Voters in Bay St. Louis will head back to the polls next Tuesday for the 2021 municipal primary elections.

It’s election season in Diamondhead, as well, but there will be no primary since only one race is being contested — the at-large councilman position -- with one Democratic candidate, Jim Hightower, and one Republican candidate, Gerard Maher. Hightower and Maher will face each other in the general election.

Diamondhead Mayor Nancy Depreo, Ward 1 Councilman Shane Finley, Ward 2 Councilman Alan Moran, Ward 3 candidate Richard "Ricky" Sheppard Jr. and Ward 4 Councilman Charles "Chuck" Clark, all Republicans, are running unopposed.

Bay St. Louis Mayor Michael Favre, Republican, is also running unopposed in both the primary and general elections, and will automatically retain his position.

In the Bay St. Louis City Council races, only Ward 3 incumbent Councilman Jeffrey Reed, a Democrat, and Ward 6 Councilman Josh DeSalvo, a Republican, will be unopposed this year.

At-Large Councilman Gary Knoblock will be challenged in the Republican primary by Jerry Felder.

In Ward 1, long-time Councilman Doug Seal will be challenged in the Republican primary by Tisha Murphy.

No Democrats filed for either Ward 1 or the at-large council positions, so the primary winners will win their respective races.

Ward 2 Councilman Gene Hoffman will be unopposed in the Republican primary, but will square off in the general election against former Ward 2 Councilwoman Wendy McDonald, the only Democrat in the race.

Ward 4 Incumbent Councilman Larry Smith will face challenger Kyle Lewis in the Republican primary. There’s no Democratic candidate, so Tuesday’s primary will decide the race.

Ward 5 Incumbent William B. "Buddy" Zimmerman will square off against Thaddeus Collier in the Republican primary. Again, there’s no Democratic candidate, so Tuesday’s primary will decide the race.

The primary elections for Bay St. Louis are scheduled for April 6, with any necessary runoffs to be held on April 27. The general election for both Bay St. Louis and Diamondhead is scheduled June 8.

The city of Waveland is on a special charter, and will not host municipal elections again until 2022.

Candidate profiles

We asked candidates in each of the contested Bay St. Louis races to respond to the same questions. Not all of the candidates opted to respond, but we have included the ones who did in their entirety. Some of the responses have been edited for punctuation or clarity. We have included the following responses for the print edition. However, go to www.seacoastecho.com for more questions and answers from each candidate.

Councilman-at-Large

Jerry Felder, Republican

1. What is your educational/professional background and how would you apply that to your office on behalf of the people of Bay St. Louis?  

 My name is Jerry Felder and I am a candidate for Councilman At Large for the city of Bay Saint Louis. I was born on the MS Gulf Coast and raised in our remarkable community, having attended St. Clare Elementary School, Saint Stanislaus College, and graduated from Bay High in 1998. I attended Pearl River Community College and completed my degree at the University of Southern Mississippi with a Bachelor of Arts in History. I met my wife in high school and today we share three exceptional children ages 18, 13, and 5.  

 My professional career consists of over 20 years of sales management experience in MS and our surrounding states - listening, understanding and offering solutions to problems – all attributes that would make a great representative of the citizens of the BSL.    

Each city and town have their own unique qualities, but nothing compares to the way of life Bay Saint Louis has to offer. We are the “best kept secret in Mississippi”, and the secret has been out for a while!  

As a longstanding citizen, I will work endlessly to continue making our community "a place apart" and pledge to listen to every voice and concern.  

 2. What neighborhood do you live in and why? Where are your favorite places to spend time in Bay St. Louis? 

 I live in Ward 4 and have so for the last 7+ years.  My wife and family and I love to spend time around Old Town, riding bikes to the duck pond and the gardens, eating snowballs on a hot day and frequenting the local spots for dinner, drinks and excellent entertainment (drinks for the adults, of course ).  We love to go floundering on the right nights,  having friends over for poker night and just getting in the car for a drive.   

 3. What do you think the number one issue Bay St. Louis is facing right now and what would you do to resolve it? 

I believe something needs to be done about the color of the water in our system.  Quality is fine, according to the studies, but the brown water is perceived as bad water.  It isn’t a good thing for those who live here and it also doesn’t make a good impression to those looking to either build a family, vacationing here or spending their retirement years in BSL.  I think the solution is quite simple – which is connect to the HCUA system. Negotiations would need to be had to ensure that prices will either stay the same or lower – but I think it is something that can be done.   

 4. What is the one thing you like the most about life in Bay St. Louis?

I like that we are a tight knit community – that I can go someplace and know someone. I like that fact that my kids get to experience life as I knew it at their age.    

5. If you could change one thing about Bay St. Louis, what would it be? Parking in Old Town.   

I wonder how many more parking spots we could have had if we had slotted parking like you see at WalMart instead of parallel parking spots.    

 6. If you could change one thing about the city’s zoning code, what would it be and why?

I think we need to pinpoint the areas that are incorrectly zoned and correct them accordingly.   

7.  If elected, what three steps would you take to put our city on a firmer financial footing? 

All of our dollars are linked to tourism.   If we have another “Katrina” or another pandemic worse than what we have experienced in 2020, we will struggle financially.   Our eggs need to be placed in other baskets.   I would like to see some more businesses that aren’t service industry related make a new home in the Bay.    

8. If elected, what would you do to involve residents in the decision-making process in Bay St. Louis?

I would be as transparent and available as I can be for residents to voice their concerns.  I believe town halls could be held to get input from those who live here on city projects.  Their voices should be heard more than the 7 men sitting at the big table.    

