Gautier mayoral candidates talk issues - - The News for South Mississippi

Gautier mayoral candidates talk issues

(Photo source: WLOX) (Photo source: WLOX)

Phil Torjusen wants to unseat Gordon Gollott as Gautier mayor. The two republicans are the only candidates in the mayor’s race. So, the winner of the May 2 GOP primary becomes Gautier’s next mayor.

Mayor Gordon Gollott, a former manager at the shipyard, is seeking a second term in office.  His challenger, Phil Torjusen, is a business man who's served on the planning commission and civil service board.                 

Both candidates agree economic development is the critical issue; especially at the long vacant Singing River Mall property.

“There is things going to happen in this city. We've been working very hard behind the scenes with developers. In fact, our city manager had two meetings yesterday with different developers and things are going to happen,” said Gollott.

The mayor is convinced the mall site will be developed in 2017.

“Absolutely. They have been committed, they did it a year ago. They got hit behind the head with a 2x4 by Walmart, they had to back up and punt. They've done that, they're looking at a couple of large anchors right now,” said the mayor.

ELECTION 2017: Click here for additional info

Candidate, Phil Torjusen, says the destruction of the mall hurt the city.

“That revenue stream with the mall, how it affected everything in Gautier, has not been replaced since then. And since then, we've had to cut many services, the cost. We've got to get cash flow going back in a positive way in Gautier. And through economic development, that's the only way you can get the cash flow coming back in,” Torjusen explained.

Is he confident the mall property will be developed soon?

“We're at a point right now, that we have to do it. We've got to be confident in it, because if we don't do it, I mean, we're going nowhere,” Torjusen said. 

Mayor Gollott says the city is well positioned to expand nature based tourism.

“We want to continue to be nature's playground because of the Pascagoula River, the Mary Walker bayou. We're surrounded. We've got a hundred miles of waterfront in this town. So naturally, it is a nature's playground,” said Gollott.

Torjusen would like to see dorms built at the community college.

“That is probably one of the primary jewels we have in this city, and I'd like to work with the administration to figure out how, one day, we could have another 600 students right down in the nucleus of Gautier in dormitories,” he said.

Both candidates say tax revenue from economic development is needed to give a pay raise to police officers and firefighters. Both feel that new recruits leave the city after training to take higher paying jobs in neighboring cities.

Three city council seats are up for grabs in May and June.

Councilperson-at-large Mary Martin faces GOP challenger Pat Walters on May 2. The winner meets democrat Eloise Fairley on June 6. Ward one councilman Johnny Jones runs against GOP challenger Cameron George. The winner campaigns against democrat Paul Ceasar.

Four democrats want to represent Gautier ward two. Tobey Bartee, Troylynn Harvey, Richard D.J. Jackson and Anthony York are all in the May 2 primary. If a candidate gets 50% plus one vote, that person wins. Otherwise, the top two finishers participate in a May 16 runoff. Because no republicans qualified in the ward 2 race, the democratic winner will serve on the city council. That winner replaces retiring councilman Hurley Ray Guillotte.

One republican and one democrat qualified in the ward four city council race. Billy Raysell Booth and incumbent republican Charles “Rusty” Anderson meet on June 6.

Casey Vaughan and Adam Colledge are unopposed and will serve another four years on the city council.

View a sample ballot and a voting precinct map.

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