Starkville's current mayor, Lynn Spruill, is running unopposed in the 2021 Starkville municipal election.
While there seemed to be some waves of opposition to the mayor around town, as evidenced by a billboard that featured a popular meme of a mitten-clad Bernie Sanders with the words, "Waiting on a new mayor in Starkville," no one had filed papers to run in the election by the Friday deadline. After confirmation that she was running unopposed, Spruill tweeted, "Bernie will have to wait" with a picture of a billboard that said, "Waiting on Mayor Lynn Spruill's second term to begin."
While blue and yellow yard signs still grace the yards of many houses around town, Spruill said the absence of an opposing mayoral candidate will allow her to focus more time and energy on continuing to do the work of the office.
"Any day you're in office is campaign day, and I say that because you're doing the things you promised you would do. It's not just about campaigning in that time frame; it's about performing and doing what you said you were going to do as an elected leader," Spruill said.
Spruill, Starkville's first-ever female mayor, was elected in 2017 after former mayor Parker Wiseman decided not to run for reelection.
Under her term, Starkville has seen various changes and improvements.
Spruill said one of her proudest accomplishments is getting the bond resolution for Cornerstone Park, a 100-acre sports recreation facility off of Highway 182. According to the Starkville Dispatch, Starkville added 1% to their already existing 2% restaurant and hotel tax to pay for Cornerstone Park and improvements at other parks.
Spruill also mentioned a 12.66-million-dollar BUILD grant for the revitalization of Highway 182 from Long Street to Old West Point Road, the beautification of the city with murals and lights, a new sustainable wastewater treatment facility and a 2.3 mile annexation of Clayton Village as projects she has worked on while in office.
"One thing that I really support is her annexation of Clayton Village. I think that subjecting that to Starkville laws and taxes will be overall beneficial to the community," said Brady Kruse, a senior computer science major at Mississippi State University.
Kruse, originally from Missouri, said he first got involved in local politics when he moved off campus his sophomore year.
One of Spruill's most notable features as a local leader is her proficiency in connecting with her constituents via social media, specifically Twitter. Starkville residents can tweet a question or concern at the mayor and receive a reply within minutes.
"Her approach to technology is to me what technology should be … the fact that she can get on Twitter and talk to her residents and talk to them faithfully and honestly and directly I think is wonderful," Kruse said. "I think her effective use of Twitter should be a model for other local politicians."
Kruse also said Spruill's involvement with MSU really makes a difference in the lives of students.
"I think that the way in which she approaches Mississippi State's campus and the way in which she gets involved with student activities shows a real devotion to the university population. As someone coming from four states and 500 miles away, that was really friendly and very welcoming and very home-like," Kruse said.
Jonathan Bailey, a senior political science major and president of the College Republicans' group on campus, said, while he and Spruill disagree on a few policy issues, he thinks she does an excellent job of connecting with her constituents.
"I definitely think she does a really good job of being present, being accessible and talking to the people she's representing, which is really important to have in local government," Bailey said.
While Spruill is technically running as a Democrat, she said political party should hardly factor into local government.
"I mean potholes and water leaks and trash pickup is not geared to partisanship. I was a mayor in the state of Texas and local elections like that are nonpartisan — you don't pick a party — and I think we would all be better served if we were not to do that. But that's not the hand I've been dealt," Spruill said.
Bailey agreed, saying there is no Republican or Democratic way to pave a pothole but that political ideology does factor into a few areas on the local level, such as fiscal policy.
"I think she's been a little bit quicker to spend and raise tax revenue than I would've been. There's kind of a balancing act if you're trying to grow a community like Starkville in that obviously bringing in new amenities and bigger and better things but also not taking too much out of what you already have," Bailey said.
Spruill said the biggest challenge of her first term has most definitely been the unforeseen crisis of the pandemic. One of the decisions as mayor that she has gotten the most pushback for is her mask mandate for the city of Starkville, as it was criticized to be taking away people's freedoms. However, Bailey had a different view.
"As a small-government conservative, I would much rather see a local government like Starkville being responsible for cracking down on mask wearing rather than the state or especially the federal government," Bailey said.
Spruill said her goals going into her next term are to continue and complete the projects she has started. She also mentioned her goals of having the jail moved out of downtown and working with Rails-to-Trails to create a new hiking trail.
While local officials in Mississippi do not have term limits, Spruill said she believes in term limits and that her second term will be her last.
The Starkville primary election will be held on the first Tuesday in May, the run-off the third Tuesday in May and the general election on June 1.