by Brian Lamar, Assignment Editor
The general election for the Ward 1 Alderman seat in Pass Christian is coming to a close on 8 June.
Incumbent Buddy Clarke has been campaigning to remind voters why he should maintain his seat while newcomer, Betty Sparkman hopes to earn the trust of voters to grant her the opportunity to represent the people of Ward 1.
Clarke, who moved here more than 30 years ago admits that he still can’t call himself a native, but has a strong decades-long history in Pass Christian.
The Ward 1 Alderman loves the people of Pass Christian and wants to continue putting his efforts forth to keeping Pass Christian a comfortable and prosperous place.
Alderman Clarke has taken his role as alderman seriously, but realizes that Pass Christian is not, nor probably never will be a metropolis of sorts.
His goals are simple, to keep building on the successes that the citizens of Pass Christian have been executing for ages.
According to Clarke, smart growth for the city with an amenity like a 60-room hotel would solidify some economic milestones that would support growth.
“It is important to care about what you are and what you. Take what you do seriously, but don’t take yourself too seriously. The record we have stands for itself. I am looking forward to being an alderman for four more years and continuing what we do here for the people of Pass Christian,” Clarke said.
Clarke also hopes to reach voters at the booth by reminding them of the successes he has accomplished during his time as alderman.
“The biggest positive that we have done. It has been a team thing. We have completely clean audits. In 8 years, we have never gone over budget. We have improved the police force and hired a great police chief. He fits here very well in a time that it is such a hard job to do. His commitment to buying and building a house here goes a long way to communicate his commitment to Pass Christian,” Clarke explained.
Clarke looks to tackle new challenges in the next four years like the threat to the harbor and fighting to save the oyster industry due to the spillway continuing to threaten traditional roles of the harbor.
“This is a job that I very much enjoy. The Pass is unique and protecting that uniqueness is important,” said Clarke.
Although Betty Sparkman hasn’t lived here as long as Clarke, her love of Pass Christian is just as strong as the next person.
Sparkman moved to the Pass after visiting an old college buddy over Christmas. She arrived with her brother on Christmas Eve and had hired a real estate agent three days later with the intent to move from Virginia.
Her and her brother bought houses next to each other overlooking the Gulf.
Through her last six years, Sparkman has gotten more and more involved in local affairs and became interested in applying the skills she acquired over a lifetime of service in roles like being a foreign service officer for the State Department, an executive with AARP and owning and being CEO of her own construction firm.
According to Sparkman, those skills will pay dividends if she is given the opportunity to represent the people of Ward 1 as their alderman.
“I want to be a public servant. I love this town. I have the time, the talent, the ideas and the focus to do this job,” she explained.
According to Sparkman, her dedication to Pass Christian can be summed up in her choice to move here.
“I could have virtually gone anywhere in the world. I could have retired anywhere in the country, but I decided to retire here and I have never regretted that one second,” she said.
Sparkman said she plans to harness a lifetime of leadership roles in tough positions in previous government roles and private industry as well.
“I make things happen. I am a problem solver. I can sit and work out a problem in my brain. I simplify things. I don’t complicate things. I have had the diplomatic, management, leadership, and personal experience to tackle many of the problems the Pass faces and will face in the future.
One of Sparkman’s first plans is to tackle a communication problem that she has noticed as a resident.
“This needs to be one of the real areas of improvement for the city. I am knocking on every door in my ward. Folks don’t know what is going on in the city. They don’t know who their alderman is. They don’t know who is representing them. The website for the city is clunky and outdated,” stated Sparkman.
“After Zeta, if you tried to go to the website you would not know when services would be restored,” she said.
To increase economic prosperity Sparkman would for all citizens to be able to access a simple list of all the people in the area who have a business license in order to more easily enable Pass residents to use local merchants
“I want a whole lot more transparency with our budget and what the city is doing with the revenue. There are only three or four people who really understand what is happening. I am a person with a financial background and it took a lot of digging to figure out where we are getting our money,” Sparkman explained.
While walking the neighborhoods of Ward 1, Sparkman canvassed people for their ideas
“I talked to people. I asked them what are the big issues for the city are. Drainage and sidewalks were big on the list. The roads and speeding and lack of communication were also concerns. These are all the big issues for the city,” she said.
“Everyone I have talked to loves Pass Christian and I think we can make it better. That’s my slogan, ‘Better with Betty’. I know that I don’t have all the answers, but I know how to get the answers. I read a lot and talk to people. That is where I get the ideas,” she said.