(Ridgeland Review recently conducted an interview with Mayor Gene McGee flush from his winning another term as our City’s chief executive)
RR: You had been an Alderman, correct? Why did you decide to run for mayor? And what was Ridgeland’s population at the time?
McGee: I decided to run for Mayor because of the need for a business approach to running the city. Also the administration at that time was not supporting the school system, which was very much needed. The population of Ridgeland was about 5000 when I was elected.
RR: Could you name your three proudest, specific accomplishments as Mayor?
McGee: The building of Highland Colony Parkway. The building of Ridgeland High School. Being named as Mississippi’s Healthiest Hometown. A fourth would be that I have never raised property taxes.
RR: Was there ever a past race that you almost sat out or decided not to run in? If so, why–and what made you change your mind?
RR: Your son, Wint, has run for office but was defeated–did that bother you? Was it hard not for you to take it personally as a father?
McGee: No, he ran a good race with several candidates. It was a good learning experience for him and that will serve him well in the future.
RR: Many conservatives–and liberals–advocate term limits. Do you think that’s mainly on a national level–you and Mayor Hawkins, for example, don’t seem to have a problem with continuing to run. What are your thoughts on the subject?
McGee: I believe if a person is doing a good job that they should be able to continue to serve. The voters are wise enough to replace those who should be replaced. We have a large turnover in city officials each election, so I think we already have term limits of sorts.
RR: Would you care to give your thoughts on Costco?
McGee: It is a quality business and we are fortunate that they are coming to Ridgeland. We have to be very careful not to run good business to other cities and cause Ridgeland to become less that we can be.
RR: Ridgeland seemed to has really gotten through the recession: do you take credit for that, your specific policies, are what do you think were the reason?
McGee: Yes, we have worked hard to be sure that we provide an atmosphere that promotes a good business climate while keeping taxes low and services high.
RR: Tell us about your wife, Jane: how long married, where you met, etc.
McGee: Jane and I have been married 46 years and have two children and seven grandchildren. We met in Jackson and married and built our first home in Ridgeland and have been here ever since.
RR: When did you start becoming such a serious cyclist? How many miles do you log a week? And have you not gained national notoriety for your athletic achievements?
McGee: I have been a serious cyclist for about 20 years. I try to log about 150 to 200 miles per week, depending on the weather and my schedule. I was featured the international Bicycling Magazine and have been a guest speaker at a national Bicycle conference. Also because of my work we have been named a bicycle friendly Community by the League of American Cyclist.
RR: Every mayor has critics and criticisms: is there a VALID criticism out there of you that you will acknowledge? And if so, how will you work on it?
McGee:I am probably too impatience and to driven and need to slow down and smell the roses
RR: What does the City need now that it does not have, in your opinion?
McGee: We need to get the Lake Harbour Extension and Colony Park Blve. built, because we need those additional east, west routes.
RR: What’s a typical day like for Gene McGee?
McGee: Get up at 4:15 AM and go for a 30 mile bike ride. Get to the office around 8 and answer e-mails and phones calls. Meet with department heads and others, depending on the day and what request are made. Many time I meet with prospects for new business that are considering coming to Ridgeland. I prepare for the board meetings and preside over those meetings. I attend ribbon cuttings and ground breakings. I always try to attend school events, because I believe supporting our schools are very important.
RR: What is the funniest thing/event that has ever happened to you in your capacity as Mayor? Can you share an anecdote?
McGee: I think the funniest thing that happened is when a contractor in a new subdivision was digging and cut a water line causing water service to be disrupted at one of the occupied homes. The lady at the house called me and explained that she was in the shower and was totally soaped down and had no water to rinse the soap off. She wanted to know what we were going to do about it. Of course there was really nothing we could do. I don’t think it was very funny to her.
RR: What is the absolute hardest and most challenging part of your job now at this point?
McGee: Being sure that we don’t let blight come into our city and destroy property values. We also have to continue to work hard to encourage economic develop. We must keep our tax base strong.
RR: What does your personal faith mean to you on the job and in your life?
McGee: It is the most important thing in my life. Without my faith in Christ, nothing else would matter.
RR: Is this your last term? Or have you thought about it?
McGee: Have not looked that far ahead. My focus now is to have a successful four years and then follow the lords leadership for my life. I want to be in his will.