Alumni serve city in prominent government roles
The City of Hattiesburg welcomed three USM alumni into positions within its local governement in June of this year.
Toby Barker was elected as Hattiesburg’s newest mayor. Meanwhile, Jeffrey George was voted into the City Council’s Ward One seat.
Barker graduated from The University of Southern Mississippi in 2004 with a B.A. in communications and in 2006 with a M.S. in economic development.
While attending USM, Barker was active in the Student Government Association as well as Pi Kappa Phi, Men of Excellence and the Baptist Student Union.
In 2007, Barker was voted into the Mississippi House of Representatives to represent District 102, which makes up Central Hattiesburg. At 25 years old, Barker was the then- youngest person and the first millennial to hold a position within the Mississippi Legislature.
During his tenure as a House Representative, Barker strived to elicit changes in Hattiesburg.
Among his accomplishments, Barker secured an additional $1.3 million in state money needed for USM’s insurance deductible after 2013’s tornado damage, increased state funding for the DuBard School and The Children’s Center for Communication and Developmen, authored legislation for the commercial development of the District at Midtown and more.
In June’s election, Barker beat incumbent Democratic Mayor Johnny DuPree who had previously held the position for 16 years. Barker collected 6,214 votes to DuPree’s 4,198.
After securing the mayoral office, Barker has since resigned from the Mississippi House of Representatives after nearly 10 years in the position.
Jeffrey George, 23, graduated from USM in 2016 with a B.A. in political science and a minor in marketing, and he has continued his education at USM in the Trent Lott National Center for Economic Development and Entrepreneurship. He will receive his master’s in economic development later this month.
During his time at USM, George served on SGA as president for two years as well as on University President Rodney Bennett’s executive cabinet, both positions allowing him to affect the university and its many students.
George spent summer 2015 working as a legislative intern for Senator Thad Cochran in Washington, D.C.
George put that experience to use in his second term as SGA President when he also obtained the position of President of the Mississippi Student Body President’s Council, where he represented more than 80,000 students from eight universities across the state.
In addition to those affiliations, George was involved in Pi Kappa Phi, Southern Style Orientation Leaders and Eagle Connection Student Recruiters.
Upon graduation, George was inducted into both the Southern Miss Student Hall of Fame and the Graduate School Hall of Fame.
In June, George defeated Democratic candidate Ken Chambers 821 votes to 368.
Along with George, another honored USM alum has been elected into Hattiesburg’s City Council. Nicholas R. Brown, Sr., a Hattiesburg native, earned his B.S. in business administration in 2004.
Before his election into the Ward Five seat, Brown was a business owner who also worked within the Hattiesburg Public School System.
The elections of both Barker and George have been met with positive outlooks from those within the Hattiesburg community.
“We at William Carey have good relationships with Toby Barker and Jeffrey George, much like how we had good relationships with the previous holders of those positions,” Executive Vice President and Provost at William Carey University Scott Hummel said, “Hattiesburg has had a history of good leaders, and we are optimistic about what our newest leaders will achieve for Hattiesburg.”
Hummel has met Councilman George on a number of occasions at various events at William Carey since the June elections.
“[George] is a bright and responsible young man. I look forward to seeing how he grows as a leader and what he does for the city,” Hummel said.
“It will be very interesting to see where they end up in their political careers,” USM alumni Alan Blakeney, Chief Financial Officer at Camellia Healthcare said. “I’m looking forward to seeing that. Of course, I am less interested in their age[s] than I am in the job[s] they do.”
“Hattiesburg has worked hard on bringing economic development to the area. I’m looking forward to them continuing that work,” Blakeney said.
Nathan Barron, a senior political science major and SGA senator for the College of Arts and Letters at USM, addressed how involved students were on campus with the candidates’ campaigns.
“As a millennial, it’s encouraging to see young people engaged [in politics]. It’s good to see a lot of students thinking critically about for whom they vote and about the candidates’ records,” Barron said.
Despite the substantial list of responsibilities they have acquired since securing their new positions, Barker and George continue to actively and personally involve themselves with the community.
During move-in day at USM this weekend, both Barker and George were present and helped move students into their new dorm rooms.
Additionally, Sunday, when an SUV crashed into Hattiesburg High, Barker arrived an hour later and helped clean up the scene.
Editor’s note: edited at 10:07 a.m. to include Nicholas R. Brown, Sr., an additional USM alum serving a city government role.