5 Republicans vying for LB mayor's seat - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

5 Republicans vying for LB mayor's seat

Five Republican candidates are running for mayor of Long Beach. (Photo source: WLOX) Five Republican candidates are running for mayor of Long Beach. (Photo source: WLOX)

Five Republican candidates are running for mayor of Long Beach in Tuesday's primary election.

Mayor Billy Skellie's decision not to seek reelection left the race wide open. Candidates include a retired fire chief, three city aldermen and a political outsider.

Retired fire chief, George Bass, says his overall experience makes him the best choice. Bass says he's worked with several city administrations, knows the budget process and worked extensively with FEMA during Katrina recovery.

"We need to put together an economic development team. We've got a lot of retired professionals here in Long Beach that we'll seek volunteers to come in and work with us. There's a great number of people here that have those skills and we need to tap those folks and get them to work with us," said Bass.

Ronnie Hammons Jr. says promoting and attracting economic development is the most critical issue. Hammons says his experience and contacts will help the city lure new business and create new jobs.

"I think it boils down to character. I've tried to always be a man of character. I consider myself, as humbly as I can, to try and do the best that I can. And always be truthful with people," Hammons added. 

Gary Ponthieux agrees that economic development is crucial. He says there's plenty of available commercial land, especially near the water, that is ideal for new business ventures. He believes his experience on the tourism commission could help in that regard.

"I want to bring in more development to the city. Especially along the beautiful beach front area. There are a lot of excellent commercial properties that are available up and down Jeff Davis. As well as right here on the beach. I want to make sure that everyone knows that Long Beach is open for business," noted Ponthieux.

Alderman Leonard Carrubba says the city needs to be much more aggressive in attracting new development. He supports hiring an economic developer for the city and has already developed a plan for marketing the city to potential retail projects and other business ventures.

Carrubba said, "We have to work with what we have. We had a lot of empty buildings here and we don' need to bring in a business that's not going to do well. So we need to know what we can support, go after that type of investment, and bring it in here."

Kevin Nelson says his label of "outsider" is a major advantage, rather than a drawback. He says for too long it's been "business as usual" with very little getting accomplished. Nelson says he's prepared to think outside the box in attracting developers. He's already initiated conversations about bringing a VA clinic to Long Beach. He says the military is a great resource of knowledge and people to draw upon in moving the city forward.

"I'm not a member of this administration. I think that being outside gives me more opportunities. I don't go with the buddy systems or none of that. But I want an administration that is honest and open to the people," said Nelson. 

It's likely the primary race will result in a runoff. The primary election is this Tuesday, May 2.

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