Newly elected Darnell Byrd-McPherson aims to unify Lamar
By Samantha Lyles, Staff Writer, firstname.lastname@example.org
With her victory in the November 7 election, Darnell Byrd-McPherson will be sworn in as Mayor of the Town of Lamar in January of 2018, and she already has plans to help her hometown get on the path to unity and success.
“The first thing in my mind is unifying the community,” says Byrd-McPherson, observing that town events like reunions, parades, and the annual Egg Scramble Jamboree often break along racial lines – a trend she would like to see changed.
“There was a time when we did a lot of things together, but somehow over the years it’s become this divide between ages, between races, between classes. One of my goals is to find those like-minded individuals, whether they are young, old, black, white, gay, straight, Christian, non-Christian, and let’s just get to know each other and talk about the things we’d like to see happen in our community,” says Byrd-McPherson.
One of the chief ways the Mayor-elect would like to effect this change is by forming committees tasked with certain goals, ranging from researching ways to improve the town’s water system and infrastructure to establishing wholesome and engaging activities for Lamar’s youngest citizens. She hopes to arrange regular non-denominational prayer breakfasts which could tap into a pool of concerned citizens and get people who care involved in civic affairs.
“We’ve got a lot of gifted and talented people, very intelligent people who work in a variety of fields and who have degrees and experience, but are you interested in helping our town to grow? If so, let’s get together and come up with ways to help Lamar,” she says.
Byrd-McPherson says she also wants to investigate ways to grow Lamar’s economy by marketing its advantageous location for both industry and tourism.
“We are three miles from Interstate 20, and there is an undeveloped industrial park (nearby). We have all these people passing us by on their way to the beach or the Southern 500, and we need to capitalize on some of that traffic and bring those people over to the Lamar area,” she says.
Recreation facilities and programs will also have a place on her agenda, and Byrd-McPherson wants to work toward establishing after school activities and weekend activities for local kids that don’t center around playing football.
“Not every kid can play football, so we need to look at other options. What about soccer, or tennis, or chess? We need to look at different ways to engage our young people,” she says.
One of the first goals she wants to tackle is regularly and quickly spreading the word about goings-on in the town, possibly through a central website where anyone can visit and learn about community activities, civic and church meetings, and local government matters.
Longer term goals include seeing through plans to re-establish the town’s water system, address longstanding stormwater issues, and work with the state and county to repair damaged roads.
Byrd-McPherson says she also wishes to see the Lamar Police Department regain the public’s confidence – a goal she says her late mother, former Town Council member Doris Byrd – would appreciate.
“She was the Council supervisor for the Police Department for all the years she served on Town Council, and the day my mother died, one of the last things she did was come by Town Hall to drop off a check so the Police Department could have their annual Christmas dinner. And because of the things that have happened this year, she would be very upset,” says Byrd-McPherson, referring to the firing and arrest of former Chief Jason Chaney in August.
“My mother was always telling me, “Darnell, you keep talking about what needs to be done, but what are you doing to help change things?” So I feel I have a lot of work ahead of me, and, prayerfully, my mother will be proud of me,” says Byrd-McPherson.