9. If you received a $1 million grant to use for the city any way you wanted, what would you do with it and why?

I would use it to improve the soccer facilities and secure a place for a youth football field.  Youth sports is where our kids learn teamwork, drive, determination and other life skills.   It would be great to have beautiful facilities for all youth sports.  This in turn would welcome more people to the city – staying, dining and playing – all contributing to the tax base.  It wouldn’t only be an investment in our kids – It would be an investment in our future.   

10. Why are you seeking public office and what do you hope to achieve?  

I look forward to improving the way of life for our current citizens and being an ambassador for the city to those who are considering making the Bay their home.     

Gary Knoblock, Republican, Incumbent

What is your educational/professional background and how would you apply that to your office on behalf of the people of Bay St. Louis?

 • Owner operator of Lightning Quick Signs, LLC., 24 years.

 • Former Investigator Ft. Worth Police Dept., Gang Intelligence Unit, 10 years

 • Attended Our Lady of Holy Cross College 4 years

 • Attended Tarrant County Junior College 2 years

 • Past President of the Rotary Club of Bay St. Louis, 2016-2017/Member for 15 years

 • Founding member of the Boys & Girls Club of Hancock County

 • Hancock County Library Foundation Board Member-3 years

 • Chairman of Bay St. Louis Planning and Zoning Commission-4 years/6 years total service

 • Supporter of hundreds of sporting teams and groups in BSL area for past 24 years totaling in excess of 100K in either financial or in kind support.

 This is one small sampling of the many times I have volunteered for service projects throughout the City Bay St. Louis and Hancock County.  How does this apply?  It demonstrates that I have given and continue to give my time, money, and services for the betterment of Bay St. Louis. 

What neighborhood do you live in and why? Where are your favorite places to spend time in Bay St. Louis?

I live on the corner of Pecan Park and Old Spanish Trail and have lived there for 20 years.  Before getting Married, I owned a small camp house in Ward 6 where I lived for 6 years.

My favorite place to spend time is and has always been the beaches and water related sports such as fishing, and boating when I have time.  Another favorite, is dining at the one of the  many fine restaurants in Bay St. Louis. 

What do you think the number one issue Bay St. Louis is facing right now and what would you do to resolve it?

Drainage remains one of the major issues facing Bay St. Louis.   Currently all the wards are affected by drainage issues.  Bottom line is the next council will be tasked with working with County Supervisors so that we can team up and solve the major problems.

Basically, all main drains and smaller storm drains need regular cleaning.  But on the same level, the new Police Department needs to be a priority.  So, drainage and a new Police complex are my top two. 

What is the one thing you like the most about life in Bay St. Louis?

I love living in a small town.  Having grown up in New Orleans, and lived in Ft. Worth, Tx., a person quickly realizes that small town charm means quality of life. 

If elected, what three steps would you take to put our city on a firmer financial footing?

First: Money management is critical.  For example, paying cash for a new piece of equipment if the funds are available.  Saving interest and not entering into long term debt saves money.  Remember, interest is not your friend!!  Pay cash when we can but

Second: Play close attention to the value of the mill.  As the value continues to rise, the city collects more in ad-valrum taxes. 

Third: Continue looking for grants so we can fund works projects.  Most grants have matches (usually 20% Match) but this provides the city an avenue to fund large projects with a small match on the city side.  Example is the Easterbrook St. John drainage project due to start this summer.

 If elected, what would you do to involve residents in the decision-making process in Bay St. Louis?

After each council meeting, I post a summary of the meeting highlights on social media-Facebook and Shoofly Magazine.  I read the comments and the citizens tell me what they expect and would like to see.

I will continue to keep the public informed year round. 

Why are you seeking public office and what do you hope to achieve?

I am seeking re-election to continue serving the community.  I have served this community for the last 24 years, donating my time and resources for the betterment of our community.  I have supported countless ball teams, served on many community boards, such as Hancock County Library Foundation, The Rotary Club of Bay St. Louis, The Boys & Girls Club of Hancock County and other endervors.   I love this city and love serving.  Giving back to a community is why I seek re-election. 

Ward 1 Councilman

Tisha Murphy, Republican

1. What is your educational/professional background and how would you apply that to your office on behalf of the people of Bay St. Louis?

As a coordinator for Cardiovascular-Thoracic surgical services and a certified surgical First Assistant, I am an advocate for my patients-assuming a leadership role, the same role as a councilman representing the city of BSL. Having made difficult decisions that affect my patients' outcome, I would assume the same procedure as caring for the residents of BSL. Moreover, as Surgical Heart Coordinator, my experience with purchasing and budgeting will impart the particulars needed for the city of BSL.

2. What neighborhood do you live in and why? Where are your favorite places to spend time in Bay St. Louis?

Living in Cedar Point near the water, my family enjoys walking/jogging, fishing, boating, riding the golf cart, and of course shopping and dining in downtown Main Street of BSL.

3. What do you think the number one issue Bay St. Louis is facing right now and what would you do to resolve it?

BSL has a few major issues that need to be addressed. One of the major issues is our water. Water is a necessity, not a luxury. I would work alongside the BSL utilities department and Hancock County Utilities Authority to reach an agreement to purchase water from the HCUA. Secondly, BSL is currently working on a few drainage projects at the moment. However, we still need to focus on fixing the drainage infrastructure. The way we can do so is with applying for grants. Grants will aid by helping fund these big expenses. 

4. What is the one thing you like the most about life in Bay St. Louis?

BSL is a way of life. This city is like no other. Its vibrant residents and melting pot of culture has created an atmosphere like no other! Here in BSL we have the ability to do recreational activities, to front-porch sitting, to getting dressed up to eat lunch or dinner and meet friends to have a night out on the town. Food, Art, Fishing, shopping, riding golf carts, dining out, relaxing on the beach and enjoying sunsets are amongst the few things that set BSL apart!!!  The love of its residents in this wonderful city also makes Bay St. Louis what it is.

