Gulfport mayoral candidates square off

By Elise Roberts - bio | email

GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - Gulfport's mayoral campaign is in full swing. For the first time, the four candidates shared one stage Wednesday night in hopes of securing votes for the upcoming elections.

Brian Dean, George Schloegel, Joe Spraggins and Clyde Williams took part in a forum in front of about 100 people at Gulfport High School. The men answered eight questions about specific plans for parts of Gulfport.

"My record speaks for getting things done quickly, getting them done now and getting them on budget," said former Hancock Bank CEO George Schloegel.

Schloegel's republican rival is former emergency management director Joe Spraggins.

"Ladies and gentlemen, you called on me for 34 years in the military. You called on me both during and after Katrina," said Spraggins. "I am asking that you call on me to be your mayor."

On the democratic ticket: former Gulfport city worker turned entrepreneur Clyde Williams.

"I want to be the mayor for the people of Gulfport, not just a certain group," said Williams. "Annexed and everything."

His opponent is 26-year-old Brian Dean who describes himself as a hardworking family man.

"I'm not trying to own Gulfport, I'm not trying to run Gulfport. I'm trying to make Gulfport a better place for us to call home," said Dean.

The candidates used the forum to answer eight questions provided by Gulfport residents.

One of the questions required candidates to explain why they do or do not favor casino development in Gulfport.

Spraggins said he doesn't have a problem with casino expansion or any other business growth in the city.

"I have no problem with good business expansion in the city of Gulfport," said Spraggins. "I think what we need to do every day is foster good business.

Schloegel agrees. He said he doesn't see a problem with possible casino expansion, but only in zoned areas.

Dean is torn on the issue.

"I like casinos for one reason: They bring more jobs," said Dean. "But I think God came through and took most of those casinos out for a reason."

All four candidates agree the city needs more businesses to bring in more tax dollars. They also say it's time to repair old buildings, or tear them down.

When it comes to the relationship between council and the mayor, the candidates agree that the fighting needs to stop.

"Get rid of the buddy system and the surprises," Williams said. "There's just too much politicking in city hall."

After the two hour forum, some citizens said they are still trying to decide who they will vote for in the primary election.

"I'm not sure just yet," said democrat Billy Bova. "What I do know that is what's most important to the citizens is simply a continued recovery and one that speeds up a little bit."

Bova hasn't decided on a candidate, but said he's pleased with both Dean and Williams.

Some voters on the republican side said they already knew who they would vote for and are confident in their decision.

"He served me very well as a banker. He served me very well as a friend and I liked his integrity, I like his family. I like the way he does business. I like the way he thinks and I like the way he talks," said Rod Leslie.

Spraggins' supporters say the former airman gave so much to the coast, now it's time to give back.

"He was the guy that got this coast back on his feet," said Ralph Anderson. "He has done wonderful things for Gulfport, not only Gulfport, but Harrison County. The coast owes Joe Spraggins a lot."

However, only time will tell who will move one step closer to becoming the mayor of Gulfport.

The Gulfport primary election is May 5th. The general election will be June 2nd.

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