HATTIESBURG, Miss. - Voters met Hattiesburg mayoral candidates Thursday night at the Jackie Dole Center before the primary and general elections in May and June.
Five candidates are running to become Hattiesburg's next mayor. There are three Democrats and two Independents that hope to lead Hub-City in July.
Mayor Johnny DuPree sent a representative from his office to speak on his behalf and what he has done his last four terms.
“He set partnerships with the environmental agencies" said DuPree's rep.
He added, "And also he has initiated a city education initiative, O'Charley's and Burger King on Broadway have established a reading lounge for children to come and read as they eat.”
Mayor DuPree, Catherine Starr, and Tom Garmon are all running as Democrats and will race in the city's primaries in May.
All the candidates touched on topics they believe the city is facing: infrastructure, water issues, tax payer money, and education.
“We have a failing school system, if elected I will appoint a special committee that will see why the school system is failing" said Starr.
Tom Garmon, a local blogger and founder of the Hattiesburg Patriot hopes to combat the city's water issues.
He said, “We have a council and mayor who are pursuing a $140 million plus waste water treatment system, but yet we are ignoring our community and our brown water."
He continued, "And the past four years, not one person in the city council has brought up the issues of brown water, instead our government has pushed this waste water treatment project.”
State Representative Toby Barker and Shawn O'Hara are running as Independents. O'Hara said legalizing marijuana can fix local issues.
“Fix the bad roads and bridges, where are we going to get the money? Legalize marijuana for industrial , medical, recreational, and for every $1 billion sold, that is $70 million in new taxes.”
Barker said, "In infrastructure we have to make sure that no neighborhood is left behind, we have to bring our people together around a transparent and comprehensive plan with streets, water, and sewer, and prioritize in that in our budget."
He added, "And then manage that budget more investment effective.”
The Democratic Primaries will take place May 2. O'hara and Barker are automatically on the ballot because they registered as Independents.
Officials said if needed, there will be a primary run-off election May 16 to determine which Democratic candidate will run in the General Election in June.
The new elected mayor will begin the position July 2017.