5. If you could change one thing about Bay St. Louis, what would it be?

The only thing I would change would be to have cleaner, fresher, good tasting water for the entire city.  Most of the BSL water wells are well over 50 years old. The city is "well overdue"  to receive good water.  For obvious reasons, our local grocery store sells cases of water for less than $2 a case because nobody wants to drink water that looks like sewage. The reason for this is due to the fact, supply and demand, there is a great need! However, I do understand that certain agreements must to be made with the cost to purchase water from the HCUA and a water extension supply source so that all of BSL can receive better water. 

6. If you could change one thing about the city’s zoning code, what would it be and why?

Bay St Louis zoning needs to be reconfigured in some ways. Several areas in the city have residential (R1) zones near residential (R2 & R3) zones. This puts single family homes in threat to having large apartment complexes and duplexes build next to them. As a resident, I know the importance of having single residential homes not mixed with multi residential units helps the value of the single family homes. I want to preserve the value of single family homes in Bay St. Louis.   

7. If elected, what three steps would you take to put our city on a firmer financial footing?

I would stablize the cost of our city’s utility services such as water, gas and sewer. As an example, making sure that the water we purchase is affordable and sustainable. I would seek to promote the growth of businesses by working with my fellow councilmen to be more business-friendly. Business revenue to the city is a valuable tax asset. I would try to maintain the preservation of our city so that people from out of town will keep buying and building homes. More residents will increase our profit in tax collection. Which in return will allow us to put those funds to other needed uses for the city. 

8. If elected, what would you do to involve residents in the decision-making process in Bay St. Louis?

It is very important as a leader to listen to the citizens of BSL. First, I would be accessible 24 hours for concerns in Ward 1.  Involving the residents in decision-making will create a true democracy. Social Media can play a vital role with getting information transmitted.  For example, If the city were to have a workshop for a potential project, we could advertise through BSL website, neighborhood app,  Instagram, Face Book and Twitter about the workshop.  This will give residents the opportunity to give their input on matters. This will give the citizens awareness on such city matters and make the youth of our city more involved as well. Our younger generation needs to start becoming more involved with attending city council meetings. The residents’ voices will help me with my decision-making on the council.  

9. If you received a $1 million grant to use for the city any way you wanted, what would you do with it and why?

Better water for our city. I would utilize these funds for the water extension pipe that is needed to expand the water supply to BSL. At the moment if the council were to vote on purchasing water from the HCUA, we would only be able to supply about 30 percent of the residents. So on that matter, the city would need a water extension pipe line that would span from Waveland to BSL. However, in reality I do intend on applying for such a grant to aid in the rejuvenation of better water.  

I would roll the grant money into aiding the rebuild of the Police Dept. and their needed equipment.  We as a community must preserve our safe community and our way of life.  Our police officers work tireless hours for our safety. I'm sure our officers would like the most current gear and equipment to instill their safety as well. I back the blue!  

10. Why are you seeking public office and what do you hope to achieve?

I seek to be a councilman to try and make a difference for our community by working hard for the people of the Bay! I have the city and my constituents’ interest and concerns at heart and not my own agenda.  I'm passionate about becoming a councilman because I want to be the advocate for Ward 1 and the Bay as a whole.  This is why I have been so compassionate about our current water situation. I would like to foster more pride into our community.  Bay St. Louis deserves a fresh start!

Doug Seal, incumbent, Republican

1. What is your educational/professional background and how would you apply that to your office on behalf of the people of Bay St. Louis?

I have proudly served in the United States Navy where I received my training on electronics. Once honorably discharged, I used my training to begin working in the electronics field. I started working at my current location in April 1993, and have since become the Operations Coordinator for one of the two plant operations. My daily task include ensuring the plant has enough operational staff, as well as ensuring the plant equipment is functioning as needed. When issues arise, I am called on to get the correct resources needed to get the plant back into operation. I also do technical research to help solve reoccurring issues. As your City Councilman, I take this same approach to dealing with city issues, I am always prepared, have attention to detail and use my research on each issue brought forward. I bring this detailed knowledge to the Council so we can make an informed and correct decision.

2. What neighborhood do you live in and why? Where are your favorite places to spend time in Bay St. Louis?

I live in Hancock Heights off of Felicity Street. My family and I have lived there for the past 25 years. We live on a cul-de-sac which has afforded my kids and grandkids the ability to have fun. Some of my best memories are at the Julia Street Park and the small beaches at Dunbar pier. My grandson and I will ride bikes to each and just enjoy our time together.

3. What do you think is the number one issue Bay St. Louis is facing right now and what would you do to resolve it?

The number one issue facing the city as a whole would be drainage; these issues were made worse in Ward 1 because of Hurricane Zeta. There were some culverts damaged as well as a large amount of debris blown into the ditches or left because of the cleanup. The city Public Works department cannot handle this type of overwhelming need to clean these ditches in a timely manner. The city has also seen a tremendous growth in new housing which has also affected the drainage issues. I would propose we look for outside help in resolving the worst areas with contract help, this will allow the issue to be completed quicker before we head into hurricane season.

4. What is the one thing you like the most about life in Bay St. Louis?

We have a great community that really works together. We can always count on our neighbors when things get tough. As your city councilman, we have been through quite a few obstacles, particularly during the pandemic period, but as a community, we have together endured because of our support and compassion for each other.

5. If you could change one thing about Bay St. Louis, what would it be?

Our downtown area is limited in its growth potential. There is only so much commercial property available to expand business in this area. We need to focus on developing our Highway 90 corridor to expand business in the City. People often ask, “why can’t we get a XYZ franchise to come to Bay St Louis?” We have a great city but unfortunately, the big businesses look at traffic patterns and traffic count studies before they will commit to put in a store. We need to prioritize our efforts, thoughtfully plan how we can expand commercial investment in our community, in a way, however that maintains the character of the city we love. We need to have a focus on reaching out to the small franchises to show them what we have to offer and get them to come visit. Once people come to Bay St Louis, they want to come back.

