The Commercial Appeal
New Southaven mayor ready to get to work
‘Main thing the aldermen and I will do is set priorities of what we want to achieve’
Darren Musselwhite, on his 46th birthday, was sworn in Friday as Southaven’s first new mayor in 16 years.
And he says he’s now ready to get down to work on a to-do list of pressing issues: Sealing the deal on an $80 million outlet mall at Interstate 55 and Church Road, reviewing plans for a proposed $6 million senior citizen building and dealing with drainage issues that plague the city.
Musselwhite, an insurance agency owner and former minor league baseball player who has never held public office, says he is ready for the challenge of his new job.
“We have a lot of positive things for the city that are on the table, and some of the things are time-sensitive and we must move quickly to address them, like the outlet mall,” he said. “That’s the main thing the aldermen and I will do is set priorities of what we want to achieve and accomplish as we began a new day in the city.”
Since collecting 77 percent of the vote in the June 4 general election to defeat longtime incumbent Greg Davis and Democrat Coria Williams in a three-way race, Musselwhite said his days have been “power packed.”
Last week, he and the five new aldermen traveled to Biloxi to attend the Mississippi Municipal League’s orientation class for newly elected city officials. He was back Friday for the swearing-in ceremony. Monday, he will have to repeat the event because that’s when Davis’ term officially ends. Davis stepped down from his job three days early.
“I realized what I signed up for when I ran, and I am excited,” Musselwhite said about his busy transition.
He said he has no big changes planned for City Hall. In the past few weeks, he has met with city department heads to be brought up to speed on current and future projects.
“Like I told everyone throughout the campaign, obviously it is a new day in Southaven, and we are going to review a lot of things,” he said. “But keep in mind that most things in Southaven are not broken. There are a lot of wonderful people that work for the city of Southaven.”
Former Southaven alderman Ronnie Hale, who lost his seat in the recent city elections, agreed, saying that he has faith in the city’s new leader.
“All the turmoil that has surrounded us for two years is gone, and now it is time to move forward,” Hale said at Musselwhite’s swearing-in ceremony Friday at City Hall.
The turmoil that Hale referred to is allegations of city funds misspent by Davis, who was indicted last year on embezzlement and false pretense charges. His trial is set for August.
Davis was also ordered by Mississippi Auditor Stacey Pickering to repay the city more than $170,000 spent on personal trips, clothes, dinners and $67 at a gay sex store in Toronto. His civil trial on the matter has been continued until October.
Musselwhite said the allegations shed a negative light on the city that he has called home since he was six months old.
“As time goes by, we will put this behind us and there will be less at- tention on the negative and more focus on the positive things in Southaven,” he said.
He said regardless of what people have heard, there has been no friction between him and Davis during the transition.
“Greg Davis has been very professional in his dealings with me and preparing me and the city for change,” Musselwhite said.
As Musselwhite was sworn-in by City Clerk Sheila Heath, his wife, Laurie, their three sons and his mother looked on.
Later, Musselwhite took his family on a tour of his freshly painted, spacious fourth-floor office.
“I never dreamed that he would be mayor one day. He was always a thinker, but I did not see politics in his future,” said his mother, Diane Musselwhite. “He has always been a hard worker, and we are very proud of him.”