More than a dozen elected officials have joined together in support of former state Sen. Tony Smith, who is vying for the Republican Party nomination for transportation commissioner in the Southern District of Mississippi.
“I am proud to join my fellow mayors from across South Mississippi in support of a candidate who understands our transportation priorities, and is willing to give voice to our needs,” Mayor Billy Hewes said, during a press conference Wednesday at Gulfport Small Craft Harbor.
Smith, who is currently an alderman in Poplarville, announced his primary candidacy for the regional seat earlier this year. The primary is scheduled for Aug. 6, followed by an uncontested general election in November.
“Mr. Smith is no stranger to Mississippi government processes,” Gautier Mayor Phil Torjuson said. “He also has legislative experience and takes a hands-on approach to helping constituents.”
Since his announcement, Smith has continued to gain support from various leaders who serve in counties that are included in the district, including Bay St. Louis Mayor Mike Favre, Waveland Mayor Mike Smith, Sumrall Mayor Heath Sumrall, Leakesville Mayor George Perkins, Ocean Springs Mayor Shae Dobson, Pass Christian Mayor Leo “Chipper” McDermott, and Casey Vaughn, a Gautier councilman.
Southern Mississippi “depends on safe and efficient roadways, bridges and ports,” for its quality of life and is the backbone to a growing economy, said Long Beach Mayor George Bass, who has also thrown his support behind Smith. He added Smith will be “the strong advocate and leader” that the Southern District has needed for a long time.
In addition, mayors Rossie Creel, of Poplarville, Darwin Nelson, of Lucedale, Dale Berry, of Magee, and Joel Miles, of Wiggins, have endorsed Smith in the Republican primary. Gulfport Councilman R. Lee Flowers, Poplarville Alderwoman Anne Gendusa Smith, as well as her colleague Russell Miller, and Wendell Hudson, a Purvis alderman at large, Wayne Barrow, a Green County supervisor, and Sandy Kane Smith, president of the Pearl River County Board of Supervisors, are also among the group of politicians backing Smith.
“As a former state senator, businessman, and alderman,” Smith said, “I know how important the roles these mayors play in their cities and how hard their jobs can become without good communication and cooperation from state agencies. I am most thankful to these fine leaders, and I won’t let them down.”
Smith said he wants to ensure the Mississippi Department of Transportation provides the “appropriate assistance, communication and partnership” with state and local leaders that is so badly needed to fix infrastructure issues that have plagued the region for so long.
“As senator, I was proud to be known as both a reliable and accessible leader, but I was even prouder to work with local leaders in my district to deliver results for our constituents,” Smith said. “That is the same approach I’ve pledged to these mayors. I won’t rest until we address once and for all, within budget and on time, the infrastructure issues facing the Southern district.”
Smith continued, saying, he will work to provide residents with safer roads and bridges, “all while improving our economy.”
If elected as commissioner of the Southern District, Smith would be one of three elected officials charged with overseeing statewide transportation resources. The commissioners represent residents of each district in the supervision of all modes of transportation, such as highways, ports, public transit, and railroads. As outlined by state law, the commission is responsible for planning, developing, and coordinating a balanced, transportation policy.
Tony Smith for Mississippi