6. If you could change one thing about the city’s zoning code, what would it be and why?

Update the Variance section of the Zoning Ordinance. According to the present application, one must satisfy eight items to qualify for a Variance. Sometimes, however some of the items are not applicable. We need to update this section in order to be more in line with today’s issues, as well as continue to protect property owner’s rights.

7. If elected, what three steps would you take to put our city on a firmer financial footing?

In 20 plus years, the city has never been more financially stable as it is today. You have to look back over the past 20 years to see we have just been keeping our head above the water with finances. It took a long time after Hurricane Katrina to rebuild our city to include businesses and homes. Each of these contribute to the cities financial wellbeing through sales tax and property tax. We were hit with the recession in 2008, the BP Oil spill in 2010 and now COVID. We have persevered through these events and now have a thriving economy and housing market. With this strong economy, the city has been able for the first time to have a Municipal Reserve fund to pay for unexpected cost. The city had approximately 2.5 million dollars of Hurricane Zeta cleanup we were able to pay from the city’s reserves until we get FEMA reimbursements. As your city councilman, I have helped the city be a good steward of your money.

8. If elected, what would you do to involve residents in the decision-making process in Bay St. Louis?

Today I reach out to individuals to discuss issues, which come up from time to time to get their perspective. I take pride in being responsive to my constituents and all citizens. I know more dialogue with citizens can give me more perspective and allow me to make appropriate decisions for all. When a Planning and Zoning request is submitted in Ward 1, I will look at the application, understand what the rules are and then go to the area to discuss with the affected neighbors the nature of the request. I want to know how they perceive and feel about the request, and I help talk through these items with them as is appropriate. I use this information to determine how to best respond and if possible work out a solution that is in the best interest of our area.

9. If you received a $1 million grant to use for the city any way you wanted, what would you do with it and why?

When the city has additional revenue we look at our current and future needs, its best to utilize this revenue by applying for grants that are 100 percent or have some matching funds required. This $1 million can be leveraged to grow into $5 million on a 20 percent match grant. The city will always have needs, and each day the administration must balance the needs and the wants of the city. As stewards of your money, I can say we have done a great job of managing this delicate balance. This year alone, the city will spend $1.36 million dollars in Ward 1 on improvements, from sewer line upgrades to sidewalks and paving. As you can see when we have additional revenue, we put that money to work wisely and effectively.

10. Why are you seeking public office and what do you hope to achieve?

I first chose to seek public office when my children were young so I could help shape the future of our great city. I have told people it has been a privilege and honor to serve on the city council for over 20 years. I think I have been on a great team that helped guide and direct the city on its current path and success. Great things do not happen by luck; it took countless hours of research, hard work and dedication, listening to the citizens and understanding the issues. I brought that to my community over the last 20 years, have made this place into the great place it is today, and I hope that I can continue these efforts for the city I love. I am proud of my record and proud to serve the residents of Ward 1. Thank you for allowing me to serve you and GOD Bless!

Ward 2

Gene Hoffman, Republican

1.) Juris Doctorate from LSU Law School (1998). General Practice Attorney and Title Attorney 23+ years, Licensed in MS, LA and NY(Inactive). Business Owner/Entrepreneur local to Bay St Louis and the MS Gulf Coast.

I would use this experience on the Council, as I have for the past 4 years, to keep our City Budget balanced and building our reserve fund. While in turn fostering City policies that allow for smart development and value added growth to our Old Town area and our City as a whole.

2.) I live in Old Town just a few blocks from Main Street and one block from the Beach. I enjoy many aspects of life here in the Bay. I enjoy the people and the food most here in town. My favorite place to spend time is with friends throughout the town, whether at a local restaurant, a friend's house, or at my house. I also enjoy our beautiful Harbor and Beach views as often as I can.

3.) I believe the number one issue facing our City right now is our ability to establish and control intelligent growth. Old Town itself has expanded its population and housing over the past few years, and the rest of the City is growing as well. I want to be sure this increase in City revenue through ad valorem and sales taxes are put to proper use and to foster projects, such as the Paving Bond, the expansion of the Harbor, the revitalization of the Depot Grounds and plans to build a Public Safety Complex for our Police Officers and Court Personnel, as well as other projects which will continue to help the City add value and expand its amenities for our citizens.

4.) The People!

5.) I would like to expand our City Parks and Recreation facilities, to add many much needed amenities. To keep them well maintained and clear of litter and clutter. Our Children, Citizens and Businesses deserve the best.

6.) I would like to identify areas of the City that are currently taken out of the merchantable title market, because the zoning of that property is no longer a use that this City needs. I would like to have a plan in place to rezone the larger areas of land to allow for a marketable use and return those properties back into commerce and adding value to our ad valorem tax base.

7.) I believe the City is currently on the firmest financial footing it has been on for over a decade. Changes we have made over the past 4 years has allowed our City's continued residential and commercial growth allowing us to operate with a balanced budget, a surplus to grow our reserve fund and infrastructure repairs and additions which add value to our citizens' quality of life and add to our continued excellent financial footing.

8.) As the current City Council Representative of Ward 2, I have made myself as accessible to our citizens as possible. My cell number is 228-323-3330, my email is ghoffman@baystlouis-ms.gov and we have a place on the City website where a citizen can file a request for action. I also encourage all to come to our council meetings and workshops. I have held town hall meetings to discuss specific items or policies, and always welcome our citizens' input.

9.) If I received a $1 million grant, I would first hold a series of workshop/town hall meetings to receive the citizens' input on their needs and wants. I believe we are currently addressing many of the needs of the citizens of my Ward. So we move into what the people want. I have many ideas, and one specifically I would like to see develop, would be an expansion of our city amenities available for use by our public. I would like to see a Tennis Court complex in Old Town with at least 4 courts open to the public, and available to our children and adults alike for lessons and exercise. I would also like to use a portion of that money to place at least 2 sand beach volleyball courts on the beach area next to the Harbor.

