Bob Worthington, a former city councilor and volunteer firefighter, cofirmed that he will seek the mayor's post in 2013.
Worthington is eyeing a high-profile job that Mayor Mike Yakes has held on to for 22 years.
"The mayor and I have been friends forever, since we were young'n's," Worthington said. "I think he's a phenomenal person, but I believe it's time for some changes."
Yakes said it is too early for him to decide his re-election plans. The mayoral election will be in March 2013. For now, Yakes said that he is focused on city business.
The two men have known each other since childhood. Worthington, a lifelong resident, said that he believes his experience in local politics, as a first responder and as manager of the Gulfport Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) has prepared him to lead the city as its next mayor.
Worthington said that he believes it's time for new leadership. Worthington wants to unify the Council and see it work well as a team.
“I don’t believe that’s something that’s being encouraged right now. I believe that I am a team builder and I think that you start with the team that sits on council."
Worthington doesn't plan on stopping there. He wants to bring city departments together to work through the tough economic times.
"The senior center, library, each group, Chamber of Commerce, each area, you have so many different teams, working as individual teams, but not as one big team.”
If elected, he hopes to bring the departments together and use his leadership abilities and decades of experience to achieve those goals.
Worthington served six years on Gulfport City Council as the Ward 3 representative. He did not seek reelection in 2010 and decided to focus his attention on expanding the CERT program.
CERT has about 20 active members and has trained at least 80 people about emergency response, trauma, CPR certification and more. Last year, the group received a 2001 Freightliner wheel coach box truck to be used as a rehab truck for emergency situations. Worthington says the group has been able to repair the truck at no cost to the city. He says one of the goals of CERT is to fund itself through donations and fundraisers, and he's proud of that.
“We’ve taken no money from the city budget.”
He says the greatest asset in Gulfport is its people. By working together, citizens and leaders can come up with revenue generating ideas, beneficial community programs and expansion of the successful programs already in place.
“The budget is certainly something that we can’t tax our way out of the current budget problems, it’s going to have to be economic growth in the entire community and nation that will get us out of us this,” Worthington said.
Worthington declared his candidacy for Mayor on Wednesday, May 2. He turned in the necessary paperwork to the Gulfport City Clerk to become a declared candidate. The mayor serves a three-year term.
To become a declared candidate, a person must first turn in the "Appointment of Campaign Treasurer and Designation of Campaign Depository for Candidates” information.
To then qualify as a candidate, people must turn in the required qualifying paperwork and fees between Monday, Dec. 3, after 8:30 a.m., and Monday, Dec. 10, by noon.
Will Mayor Mike Yakes run again?
"I’m not indecisive, I just haven’t made that decision yet,” Yakes said.
Mayor Yakes says he has plenty of time to file in December if he chooses to run again. He says many community members have encouraged him to do so, but for now he wants to focus on the issues at hand.
"My main mission, as I'm in office now, is to continue the momentum of cohesion and bridging the distance that exists in the community, (bringing) people together, that's what I'm about," Yakes said.
Yakes has been Gulfport's mayor for more than 20 years. He served as a council member from 1986 to 1990 and has been Mayor of Gulfport since 1990. Mayor Yakes ran unopposed in the 2010 municipal election.
Yakes says the enthusiasm of the community has kept him involved and energized about the city.
"I myself as an individual have not been successful without the support of the community. I am a people person. I believe in Government for the people by the people. . . I support the majority of the people and I make sure that I reach out and gather all the information I can from everyone I can," Yakes said.