Toby Barker sworn in as 35th mayor of Hattiesburg

Published: Jun. 23, 2017 at 2:03 PM CDT|Updated: Jun. 29, 2017 at 7:05 PM CDT
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HATTIESBURG, MS (WDAM) - Hundreds of people gathered in downtown Hattiesburg for the inauguration ceremony of the newest leaders of city government in the Hub City.

Toby Barker was sworn in as the 35th Mayor of Hattiesburg, and two new members of the city council were sworn in as well, Jeffrey George and Nicholas Brown.

"It was a great day for our community to come together and celebrate those that have come before us, but also look toward the future," said Mayor-elect Toby Barker.

Barker, 35, who took his oath holding his 7-month-old daughter, Audra, and wife Kate by his side, said his daughter is his greatest accomplishment and today was his late father's 77th birthday.

"I'm excited about working with the city council and the rest of our city employees, and we will need all of our residents on board as we try to move forward," said Barker.

Ward 1 Councilman, Jeffrey George took the oath, and said today's experience was a meaningful one.

"It's really an exciting feeling, and very humbling that the citizens of Hattiesburg and Ward 1, elected me to represent them," said George. "I think the expectations here are something that I really experienced, when I walked up there, looked out at the crowd…and you just see on the faces that they have very high expectations not only for our mayor and the administration, but also our city council, and so that was something unique to see and experience."

Ward 5 Councilman, Nicholas Brown took the oath as well, and said he wants everyone to come together and build a better Hattiesburg.

"We want the community to be involved, we want to just be in good communication with the community, get their feedback, see what's going on If we don't know what's going on, we can't solve the problem," said Brown.

Barker said he's excited to be working with the new members and the former ones as well.

"Each of them comes from a different ward, represents different neighborhoods, our message throughout the entire campaign was that we wanted every neighborhood to see progress and that can happen," said Barker.

One of his first orders of business will be to build a cabinet, and have it presented to the council for approval.

"The first thing we will do is formally nominate Ann Jones, for Chief Administrative Officer," said Barker. "A chief administrative officer will help us in the day to day… specifically helping me in terms of their knowledge of municipal government, knowing the city employees, being able to interact with them, and setting the example in terms of work ethic."

Jones has served as the Hattiesburg Parks and Recreation Director for the Hub City.

"I think we have a great pick in Ann Jones, she is a loyal employee, anyone that's every worked with her, knows how hard she works and how much she loves the city, and I'm looking forward to working with her going forward," he said.

Barker said he has high-hopes for city employees, and wants them to have a positive impact not only on the city, but everyone who visits the city.

"Our city employees are great people they work very hard, we are going to push them to really think about the power they have, they have the power to help a person have a good day or bad day when they interact with the city, they have the power to shape the opinion of our city, and we want them to use that power for good, and we know they will," said Barker.

Barker will also begin evaluating his department heads, and make decisions on their places in the cabinet he builds.

"We're also going to be looking and evaluating other director's positions, as we promised in our campaign, we're going to get out and listen to the people," said Barker. "We've already started having conversations with directors on some of the financial organizational difficulties we have, that evaluation process will take a while…and developing solutions will also take a while, and so we ask residents to be patient with us… not only as we put our administration together but as we start to tackle some of these challenges."

Barker said with neighborhood town hall meetings and working together and everyone's input, no challenge is too big.

"There are a lot of challenges out there, but I trust in the collective will and creativity of our people," said Barker.

Barker will officially take office on Monday, July 3rd.

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