Transportation Election

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Election today for transportation seat

By Billy Davis

The run-off candidates for Northern District transportation commissioner will be on the ballot today in 33 Mississippi counties, including Panola.

John Caldwell of Hernando and Mike Tagert of Starkville are competing to finish the term of late Commissioner Bill Minor.

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The Northern District post is one of three on the state commission that oversees the Miss. Department of Transportation and selects its executive director.

Caldwell and Tagert finished first and second respectively in a seven-way race that included State Rep. Warner McBride of Batesville.

McBride, who chairs the House Transportation Committee, said he has not endorsed either candidate in the race.

 Asked what he hoped the new commissioner would focus on, McBride said the planned four-laning of Highway 6 from Batesville to Clarksdale should be a “priority project” in North Mississippi.

“A four-lane highway from Tupelo to Clarksdale — that’s important for growth and economic development for all of North Mississippi,” McBride said.

“In the legislature, it’s a priority project,” McBride continued. “We need somebody at MDOT that makes it a priority for them.”

Caldwell, 49, presently serves as transportation director for the DeSoto County School District. He formerly served two terms as a county supervisor in DeSoto County.

He has a bachelor’s degree from Arkansas State University.

Caldwell was running for Northern District transportation commissioner in 2003 when he was called for active duty in Operation Desert Storm. He is an officer in the U.S. Marine Reserves.

Running as a Republican candidate, Caldwell lost to Minor, a Democrat, in the General Election.

Tagert, 40, serves as administrator for the Tennessee-Tombigbee Waterway Development Authority. He formerly served as president of the Tennessee-Tombigbee Development Council.

He has a bachelors degree from Millsaps and a master of public policy and public administration from Mississippi State.

Both Caldwell and Tagert are running as Republican candidates, which means whoever wins the runoff will add a second Republican to the three-person commission.

Dick Hall currently serves as the sole Republican on the commission, where he has had well-publicized political battles with fellow commissioner Wayne Brown and MDOT executive director Butch Brown.

For election help, contact the Panola County circuit clerk at 563-6210 or 487-2073.

Polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.