all have you accomplished since you took office?
My Summarization of His Answers
1. Mayor Musselwhite explained that he hired people to perform any duties that he would have had to handle on a daily basis with the exception of some minor administrative duties. As a business owner, there are some things that he must do, but Mayor Musselwhite is in a position with his company that does not demand his full time attention nor does it pull him away from his responsibilities as mayor. Darren also stated that he has not written an insurance policy since he took office. He has individuals in his company that oversee the clients that he had prior to his election, and they handle their accounts. Darren also emphasized that his job is Mayor of Southaven.
2. Mayor Musselwhite most definitely considers his job as mayor as a full time job. He detailed the amount of hours that he spends working for the city and explained that it is not unusual for him to still be working and answering emails as late as 11:00pm. Mayor Musselwhite is extremely hands on when it comes to city business. He discussed the mayor’s job as requiring much more than a typical 40 hour work week, and he gladly puts in any amount of hours required to fulfill his duties.
3. Mayor Musselwhite explained that he does not have an open door policy per-say but for good reasons. The mayor’s position requires work all throughout the city, meetings of all kinds and various activities that may take him away from the office during the day. As with most businesses, you make an appointment to see someone so that you are assured the person is there, available, has time to meet with you and is able to hear your concerns or talk about whatever is of issue. He expressed his desire to be available to citizens as much as possible, but Darren went on to discuss all of the duties and responsibilities required of him as mayor and not being able to always be available when someone ‘drops by’. It is common place for people to make appointments.
4. There are many clubs and organizations in the city, but the mayor (due to time and job responsibilities and duties) cannot be a member of all of them or make every social meeting or gathering expected of him. Mayor Musselwhite explained that he is very visible in Southaven and attends as many events and meetings as possible. His primary focus is citizens and city business first. Any political or social expectations of him are not as high on his radar as what is required of him in the mayor’s office.
5. The way that the garbage situation was being handled under former Mayor Greg Davis’s administration was illegal. No one on the board wanted to have to bill citizens the way that they are now, but by law, the city had no choice. They could not continue the illegal way in which it was handled prior to Mayor Musselwhite taking office.
6. Mayor Musselwhite seemed to be genuinely surprised at the controversy over the Penny for Your Parks program. Many citizens have supported this initiative in the past, and it had been voted on in 2 previous special elections. Darren, as well as the board, were in support of it being voted on in June’s general election and are extremely disappointed that our House delegation did not support this initiative. The biggest concern over voting for a repealer to be voted on again in 3 years is simple. Most expansions and major projects cannot be funded in 3 years. That window is not enough for the city to be able to plan around. If citizens wanted a repealer that would have been fine with the city, but they would have hoped for a much longer repealer to allow for expansions and projects to be done with enough years of funding to actually fund the projects. Mayor Musselwhite expressed his desire to not have to increase property taxes, so a tax like PFYP tourism tax was a much more desirable alternative. Since most citizens do not stay in hotels in the city, the tax would not impact them. As for dining out, the tax is very minimal. On a $25 check, an individual would only pay $.25. People from other municipalities in the county as well as Memphis dine in Southaven. The money generated from the tax does not come from Southaven citizens only. And since dining out is a luxury item, it is not forced upon anyone. The tax is far less than what a person would pay if he/she were to go to a movie and buy a drink or snack, yet the tourism tax goes to the betterment of the city’s parks.
7. Due to the previous administration’s issues, lawsuits and scandals, the finances of Southaven were taken very seriously when the mayor and the board took office 4 years ago. Mayor Musselwhite expressed how proud he is of the progress that has been made and the changes that have occurred. He welcomes anyone to review the numbers and feels confident that they will see the facts. Darren mentioned one or two particular individuals that have questioned the books. He said that one of those individuals met with a city employee to go over his/her concerns. Budget items were explained in great detail. Another individual with questions later admitted that he/she was unable to understand the financial reports which is not uncommon for someone that is not a CPA or experienced in reading financial data. After hearing some of the candidates during the candidate forums, it is clear to me that a large number of people do not know the differences between the role of government on the local level versus state and federal levels. When it comes to the expenditures, you have to not only understand the numbers but also have a strong working knowledge of the laws on each level of government. A citizen may not understand a certain expenditure or lack of expenditure on a particular item, but they would also have to be educated in understanding who is financially responsible and for what. After my conversation with Mayor Musselwhite about this issue, I reviewed the city’s budgets and some of their financial documents. I, personally, think this issue is not an issue. Anytime an individual or individuals come in behind an administration like Greg Davis’s or Milton Kuykendall’s administration (because I, personally, see a lot of comparisons between the two), citizens cannot have the same expectations that they would for someone who is elected and comes in behind a smooth running operation. What citizens may view as progress will be different than what should be viewed as progress by the new administration. To read more on the finances in Southaven, refer to Mayor Musselwhite’s FB page, Mayor Musselwhite. Here is a link to one of his detailed financial posts: https://www.facebook.com/MayorMusselwhite/posts/1312498165452374.