10.) I sought public office 4 years ago because I believed I can make a difference and bring marked improvements to the citizens of Ward 2 and the City as a whole. I know we have achieved a fully funded balanced budget that has allowed us to flourish and to bring onboard many badly needed repair, maintenance and growth projects for our City and its infrastructure. This inturn has allowed us to achieve a better quality of life for our citizens. That is my sole goal, to improve on the perfection that is Our Town, Bay St Louis, "A Place Apart.”

Wendy McDonald, Democrat

1. What is your educational/professional background and how would you apply that to your office on behalf of the people of Bay St. Louis?

I hold a Ph.D. in Higher Education Administration, a master’s degree in Vocational/Technical Education, and a bachelor’s degree in Business Administration. After a transfer to Houston, I continued teaching Marketing at the high school and then at the community college level. I also served as the Director of Marketing and as the founding Dean of Fine Arts and Technical Programs at a community college in Northwest Houston. Those amazing opportunities provided me with a much deeper insight to the world of artistic and technical professionals. That job was a lot like living and working in Bay St. Louis, a charming artsy town 15 miles from Stennis Space Center.

I came home after Katrina and volunteered in many capacities, attending the daily EOC meetings with FEMA, EPA, the Corps of Engineers and whoever else was in the room for months. I am still friends with people I met with during that time. I spent most of my time those many months working with families to get on the list for a FEMA trailer, hosting town hall meetings all over the county to bring the experts with the information to the people near where they lived. Everyone was so busy, and all the street signs were gone so I would tour the media that showed up to film disaster areas, interview locals, and tell our story to the world. I attended meetings that no one had time or staff free to attend and related useful information back to elected officials.

That is how I ended up opening the Habitat for Humanity Bay Waveland Area affiliate. I served as Executive Director for 10 years assisting families in the recovery. We built or repaired hundreds of homes and raised millions of dollars through grants. We hosted 1000’s of volunteers and hired contractors, plumbers and electricians and won many awards for our Green Building construction standards.

I served Ward 2 for 8 years on the Bay St Louis City Council from 2009-2017. During my time on the council, I served as Council President several times and as the City Council liaison with the engineers and architects for the harbor. I earned the Certified Municipal Officials designation by completing the 75 plus hours of Basic, Advanced and Professional course work offered by the Mississippi Municipal League.

All these jobs provided me experience and success in the areas of grant development, education in economic development, disaster response and recovery, construction management, design, and building and managing million-dollar budgets.

2. What neighborhood do you live in and why? Where are your favorite places to spend time in Bay St. Louis?

I live in the historic district of Bay St. Louis, in Ward 2 because it is so close to the beach and I like the protection my home is provided because of the historic district restrictions. I love living in Ward 2 because it is walkable, golf cart friendly, and we have easy access to shops, restaurants, and events.

3. What do you think the number one issue Bay St. Louis is facing right now and what would you do to resolve it?

Our city’s Comprehensive plan is 12 years old and was conducted 3 years after Katrina. It is recommended that Comprehensive Plans be reviewed and revised every 5 years. We are past that and it is time to look at it and make necessary revisions. Since zoning ordinances are based upon the comprehensive plan it is imperative that the revisions to the zoning ordinance are timed to follow the revisions to the comprehensive plan.

4. What is the one thing you like the most about life in Bay St. Louis?

Our people are our greatest asset. I love living in a friendly small town that appreciates the beauty and charm we can offer to our locals and visitors. It is a great place to grow up and equally a great place to work or retire.

5. If you could change one thing about Bay St. Louis, what would it be?

Honestly, I would get rid of the gnats if I could find a cure. But since we have all been trying for generations, I just buy a lot of gnat spray and do not work in the yard at 4 pm this time of year.

There is not much I would want to change but it would be nice to have quieter train crossings in some

Wardareas even though I love the sound of a train whistle in the distance. I always wished for a prettier beach water, but I will stay like everyone else regardless.

6. If you could change one thing about the city’s zoning code, what would it be and why?

I think overall the code is rather good, but it should be reviewed every 5 years after the Comprehensive Plan is reviewed and updated. It is critical that our code is current with the changing laws, building codes and FEMA standards. It is a painful process but important.

What I hear most often is that we need to enforce the code we have fairly and consistently every time. If it is a code that needs revision, then address the code and make the revisions. Until then follow the rules.

7. If elected, what three steps would you take to put our city on a firmer financial footing?

We currently have a $9.6 million dollar budget, for a small town we are very blessed.

During COVID our revenues from the casino and sale tax were not wiped out and remained fairly stable although somewhat lower. That is not bad considering the events of the past year.

In looking at the current city budget I was pleased to see that we are paying all of our city workers above the minimum wage, we pay our police and fire department and public works employees fairly but maybe not as high as some cities along the coast, but we are operating within our means. We also provide health insurance and participate in Mississippi Public Retirement program for employees.

We have been successful for many years in applying for and receiving grants that allow us to purchase new equipment, expand the harbor, bring our depot back to standards needed to handle passenger trains and much more.

I researched best practices for assessing a city’s financial health, and these are among industry standards we can easily implement.

https://opengov.com/article/how-i-kept-my-city-afloat-with-fiscal-health-indicators

• Set internal benchmarks to monitor our financial condition to be sure we can meet the demand for city services with the financial resources we have available. It will require regular monitoring of fiscal benchmarks we set forth to be useful.

• Create a graphic spanning a ten year period to identify trends, growth opportunities and recommend improvements.

• Formally and frequently communicate the results of this effort to our community.

