By Alyssa Schnugg
On Tuesday, Oxford residents living in Ward 4 will head to the polls for a special election at the Oxford Conference Center to select the person they feel will represent them the best on the Oxford Board of Aldermen.
The seat opened in May when the late Ulysses “Coach” Howell died after suffering from a massive stroke. Howell served as aldermen for 26 years.
His daughter, Kesha Howell-Atkinson, 40, was the first to qualify to run, hoping to continue the family legacy.
“Like my father, I believe in service to my community,” she said. “I watched him work and fight for this community and its citizens. I love my community and want it to be the best it can possibly be. Oxford has been named one of the best communities to live. I want to be part of the reason it continues to grow and thrive.”
A physical education teacher and coach at Oxford Middle School, Howell-Atkinson believes the biggest issue facing her neighbors in Ward 4 is learning to handle the growth of Oxford since the city gained 11 square miles last year after annexation.
“With that growth comes infrastructure issues,” she said. “I would not say that is really an issue as much as it is a challenge for us to be prepared and forward thinking.”
She says the city and its leaders need to focus on strategic planning for the future of Oxford.
“I am looking forward to hearing from citizens and working with my fellow aldermen and the mayor to address our collective needs for the betterment of our community,” she told Hottytoddy.com. “With growth, we must be ready to offer the services that taxpayers in our community need and expect.”
If elected, Howell-Atkinson said she has four main goals to accomplish as aldermen.
“Goal one would be for me to be visible and accessible across the community to keep citizens informed, especially so in Ward 4,” she said. “Goal two would be for me to be a good listener able to convey the concerns and desires of citizens. Goal three would be for me to be an advocate and catalyst to foster more positive growth in Oxford. My fourth goal would be to focus on additional and enhanced recreational programs for the youth of our community.”
Experience and knowing her community well are some of the qualities that Howell-Atkinson believes makes her the best candidate for Ward 4 alderman.
“I have been here since my birth. I understand the dynamics of this community,” she said. “Most important of all is that I know from the experiences of my father’s service and the things he shared with me over the years what it takes to be a strong representative for my fellow citizens and to do what is right and fair for all those whom I will serve.
“Ward 4 is Oxford’s Best example of the wonderful diversity of our community. I am proud of my ward. I grew up in this community and now serve as a teacher, coach, and as an active community volunteer. I will champion the needs of our community and will fight to ensure all citizens will be treated with respect and fairness.”
Howell-Atkinson is married to Brandon Atkinson and has a 6-year-old son in Bramlett Elementary.
Arnold Braze Pegues
Arnold Braze Pegues, 58, also believes careful planning is imperative to guide Oxford’s growth.
“There’s a need to for a view of focusing on the maintaining of areas in the Oxford that exist, not only in Ward 4 but in other areas where there is not daily traffic they have become forgotten when it comes to updating and repairing these areas,” he said.
“With current annexation there a need to have representation to ensure that there’s a comprehensive plan in place so that these residents have an understanding of their rights, timelines and to be informed of things going on in their area and how they will be affected.”
Pegues said while growth in Oxford is inevitable, keeping Oxford as Oxford should be a goal.
“I feel to a great degree we have lost focus on that hometown appeal,” he said.
Graduating from Oxford High School in 1979, he earned his Bachelor of Business Administration from the University of Mississippi in 2000. He currently works for GE Aviation as a technical associate.
While Oxford grows, Pegues said it’s important that city leaders don’t forget to take care of the older areas of the city, including areas needing road repairs and updating and adding needed infrastructure.
“We need to ensure residents understand where Ward 4 fits into city plans in areas such as the old Riverside area where there is a water tank currently being constructed, the Wheel Estate trailer park and the areas surrounding them,” he said.
If elected, Pegues said he would like to better include citizens in the process of government, making sure decisions are made based on what the citizens of Ward 4 want to see happen.
“And not necessarily by what the (aldermen) think is best for them,” he said. “Government should be transparent to the people of Ward 4 and the entire city.”
Pegues said he will also fight to make sure that all residents receive the same level of city services, no matter where they live, their social or economic status.
“It is the responsibility of those elected to ensure this is done on an ongoing basis,” he said. “We need to make sure that there is equal representation on all issues and the impact of decisions are clarified to those that are affected the most (by those decisions).”
Pegues believes his work and life experiences from common labor to a professional level enables him to have a broader pool of knowledge to draw upon to better serve people.
“My interaction with people from all levels and organizations give me a better insight into the understanding of the needs of the ward and the city as I have continually stayed informed and been involved on an issue not only in Ward 4 but the entire city.”
Pegues has had children in the Oxford District from 1989 to the present time.
“I feel that I would be a better overall representative for the people through my diverse education, experiences and ability to connect to people all walks of life, also the ability to understand and apply operational practices.”
The polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. A valid identification is required to vote.
For more information, call the Oxford Clerk’s Office at 662-236-1310.