8. Mayor Musselwhite told me that revitalization of the ‘Original Southaven’ was of utmost importance to him. While some citizens have expressed concerns that the mayor is not putting time and attention into these areas in Southaven, Mayor Musselwhite shared with me what all has been accomplished. Here is a list of some of the accomplishments:
* Main Street Resurfacing Project ($319,000), (Highway 51 to Northwest Drive)
* Landscaping Projects (Highway 51/Main and Highway 51/Mississippi Valley)
* West End Business District with Relocation and Renovation Incentives (Tax Abatements and Waiver of Utility Fees)
* 25 or More New Businesses Back to our Original Business District
* Vacant Buildings Renovated (Chamber of Commerce, Tops BBQ, Boat Warehouse, Waste-Pro, Sam’s Southern Eatery, Dixie Queen, Turning Point Recovery Center, Shell Station, Valero Station, and More)
* Vacant Sign Removal (Along I-55 and Main Street)
* Conn’s HomePlus (40,000 Square Feet New Building)
For additional information, review Mayor Musselwhite’s post on his administration’s accomplishments and plans for the future: https://m.facebook.com/notes/mayor-musselwhite/our-progressour-plan/1283554595013398/.
9. Some people in the community have questioned certain employment changes that were made once Mayor Musselwhite became mayor. I asked Darren if he had made any promises to anyone prior to being elected and since being elected has he hired anyone as a favor. Mayor Musselwhite was very emphatic about this question and without hesitation stated that he has never promised anyone anything. He has not made any employment decisions based on friends or favors. At least one of the questioned employee changes made after his election was that of Carmen Kyle as the new Southaven Chamber of Commerce Director. Here is the truth. All Chamber of Commerce are Non-Profit 501C-6 membership organizations. Governance and policy making are the responsibility of the Board of Directors who are nominated and elected by the membership. The current Southaven Chamber Board has 13 Board members. One of their responsibilities is the hiring of the Executive Director. (Hopefully, thIs addresses that particular question or concern which is a nonissue).
One thing that I, personally, know to be true about Mayor Musselwhite is that he does NOT do favors for anyone. I, for one, appreciate this about him because other administrations throughout the county have made it a habit in the past of basing decisions on family and friendships over all else.
10. One thing that has been expressed to me on various occasions by some Southaven citizens is a lack of knowing exactly what all has been accomplished since Mayor Musselwhite took office. This question is best answered by reviewing the in depth outline of information that Mayor Musselwhite has already provided and shared. I encourage you to click on the following link and read for yourself. https://www.facebook.com/notes/mayor-musselwhite/our-progressour-plan/1283554595013398/
The information provided there will be better than anything that I could quickly summarize here. I think it is impressive and speaks for itself.
My Personal Commentary and Some Food for Thought
There is no question that in DeSoto County’s history, there are 2 politicians that have stood out above all others and have personas that can be compared to no others. Those two people in order are Milton Kuykendall and Greg Davis. Regardless of what citizens know about either of these men, good or bad, they will always have supporters and people that are loyal and indebted to them. Their personalities and charisma are not nearly the same as a Darren Musselwhite or a Cory Uselton, and I do not mean this derogatory to Darren or Cory. Darren and Cory are both a lot alike in that they are very businesslike and carry themselves in an extremely professional manner. Both are good family men who put a lot of focus, time and attention on their wives and children. They are visible in the community but not necessarily in the same ways that Milton or Greg were before them. Whether you like or dislike either of those former administrations, the shoes are harder to fill than people think because what citizens have come to expect is different than what should be expected out of any administration.
Darren Musselwhite took office and was faced with many challenges. There is still a large number of Southaven citizens who support and love Greg Davis. There are other citizens that have nothing but disdain for the Davis administration. State Auditor Stacey Pickering and his office were still in legal battles with Greg Davis when Mayor Musselwhite took office. There were several friends and business associates of the former administration that had been arrested and gone to prison. Companies that the city of Southaven had done business with, land that had been purchased from certain individuals and a growing list of questionable spending plagued the city upon Mayor Musselwhite taking office. There is no way on God’s green Earth that any individual could have taken the office of mayor in Southaven and made the majority of people happy or corrected all of the issues that needed addressing and all in a 4 year term. Finding a balance between the greatly differentiating viewpoints and expectations while holding true to one’s personal beliefs and method of handling business is another challenge to say the least. The amount of issues and scrutiny that Darren’s administration has been faced with is not comparable to any other before it. For citizens to have certain expectations and to be focused on one particular issue here or there is not logical or reasonable.
I only say all of this to give you some food for thought and also to encourage you to make decisions based on facts and not that of others’ personal agendas and innuendo. Judge the candidates in a way that is not emotional and comes from facts not fiction. We all need to be supporting people that are qualified to do the job and that have the overall same principles and values that we do. You need to vote for someone that can take your city in the direction that you think it should go. Don’t get caught up in other people’s drama. Don’t allow one issue to prevent you from seeing any one individual’s value or stances on other issues because you may have more in common than you think. Make a comprehensive decision and then vote the way that you feel is best for citizens. That’s all any of us can do.
I know this post is long, but I wanted to be thorough. I have more information that I can share if needed. Don’t hesitate to comment or message me with questions. I hope this information is helpful to you.