8. If elected, what would you do to involve residents in the decision-making process in Bay St. Louis?

1. Hold town hall meetings to provide updates, answer questions and converse with each other.

2. Launch a social media vehicle for the citizens of BSL to express their opinions on various issues coming before the council.

3.  Promptly after each council meeting, post actions taken by the council and the minutes of each meeting.

9. If you received a $1 million grant to use for the city any way you wanted, what would you do with it and why?

Depending on the needs of the city at the time, I would work with the mayor and fellow council members to determine if there is a critical issue that the city must address immediately. If there was not a health or safety issue at the time, then I would support the following:   

• Approve the hiring of an expert to help us review and revise our Comprehensive Plan. The current one was completed in 2008. We all need to take a fresh look and create a revised master plan for the next 5 years. We want to protect what collectively we like and work to design a path for future growth that is well thought out and created in partnership with the citizens of all wards.

• Immediately I would confer with the police chief to discuss the purchase of moveable solar LED radar “Your Speed” signs to help reduce the incidents of speeding on busy residential streets and help the police keep an eye on problem areas as they crop up.

• I would allocate funds to permanently fix the acoustics problem at the community hall and fix the audio-visual problem in the city council chambers so that meetings can be successfully viewed live. Two cameras are needed for the public to see the council members and the guests speaking. Improvements to the audio quality will provide a better experience for everyone.

• I would support the development of a sustainable beautification program to keep our entire city clean and attractive because we are proud of our city and it is good for business. Tourists like to visit pretty towns and they spend money here. People also like to live in clean communities. The local tax savings to the citizens of Bay St. Louis is about $1600 a year because tourists spend enough money here that we do not have to increase taxes to come up with enough funds to cover the cost of the essential services our city provides.

• I would do a study on our downtown parking to determine if the use of metered parking makes good sense for businesses and customers. That study would help us determine the financial benefits vs the cost to enforce violations.

10. Why are you seeking public office and what do you hope to achieve?

I am seeking public office to serve the citizens of my ward and my city. I will arrive healthy, qualified with vast experience in budgeting, rebuilding from a disaster, grants, construction, and design. I have the time and energy to work just as hard for Ward 2 as I have done in the past. I come fully recovered from my injuries 4 years ago and full of ideas.

• I will work with the mayor other council members to make good decisions for the entire city. I will search for opportunities and ideas that will enhance our community.

• • Specifically, in Ward 2 I will work with businesses, residents, artists, and musicians to keep our small-town charm but boost the economy for everyone.

• • I will work with the architects, engineers, and design teams like I did with the Municipal Harbor contractors to ensure a quality project that meets the intention of the construction project and delights the users.

• • I will work with interested parties on bringing back the trolley or a similar service to serve the downtown and depot area businesses. Creative solutions are needed to fully utilize the parking garage and address current parking issues.

• My background in Marketing makes me the ideal person to work with tourism to continue to promote the current businesses and the new ones coming online in the Depot area. We will have a whole new audience to attract because we are an Amtrak stop on the daily service between Mobile and New Orleans.

Ward 4

Kyle Lewis, Republican

1. What is your educational/professional background and how would you apply that to your office on behalf of the people of Bay St. Louis?

• Bachelors and master’s degree from The University of Mississippi

• 10 years’ experience of Senior Management in Healthcare

• In my current role as Senior Director at MHG, I am ultimately responsible for over 400 employees and 345 patients.  I balance a multi-millionaire dollar budget and have the background in negotiating contracts and setting policies/procedures.  Our council needs proven professional experience in not only dealing with the logistical side of running a successful division but the ability to have the people skills to ensure proactive engagement with those around them. 

• Board Membership: Co-Chairman of Planning and Zoning, Chairman of the Board for Gulf Coast Mental Health, Board Member of Goodwill Industries of South Mississippi and Board of Governors of Bay-Waveland Yacht Club

2. What neighborhood do you live in and why? Where are your favorite places to spend time in Bay St. Louis?

• I live a few houses off the beach on Ramoneda Street and when the weather is nice you will likely see my children riding their bikes or walking the dog to one of the most beautiful beaches on the coast. Some of my most cherished memories in my life took place at Our Lady of the Gulf (OLG) Church. OLG is one of the most beautiful churches in Mississippi. My wife and I are so very fortunate to have celebrated almost every milestone in our lives at OLG from our graduation from Bay Catholic, Saint Stanislaus and Our Lady Academy to our wedding and all our children’s baptisms and everything in between.

3. What do you think the number one issue Bay St. Louis is facing right now and what would you do to resolve it?

• It is important for our councilman to focus on the needs of their respective ward and prioritize those needs first. Bay Saint Louis is experiencing tremendous growth, but we are seeing an increase in high density developments, specifically in Ward 4. My voting record as Chairman of Planning and Zoning will show that I am not a proponent of high-density developments. We need to promote smart growth that does not impede on the quality of life we have all come to cherish. It is important for your councilman to know and understand their constituent’s concerns and transparently work to ensure that any development is done in a responsible manner that does not negatively impact those in the surrounding area.

4. What is the one thing you like the most about life in Bay St. Louis?

• I am very proud to be a life-long citizen of Bay Saint Louis and to have the opportunity to raise my children so they can have the same tremendous experience. There is a reason that Bay Saint Louis proudly calls itself “A Place Apart.” We are all fortunate to be provided with the many great offerings of a coastal/beach town but what is unique about BSL is the quaint charm and small-town appeal paired with the eclectic art and small business community which is the heartbeat of our downtown. Residents of Bay Saint Louis have a true testament of strength and resilience and the mindset that together as a community we can endure anything.

