Berry elected Mayor

On June 8, voters made Wiggins history by electing the first African-American mayor and alderwoman-at-large. It is the first time the city has elected three contiguously serving African-American council members.

Wiggins’ newly elected mayor has big plans for his city in the next four years.

“We’re not going to miss a beat,” Mayor-elect Darrell Berry said. “I am excited.”

Berry was the second Black alderman to represent the city after Alderwoman Johnette Galloway. He represented Ward 1 for the past three mayors. Previously, Berry served as mayor pro temp under the late mayor Joel Miles. After Miles passed away last November, Berry served as interim mayor since January.

Berry and the late mayor grew to be close friends and bonded over their shared leadership styles and devotion to public service, he said.

After Miles was re-elected four years ago, he told Berry, “After I finish this next term, I am going to support you.”

Berry said it was the support and belief from Miles that inspired him to run for the office. He believes Miles is smiling down upon his election.

“This win is for Joel,” Berry said. “I know he would love this because that’s what he wanted for me.”

As Berry prepares to take on his leadership role with the council, he can’t help but think back to his first job with the city: sanitation worker.

“That’s amazing, isn’t it?” Berry asks with a laugh.

In the late 1980s, Berry started working on a garbage truck route through the streets he now pledges to repair.

“We’ve got some work to do ahead of us. We’re going to move this city forward,” Berry said.

At his watch party on election night, surrounded by his supporters, Berry thanked his family friends, and God for his successful election.

“It was all in God’s plan,” he said.

Berry said he hopes to improve the city in the next four years by improving infrastructure, supporting businesses, unifying the community, and revitalizing the city.

To save the city money and get streets paved more efficiently, Berry said he wants to look into purchasing equipment to pave streets. Currently, the city only has the equipment to patch potholes, he says.

But by using incoming infrastructure funds to purchase the necessary equipment, Berry said the city workers are qualified to fix the streets. He said the equipment would save money and time, by cutting out the weeks it takes to outsource major road projects.

Berry said he wants to aggressively apply for grants and other resources that will help the city tackle derelict properties.

“We want to clean the city up,” Berry said. “We want to find some way to clean up abandoned buildings.”

He believes improving the city’s appearance will make the area more attractive to businesses.

“I am going to be pushing for more businesses,” Berry said. “The more retail we have, that’s more tax money. The more tax money, the better we can serve the citizens.”

Berry, along with all other newly elected officials in the city, will be sworn in as mayor next month.

His opponent, mayoral candidate Scott Maddox, said he was disappointed in his loss, but he was happy for Berry and others elected.

Like Berry, Maddox believes the final results were part of God’s plan.

As he continues his role as a local business owner and with the Stone County Economic Development Partnership, Maddox said he “most certainly” has goals to achieve in helping the city move forward.

Maddox has been critical of the city leadership’s lack of action to help local businesses, but he hopes the new council proves him wrong and fast.

“There are certain things the council needs to do fairly quickly,” Maddox said. “They need to designate a business district because there is $50,000 sitting there that can’t be used, that will expire. That’s got to be done.”

Designating a business district would allow existing businesses to qualify for a facade grant, which the SCEDP has already been approved for. The grant would provide funds for updating or renovating dilapidated storefronts. As of now, several businesses are in the process of upgrading buildings downtown, but none of the businesses qualify for the funding until the designation from the city is official.

“It’s a new council, let’s give them a chance and see what they do,” Maddox said. “I want to support them as much as possible.”