Wheel of Biloxi government turning deliberately — and anxiously

Biloxi municipal government will be expected to turn on a dime this week, with the City Council choosing a new acting mayor from among themselves Tuesday morning, with several mayoral obligations already waiting for the new chief executive, and behind the scenes work underway on a special election that hasn’t even been called yet.

“We’re carrying on and getting the job done just as Mayor Holloway, the City Council and  the citizens of Biloxi expect us to do,” Chief Administrative Officer David Nichols said. “We’re dealing with the knowns right now – we know what the obligations are for the new acting mayor – we just won’t know who that person is until Tuesday.”

Whomever is named interim mayor on Tuesday will be expected to present the Outstanding Citizen of the Year proclamation Wednesday at a Biloxi Lions Club and then on Thursday provide the welcoming remarks for the annual State of the City presentation, a Biloxi Bay Chamber-sponsored luncheon at the Beau Rivage.

“We already have these issues in the works,” Nichols said. “While we’re working on the Citizen of the Year proclamation, we’ll just have to stop short of the signature line at the bottom, until we find out who the mayor will be.”

The city’s Finance Division is also anxious to handle its own signature line. While Mayor Holloway’s signature stamp has been used while Ward 2 Councilman Felix O. Gines served as acting mayor, Holloway’s resignation will take effect Tuesday, meaning a new signatory will have to be in place immediately to sign payments to vendors and other city obligations. Most city employee paychecks are direct deposit, so a mayor signature is not an issue.

Meantime, Municipal Clerk Stacy Thacker, whose name appears alongside Holloway’s on city checks, has been focusing on preparations for the as-yet-uncalled special election.

Once the date is set, Thacker will announce the qualifying deadline, work with the city’s vendors who handle electronic voting machines, print up ballots and line up poll workers. She’s also considering that a runoff election may need to be held if no candidate receives more than 50 percent of the votes cast.

Municipal polling places will be used – as opposed to county voting precincts – and the city plans to take steps to ensure residents are aware of where they should vote.

“There are a number of considerations that must be addressed on all of the issues we face,” Nichols said. “In some cases, state law or city statute will guide us. On elections, for instance, the council will declare the office vacant on Tuesday, and then they have 10 days to call a special election, and once that election is called, it must be conducted between 30 to 45 days.

“What the staff is looking to do is make sure we do the things we’re supposed to in the time allotted to do them,” Nichols said. “We also want to make sure that we take the appropriate amount of time so that everyone knows what is happening and when it is happening. We want this to be a transparent process.”

Acting Mayor Gines, who has served as acting mayor since Mayor Holloway appointed him Jan. 29, sat in on what may be his last director’s meeting this morning.

“I want to say that it has been an honor and privilege to work for you during this time,” Gines told directors and key city staffers. “I want to thank all of you for everything that you have done.”
See the agenda and supporting documents
See the statute on vacancies
See the statute on special elections