HATTIESBURG, MS (WDAM) - After 16 years in Hattiesburg City Hall and terms on the Forrest County Board of Supervisors and the Hattiesburg Public School Board, Hattiesburg mayor Johnny DuPree says he doesn't know what emotion describes losing Tuesday's mayoral election.
"I have had a tremendous career," DuPree said. "The citizens of Forrest County and Hattiesburg have honored me immensely. School board, member of the board of supervisors and mayor. I couldn't have asked for much more than that. Certainly, I didn't start off really trying to do any of that. My whole goal was public service. 30 years later, to be ending my career in public service - well maybe not ending my career in public service, but certainly ending my political career - I don't know how I feel."
The transition out of office and out of public life started Wednesday, DuPree said, by cleaning out his campaign headquarters.
"I'll continue to do my duties, do my responsibilities as mayor as I try to transition," he said. "There are certain things that I'm sure I will have to do in order to transition, and I only have like 23 days to transition. So there's a lot to be done in 23 days."
DuPree said being mayor is a highlight of his life and hopes he's remembered for his dedication to the city and it's people.
"I can't thank the citizens of Hattiesburg enough and Forrest County and in some aspects, even Lamar County for allowing me to serve as mayor, " DuPree said. "Besides marriage, being saved, my children, my grandchildren, this is really the highlight of my life. I hope that people would think that I was dedicated to my job. I think I was. I think I have been dedicated to my job, dedicated to the citizens of Hattiesburg and worked awfully hard in trying to represent their needs, their wants, their desires. People talk about buildings and all those kinds of things, you know, they fade away, but if they can remember you for your dedication to them. I think if people can remember me for that."
DuPree said he isn't sure what the next chapter of his professional life holds, but said he has several possibilities.
"I'll try to figure out what I'm going to do in the future because for 30 years, basically, this is all I've done is public service," he said. "I'm sure that there's some things that I might be able to do. I have a PhD. I might could teach. I've had two offers this (Wednesday) morning for jobs that I said 'thank you, but no thank you right now.' It's like a lady having a baby today, and then you ask her tomorrow if you want to have another one. That just doesn't work. I've been working since I was 8 years old. I started selling newspapers when I was 8 years old, so I'm going to take this time and really figure out what am I going to do. I'll include my family. My wife, my children, my grandchildren, they've always payed a role, a very important role, in the decisions that I make because we make them together."
Aside from teaching, DuPree said he's a real estate broker by trade with a current license, his PhD is in urban studies higher education and he said with his local government experience, he could go into consulting. In his personal life, DuPree said he is looking forward to relaxing.
"I would hope that my options are wide open," DuPree said. "What I will do though is I won't do very much more than trim my hedges and cut my grass and plant some flowers and do those things around the house that I've had to pay people to do for so many years. (It's) what I enjoy doing, but I've not had the opportunity to do that, so I will be out there doing that. That's relaxing. My wife and I do a lot of praying, a lot of talking, and we'll decide what God has in store for us. We'll decide where we need to be, and he'll do that. He'll lead us in the right direction."
After four terms, DuPree said he doesn't really have any advice for mayor-elect Toby Barker, but wishes him well as he leads the city.
"I wish I had some advice advice for the new mayor, (but) I don't," DuPree said. "He's an elected official. I'm certain that he and I will probably talk between now and the time he takes office. I certainly wish him well because I love Hattiesburg. I want to to continue to grow, continue to be the city that, not only in the state, but nationally we're known for being a city that's prosperous. I hope he continues that. I no reason to believe that he won't. I would hope that he surrounds himself with people, build a team of people, who are interested in the same things that he's interested in, people who are interested in moving Hattiesburg in the direction he wants it to go in. If he does that, then he'll be OK."
The final thought DuPree wants to leave with residents is that Hattiesburg is a wonderful city with wonderful people, and those living in it just need to believe it.
"As I travel the state and as I travel the United States, people have glowing remarks about Hattiesburg," DuPree said. "I mean glowing remarks about Hattiesburg. What a great city it is. How are you all doing that? How'd you get to do this? We're invited all over the nation to talk about things we're doing in Hattiesburg and how did you do it. But I come to Hattiesburg, and Hattiesburg people that live here, don't talk about Hattiesburg that way. They talk about Hattiesburg like people that live outside of Mississippi talk about Mississippi. And people outside of Mississippi talk about Hattiesburg as like the shining star in Mississippi. If you live in Hattiesburg, you live in a great city. You actually do. The greatest thing about your city is the people. You really do. if we can ever get that, if we can ever get that mindset that this is a really, really great place to live with people who live in Hattiesburg, golly, sky's the limit."