Barker overwhelmingly wins re-election as Hattiesburg mayor
HATTIESBURG, Miss. (WDAM) - Toby Barker clinched a second term as Hattiesburg’s mayor on Tuesday with an overwhelming win over Democratic challenger Lakeylah White.
Barker, an independent, received 85% of the vote, winning every precinct and totaling almost 7,000 votes.
Barker, 39, was first elected as the Hub City’s 35th mayor in 2017 when he defeated longtime incumbent Johnny DuPree.
Prior to being elected mayor, Barker served as the state representative for District 102, which he was elected to in 2007.
Barker announced his bid for a second term as mayor in January 2021.
During his first term, Barker championed the 1% sales tax increase for hotels, motels and restaurants, which was overwhelmingly approved by Hattiesburg voters in April 2019.
The revenue from the sales tax increase has funded parks and recreation projects across the city, some of which are still underway or planned.
During his time in office, the city passed a balanced budget for the 2021 fiscal year, which was the first balanced budget for Hattiesburg in 10 years.
Barker’s administration also reached a settlement with the the Environmental Protection Agency and the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality over longstanding issues with the city’s wastewater system. Negotiations began during DuPree’s time in office after the EPA noted unreported sanitary sewage overflows in Hattiesburg in 2012.
The settlement outlined a 16-year, $45 million plan to address wastewater issues in the city.
The last year and a half of Barker’s first term was dominated by the COVID-19 pandemic after the state’s first case was reported in Forrest County on March 11, 2020.
Barker responded by issuing various executive orders, including ones that placed limits on gatherings and restrictions on businesses as well as a mask mandate that expired on May 15, 2021. Throughout the pandemic, Barker said the city’s goal was to protect vulnerable populations and prevent the overrun of the area’s health care system.
Barker also provided daily COVID-19 updates on his social media platforms.
Two council members defend seats, one unseated by former councilman
In Hattiesburg’s Ward 1, incumbent Jeffrey George, a Republican, handily defeated Democratic challenger Ken Chambers. George received 75% of the vote.
Council president Carter Carroll, a Republican, also defended his seat in Ward 3, defeating Democratic challenger Picasso Nelson Sr. with 71% of the vote.
In Ward 4, Dave Ware unseated Mary Dryden, receiving 59% of the vote. Both candidates ran as independents. Ware previously served as Ward 4 councilman from 2006 to 2013.
Nicholas Brown, representing Ward 5, and Deborah Delgado, of Ward 2, ran unopposed Tuesday.
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