Mayor Lynn Spruill visited campus Thursday to share her local government journey with students.
College Democrats at Mississippi State University hosted the town hall. President Justin Childs introduced Spruill to the audience of six students.
“Tonight, we’re going to hear about progress beginning locally and how to stay engaged with our community and how important local leaders are,” said Childs, a senior psychology major.
Mayor Spruill said she is a Democrat but pulled out of the local party because city politics should not be either Democratic or Republican.
“It is my belief that potholes and water leaks and things of that nature are not even remotely related to what party you belong to,” Spruill said.
Before Spruill became mayor, the Starkville native and MSU alumna served as an officer in the U.S. Navy and then moved to Addison, Texas.
After a city councilman’s death, Spruill gained his title. Addison’s mayor then died, naming Spruill as its first female mayor.
“It’s just an odd series of events, tragic, in a lot of ways, but you just don’t anticipate some of this,” said Spruill. “But, at the same time, you don’t turn down a challenge.”
Emma Day, a freshman psychology major, said she attended Thursday’s event to meet Mayor Spruill.
“I did not know [Spruill] was in the military,” Day said. “My dad was in the military, so I found that very interesting. I’m glad she served our country.”
Spruill said she never imagined serving her cities’ boards, but her local government involvement started piecing together in Addison, Texas.
She returned to Starkville in the early 2000s after a stint in Atlanta, Georgia.
Dan Camp, a longtime friend of Spruill’s, became mayor in 2005 and named Spruill as Starkville’s chief administrative officer. She held this title for eight years under two mayors.
“The best-laid plans of what you think you are going to do — not necessarily the case,” Spruill said.
After leaving City Hall, Spruill wrote for the Starkville Dispatch for four years. She had a weekly column that reported town oddities, board meetings and community events.
“It was a very introspective opportunity because I had to find topics to write about,” Spruill said.
In 2017, Spruill put her name on the mayoral ballot and won the title by six votes.
“And that’s a pretty strong statement as to who your community is,” said Spruill, Starkville's first female mayor.
However, she ran unopposed in 2021 for her second term.
“So, those folks who are Republican, those folks that are Democrat were relatively satisfied, I would say, from that, or else they just decided … it wasn’t a job worth having,” Spruill said.
She mentioned the intensity that local politics tend to encapsulate, saying she dislikes that environment and prefers completing projects that impact residents.
“From my perspective,” Spruill said, “government is where it’s at, and politics is kind of about how you get there.”
Although she believes in term limits for herself, Spruill said she might consider running for reelection because the COVID-19 pandemic stalled her plans for two years.
“I really don’t think you [need to] get to that point where you’re the end-all, be-all,” Spruill said, referencing mayors who serve for decades.
In 2017, Spruill attended Bulldog Bash on Main Street. As she walked through the crowd of thousands, she heard some MSU students say they had never visited downtown. Those overheard conversations sparked the idea for the current Main Street makeover.
As mayor, Spruill said she focuses on big-picture projects and appreciates the aldermen's visualization of her plans for the city. Spruill mentioned Cornerstone Park as her favorite mayoral project for its economic development and friendly environment.
Spruill said she wants foster engagement with young people and encourage them to attend MSU after spending their youth playing sports in Starkville’s parks.
“If you were to leave here [Starkville] … then I want you to think this is where you spent a good bit of time,” Spruill said. “It was a wonderful place to be and it’s a place you want to come back to."
Spruill mentioned controversies the city has faced recently and said local involvement should rise above disagreements.
“It’s not hard to be a part of a community … and you can still be yourself and still be part of a community without disrupting things and turning things upside down,” Spruill said.
Spruill said the Starkville, Oktibbeha County and MSU partnership is strongest when the trio is in harmony.
“The county, the city, MSU — we do best when we do together,” Spruill said. “We share the costs, we share the designs, we share the effort, and it makes a huge difference.
After the town hall, Childs said he appreciated Mayor Spruill’s work with College Democrats.
“Our town hall event was planned to bridge any gap between Mississippi State students and the Starkville community,” Childs said. “We hope to strengthen the bond between Mississippi’s College Town to support and empower local involvement for all our members.”
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