5. If you could change one thing about Bay St. Louis, what would it be?

• Focus on better opportunities for parks and recreation for our children.  Young families decide where they will raise their family based on two primary decisions, schools and park/recreational opportunities for their children.  I provide a different point of view than many of the councilman solely because of my stage of life in having three small children.  We constantly travel to other cities that have amazing recreational areas and ball fields and Bay Saint Louis is greatly behind the curve.  I know there are opportunities to focus on this initiative without negatively impacting taxpayers.  Pass Christian, Long Beach and Biloxi all have recreational directors and departments to focus on these initiatives, there is no reason BSL cannot provide a similar framework for our children, but it will take persistence and vision.

6. If you could change one thing about the city’s zoning code, what would it be and why?

• Our city’s comprehensive plan is from 2009, we need to prioritize updating this plan. Bay Saint Louis has changed significantly since that time and we need leaders who have the vision and foresight in how we best position our community for years to come. We need to build upon the past success while encouraging strategic growth to preserve the quality of life we all enjoy. Included in this plan needs to be strong consideration of updating many of our zoning ordinances that best protect the rights of our homeowners. The importance of updating the comprehensive plan allows the city leaders to set the foundation on the best planned vision and approach to preserve our valued assets while providing a roadmap for our Planning and Zoning Commission to follow. I believe we need to tighten the ropes on what variances are allowed and follow the guidance in defining what constitutes a true hardship to meet the criteria for a variance.

7. If elected, what three steps would you take to put our city on a firmer financial footing?

• Bay Saint Louis relies on its revenue stream from three main sources which include gaming tax, property and sales tax. As the past year has illustrated, these relied upon revenue sources can come to a halt if our city leaders do not make difficult decisions in balancing what is best to protect our quality of life while sustaining our local businesses. Casino revenue has been steadily declining so the council must plan accordingly in the best efforts to mitigate this loss and re-evaluate milage appropriation to back this loss in revenue.

• We must diligently plan for unforeseen circumstances while continuing to support local businesses. Bay Saint Louis receives 18% of the 7% sales tax collected in our city so we must continue to strategically support our local business which is the heartbeat of our downtown but also look at ways to expand and revitalize areas on the highway 90 corridor to entice new business to invest in our community.

• One of the Council’s main duties is to set the budget. Evaluating the effectiveness and efficiency of city expenditures is of the utmost importance to insure that the public’s needs are being met with needed services while ensuring that the tax payer’s dollars are being spent prudently.

8. If elected, what would you do to involve residents in the decision-making process in Bay St. Louis?

• Communication and transparency are key. It is with humble gratitude that I’ve had the ability over the past couple of months to meet with and speak with many neighbors and gain invaluable insight into their needs. I have the humility to admit that I may not have all of the answers but what I will guarantee is that I will research and consult with individuals that are experts in a subject matter to best formulate and educate myself to make a decision that is in the best interest of the constituents that I hope to represent. The council is not the only solution to solve problems, citizen input is invaluable and often times cultivates practical and logical solutions.

9. If you received a $1 million grant to use for the city any way you wanted, what would you do with it and why?

• I would recommend a parks and recreation committee that would collaborate their focus on investing in the needs of our youth. Not only necessary upgrades to ball fields or courts but also investments in other recreational activities such as arts, parks and music that provide our children an outlet to get involved. This would not only be an investment in our youth but an increased focus in these areas would draw young families to our area. Additionally, necessary upgrades to our ball parks would allow the city to host tournaments which in turn brings people to eat and sleep in town!

10. Why are you seeking public office and what do you hope to achieve?

• For those that may not be aware, I ran four years ago and lost by one vote. It was a very humbling experience, but I am a firm believer that God always has a plan and it was Him telling me it was not my time. Over the past four years I have tried to best verse myself for this opportunity by joining various boards in hopes to better represent my constituents. Holding any type of elected office takes a selfless mindset and a true understanding that you are a public servant to your constituents. I look forward in utilizing my professional experience and selflessly applying this knowledge for the betterment of Ward 4 and Bay Saint Louis.

Larry J. Smith Jr., Republican, Incumbent

1. What is your educational/professional background and how would you apply that to your office on behalf of the people of Bay St. Louis?

I am Larry Smith, Bay St. Louis Ward 4 Councilman, and I am running for a second term.  I have lived in Bay St. Louis for my entire life.  My family owned and operated Lusich's Department Store, which was in the depot district. My professional career is in Computer Technology and Psychology. I am presently semi-retired. Service to our country and community has been a guiding principle throughout my life. I worked as co-commander of the Police Reserve for 6 years and was clerk of court for 2 years under Eddie Favre's administration. I have my Master's in Psychology and am a National Board-Certified Counselor, which helps me to grasp the concerns of my fellow citizens and empathize with their position. My experience with law enforcement and clerking help give me insight to the inner workings of the city and how to get things done.  My major goal in my first term as Councilman, and to continue for the next four years, is to better Ward 4 by obtaining jobs not dependent on the tourist industry, and to help encourage businesses to move to our city to better the quality of life and expendable income for our citizens. We have the most welcoming environment here and are continually praised by national publications and magazines. I want to help maintain the tenor of our community so more people will come and spend time with their families here.

2. What neighborhood do you live in and why? Where are your favorite places to spend time in Bay St. Louis?

I love the neighborhood on the Old Spanish Trail. Short of traffic, it is quiet for the most part and the neighbors are friendly and helpful to each other. There are beautiful homes being built across the street from me in Shieldsborough Subdivision. The homes that have already been built in the first phase of this subdivision are mostly retirees. This lends to a close-knit micro-community, who remain constantly aware and protective of each other. Bay St. Louis is well known for its “second homes”, which considerably contributes to the non-homestead exemption tax base. I love to spend time in Old Town. Doesn't everyone? The dining, the entertainment, and the mix of people is always exciting, not to mention the unbelievable local cuisine! We have tripled our volume of people visiting from NOLA with the pandemic. It oftentimes reminds me of being in the Florida Keys. The people are attracted to our lifestyle and love the environment here.  Our shops and restaurants are seeing a resurgence in business and everyone seems pleased. Of course, for peace of mind time, I always enjoy a pleasant slow walk on the beach for decompression. 

