Petal’s new mayor lays out his plan for The Friendly City

Published: Jul. 22, 2021 at 9:17 PM CDT
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PETAL, Miss. (WDAM) - For the first time in 12 years, Petal has a new mayor. Tony Ducker took office three weeks ago. WDAM spent some time one afternoon with the new mayor, talking about the challenges and opportunities for Petal and how he plans to deal with them.

“Some of the issues we’re facing are not unique to Petal,” Ducker said. “Municipalities run into a lot of the issues that we’re having right now.”

Ducker mentions aging infrastructure, rising costs and getting the personnel the city needs to do various jobs as some of the main challenges facing his administration.

“It gets tougher and tougher. The issues aren’t unique to Petal, but we’ve got to be smart about how we handle the next few years,” Ducker said.

One small change reveals his focus on customer service: A “thank you” sign at the end of the driveway as folks leave city hall.

As Petal’s first new chief executive in a dozen years, he says he intends to be upfront and forthright with the public.

“They need to see movement, and you’re going to see me out and about. I think we’re the size town that at some point you’re going to see me on a lawn mower. I’m not scared to get in there and roll my sleeves up,” Ducker said.

Ducker is new to the mayor’s office but not to city hall. He moved over from the Petal Board of Aldermen.

“The advantage of having already been on the board is, I’ve said, you kind of know where the bodies are. You know how the budget functions. You know where some of the strengths and weaknesses are. You know the personnel and key people that we’re going to need to do the job, so that was a huge advantage to be able to come in here with a lot of confidence,” Ducker said.

He also has a business background, and says he plans to take a businesslike approach to dealing with major issues.

“One of the things I’ve been preaching is that whatever we do, let’s don’t do quick fixes. You end up doing quick fixes five times on one issue, and that’s not very quick. That’s not real efficient. So, what we want to do is do things that are sustainable, and that’s everything from our athletics programs, recreational, youth sports, things and opportunities that we have down at the River Park. We want to do things that are sustainable; road paving, ditch digging. Everything should be something that we could extend, get the blueprint for it, and just continue it over and over,” said Ducker.

The new mayor takes charge of a growing city, and he sees even better days ahead.

“The growth in Petal right now is real. We hope it’s sustainable. We’re trying to do stuff from a city standpoint that will encourage more people to come into town, obviously. The school is a huge draw. What they do attracts people to this town. I’ve often said they’re not moving to town because Tony Ducker is mayor now, but it’s to get a quality education, and we’ve got a safe city. We want to see that growth continue. We’ve got a lot of restaurants, a lot of retail activity coming on. We need to do things that will encourage that. I’ve said that Petal has a story to tell, and we need to take that story outside of our town. I likened it to stages in someone’s life, or a church, or a business. I think we’re ready for that next stage, where we go out and present ourselves to South Mississippi and to regional people that are looking for a place that would be great for them to move, a growing population and a city that will work with them.”

Ducker also says it’s important for Petal to cooperate with Hattiesburg, its neighboring city across the river, and Forrest County and come up with projects where they can partner.

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