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Connie Moran, John McKay will vie for Ocean Springs mayor in general election (poll)

John McKay (left) and Connie Moran will meet in the June 4 general election to determine the next Mayor of Ocean Springs. (File Photo/Gulflive.com)

By Warren Kulo | The Mississippi Press | April 13, 2013

OCEAN SPRINGS, Mississippi -- Connie Moran is seeking her third term as Mayor of Ocean Springs. Jackson County Supervisor John McKay, meanwhile, is making his second run for the office, having lost in the 2009 Republican primary to Scott Walker, who would go on to narrowly lose to Moran in the general election.

Moran, a Democrat, took office in July 2005, roughly six weeks before Hurricane Katrina devastated the Mississippi Coast. She took a key role in the rebuilding effort in Ocean Springs and the new Biloxi-Ocean Springs Bridge.

Moran's administration has been credited with building award-winning public facilities, including the Public Safety Complex on U.S. 90, the Ocean Springs Sports Complex on Highway 57, the Halstead Road Tennis Complex and Fort Maurepas Park, as well as other projects such as the walking path on Front Beach and the Downtown Streetscape project.

Many of those projects were funded by the city's 2 percent food & beverage tax, which voters approved in 2008. Others were funded
largely by grants secured by the city.

Who will be the next Mayor of Ocean Springs?

Connie Moran 51.28%

John McKay 48.72%

In 2010, Ocean Springs was honored with the Overall Award of Excellence by the Mississippi Municipal League and as an "American Crown Community," by American City and County magazine.

"We have never raised property taxes during my administration," Moran said, "and we have been able to build over $40 million worth of projects funded mostly by grants, with only 3 percent in local match coming from our general fund."

Moran is a graduate of Ocean Springs High School and holds Bachelor's and Masters degrees in International Economics and Finance from Georgetown University, where she graduated cum laude. She was also a Fulbright Scholar. She spent 25 years in the economic development field at the state, local and international level, at one point serving as the Director of the Jackson County Economic Development Foundation.

She acknowledges the city's current tight financial constraints, but notes city sales taxes are on the upswing.

"Our sales taxes are rising and are now $91,000 more in the first half of this fiscal year compared to last year," she said. "I will work closely with the aldermen, who vote on every budget line item, to ensure that every dollar is wisely spent. In light of my background in economic development and securing grants, I'm asking our citizens to support me in my bid for re-election, especially to take advantage of the upcoming funding anticipated from the BP settlement.

"Like the Biloxi Bay Bridge, we have one opportunity to get it right," she added, "and I pledge to obtain a great deal of public input as we formulate new projects expected in the near future, while ensuring the financial strength of the City and appreciation for our dedicated employees."

Moran has one daughter, Magdeleine.

McKay, meanwhile, is in his fourth term as the Jackson County District 5 Supervisor. Prior to his election to the county board in 1999, he served three terms as the Ward V alderman for Ocean Springs. He has three times served as President of the Jackson County Board of Supervisors.

"When I was serving as an alderman, I strongly believed Ocean Springs was not being treated fairly by Jackson County," McKay said. "That's when I made the decision to run for the board of supervisors."

During his tenure as supervisor, McKay, a Republican, has had a hand in numerous projects/improvements in Ocean Springs, including the Ocean Springs Road/U.S. 90 intersection, installation of the artificial turf at Greyhound Stadium, rebuilding Ocean Springs Harbor, construction of the Jackson County Fishing Pier and numerous paving projects around the city.

He has also helped secure funding for several projects, including $250,000 for the Halstead Road Tennis Complex, $250,000 for the Government Street signalization, sidewalk and road improvement project, $25,000 for the Walter Anderson Museum expansion and $350,000 for sand replenishment along Front and East Beaches, which is currently underway.

"I hear complaints all the time about road conditions in Ocean Springs," McKay said. "Jackson County returns to the city on a monthly basis 50 percent of every dollar collected for road taxes. This money is deposited to the general fund, where it is designated, but not required, for road improvements. The city has chosen to use this money on other items."

McKay is a graduate of Gulfport High School and earned a Bachelor's degree in Municipal Recreation from the University of Southern Mississippi. He served as Ocean Springs' first Recreation Director from 1971-1984 before embarking on a career with Chevron Refinery in Pascagoula, where he retired after 20 years.

McKay also has 32 years military service and served as the company commander of the 1355th U.S. Army National Guard Combat Service Support unit which served in Kuwait and Iraq during Operation Desert Storm. He was awarded the Bronze Star for Meritorious Service in a Combat Zone.

During his military career he graduated from the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College, the U.S. Army Quartermaster School, and the U.S. Army Officers Candidate School. He retired from the National Guard as a Lieutenant Colonel.

McKay said he is running for mayor because he is alarmed at the current state of city finances. He says the city has "benefitted greatly" from what he termed "easy money" from grants in the wake of Hurricane Katrina and the BP oil spill.

"However, all is not good within the city," he said. "It has been widely reported about the constant decline in the city's cash balance. A city the size of Ocean Springs should have approximately $2.5 million in an emergency fund. Now Ocean Springs has approximately $800,000. This drop in cash balance indicates deficit spending on a yearly basis. I believe I can provide the conservative leadership to put the city on sound financial footing."

McKay also noted the city has committed itself to a debt service of approximately $954,000 per year for 25 years, due to be funded through the city's 2 percent food & beverage tax. He also expressed concern that city employees have not received a raise in four years and pledged to refuse to accept the automatic 3 percent raise for the mayor and aldermen each year.
"I believe the current leadership, in many cases, has not provided positive leadership," McKay said. "This was indicated by the mayor being removed from the decision-making process of the budget and two different construction projects."

McKay added he believes he can "restore trust and a great working relationship with the board of aldermen," while maintaining the city's unique charm and beauty.
McKay and his wife, Linda, are the parents of three sons and have eight grandchildren.

With Moran running as a Democrat and McKay a Republican, there will be no primary in the mayor's race. The two will face off in the June 4 general election.