South Mississippi Votes For Change

It's time for a change. That's the message from voters in South Mississippi this election season. So far in 14 South Mississippi cities there have been 16 incumbents to lose their re-election bids.

Ella Holmes Hines may end up being all that's left of the "old" Gulfport council. Kim Savant and Billy Hewes gave up their seats for unsuccessful runs for mayor. Chuck Teston, Ricky Dombrowski, and 20-year-veteran Jimmie Jenkins all lost their re-election bids.

"Well, I feel the citizens of Gulfport, with the new mayor coming in, want a new change," said Jenkins. "I can understand and accept that."

In town after town, incumbents are having to accept that South Mississippi voters don't want them back at City Hall. History professor Pat Smith believes issues like condos, recreation, water and sewer made the difference.

"Our communities have been growing, developing and changing a lot," said Smith. "It presents a lot of new challenges. When you have long serving councilmen that are defeated there is a sign of frustration with the way that they've handled that change."

Gulfport is just one of several cities where voters are making big changes. Long time incumbents were also defeated in places like Biloxi, Ocean Springs, and Long Beach.

Political analysts say so many new faces can have its challenges.

"When you have a lot of new people, you have a lot of inexperience. You may wind up with people trying to reinvent the wheel for awhile until they understand their jobs and what's already been tried that didn't work," Smith said.

"Sometimes new people are willing to try things that didn't work ten years ago, but might work now."

Whether changes in leadership bring the changes voters want may not be known until the next election season.

Political analyst Pat Smith says when it comes to elections, timing is important. He says it hurts an incumbent for voters to go to the polls soon after the government has to make difficult or unpopular decisions.