3. What do you think the number one issue Bay St. Louis is facing right now and what would you do to resolve it?

We are suffering from a parking crunch - again! This is an annoyance for those attempting to park, but it is a great economic problem to have. People are always complaining about finding a space. With the opening of the Pearl, this has exacerbated the long-standing issue. 

Now, how to resolve? The hotel has plans to remove 119 Main and place it adjacent to where it stands now. That entire area will become parking along with a connection to State Street, where land has also been obtained for parking. I would like to point out the land adjacent to the city parking lot and the side of LuLu's, which will also become parking for the hotel.

Having said that, I have also considered a plan purposed by another councilman to place parking meters along Old Town. This due to the fact several employees of the restaurant industry take prime parking spots and go into work. The free parking on Court Street has been underutilized, but observations of use this month shows a dramatic increase in occupancy.

4. What is the one thing you like the most about life in Bay St. Louis?

Her generous, loving people! We have been spotlighted and recognized for our unique culture and atmosphere in many national magazines and publications. I believe this is the result of what we are known for best - our welcoming approach to outsiders. That is why after large events like, Crusin the Coast, people come back and buy homes here. They love it!  We often joke that we live in paradise, but in all actuality, we do.

5. If you could change one thing about Bay St. Louis, what would it be?


I would like to alleviate the fear of change. Many people have a deep-rooted fear, when new proposals or ideas are put forth for development and growth, they react rather than embrace. They have a feeling or idea new growth is a bad thing and we will lose our identity. We have heard this argument repeatedly, i.e., The Hollywood Casino, the Municipal Harbor and numerous other projects. When “the casino” was first purposed, this facility was seen as a gateway to crime and corruption. Stories abounded about machine guns on the corners, ladies of the evening taking over the city, etc. It was horrible. Now Hollywood is a great place to visit, gamble and enjoy good food.  The casino is an avid supporter of the Bay and often contributes to public events. The harbor was going to be the bankrupting of Bay St. Louis. People were dead set against it. It would never work, it was rife with failure etc. It is now one of the most successful harbors on the coast! It is so successful in fact; the city has expanded the harbor to include pier 5 and expand the day pier. Our harbor now boasts an 85 percent capacity with a long line of people waiting to get in.  That is not to say that all proposed projects will recognize this type of success, but we must not be afraid to move forward and embrace new ideas.

6. If you could change one thing about the city’s zoning code, what would it be and why?


Our zoning code needs complete revision. We have mixed zones throughout the city, which need to be remedied. I recently went through this ordeal with Sheildsborough II subdivision.  Within this R1 zone was mixed an R2 and R3 zone, which may have put my neighbors at risk of having duplexes and apartments mixed into single family homes. I was horrified at this idea and found it unacceptable. I tried working with the developers to make sure we kept the R1 standard throughout the entire property. There were rumors a third-party foreign investor was looking at placing apartments in the R3 zone! I worked diligently behind the scenes and convinced the current developer not to sell and maintain the R1 throughout the project. After a long-protracted talk, the project finally passed the council 7-0.

7. If elected, what three steps would you take to put our city on a firmer financial footing?

First, I would seek to diversify our stream of income using currently untapped resources we already have. For example, using our harbor for a paddle wheeler boat for sunset tours, fishing excursions and quick short excursions to Cat Island.

Second, we lack amusement for children here. I would seek to expand our soccer fields to accommodate state and district tournaments. Now that we have a hearty hotel in the downtown, we would be able to house those who would come see their children and grandchildren play in tournaments. We could and should have an amusement parks available just as you cross our bridge, which would draw more families into our area. It would make Bay St. Louis a fun place to visit for a more diverse age group.

Third, I would reapproach our perspective to planning and zoning to accommodate having more areas open to house more R1 residents.

8. If elected, what would you do to involve residents in the decision-making process in Bay St. Louis?

The city council holds workshops and has created commissions for the input of decision making in the projects we have available to us. Our citizens can always visit these workshops or view them online to see the council and its decision-making process. We could create workshops for our citizens to attend with their input, focus groups. We could then come up with revitalization plans and poll the surrounding affected areas.

 9. If you received a $1 million grant to use for the city any way you wanted, what would you do with it and why?

With a million dollar grant I would create ads for TV and internet targeting our city to visitors and tourism. I would promote small downtown tours of historical places in the city with golf carts highlighting St. Rose de Lime, O.L.G, the old city hall, Saint Stanislaus and other key areas in our city.

Bay St. Louis seems to be on the short end of tourism dollars being spent. For this reason, I would give more money to our local tourism here within our city for better exposure and have more tourism dollars spent here rather than abroad.

​​10. Why are you seeking public office and what do you hope to achieve?

My re-election will be an affirmation to me of the tireless number of hours it takes to do this job. No one should ever think a councilman's job is part time. If it is to be done correctly and efficiently, it is far from part time. During the hurricane Zeta I remember spending over 8 hours one day going over paperwork in choosing mediators and then almost twice as long choosing the company to do the cleanup work. The public has no idea of the number of hours it takes to accomplish this job. Working closely with other council, setting up meetings with property owners, making suggestions on different projects, acting as mediator for neighbors, answering the phone at 6 am and 11pm. It can get crazy. But I love it and our people. That is why I do the job I do. 

I would hope to achieve stability and continuity of services throughout my ward and the rest of the city. Proper open lines of communication allow for a diverse solution to many problems we face as a city.

Neither incumbent Ward 5 Councilman Buddy Zimmerman nor challenger Thaddeus Collier, both Republicans, submitted responses.

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