Gulfport has canceled its municipal election in March.
Three seats were open for the March 15, 2022 city election but no candidates filed by the Dec. 13 deadline to challenge Mayor Sam Henderson and City Council members April Thanos (Ward I) and Paul Ray (Ward III).
The trio of incumbents were the only candidates to file and qualify for the 2022 ballot, according to the city.
Because they are unopposed the city is nixing the March election, and the incumbents will be deemed reelected, according to the City Clerk.
Henderson was first elected mayor in 2013. Thanos won her City Council seat in 2020. Ray has been on the council since 2018.
They will be sworn into their new terms in April.
Gulfport resident Greg Simek is concerned no one filed to run in opposition to the three incumbents.
“That’s egregiously bad that not one single person submitted anything to run,” Simek said during the Dec. 21 council meeting. “Competition is a really good thing. Competition spurs progress.”
He said competition encourages forward thinking and progress at numerous levels — including government.
“Competition is at the heart of American culture,” Simek said.
He blamed the low pay Gulfport elected officials receive for the lack of new candidates for public office.
The city pays the mayor $14,400 annually. Council members get paid $10,800 per year, according to the city clerk’s office.
“Very few people want to subject themselves to (what) I would argue (is) the thanklessness of your position for less than minimum wage,” Simek said.
Henderson said the council has looked at higher pay before.
“We have actually gone through the process of suggesting raises a couple of times. It was not a big hit as I recall,” Henderson said at the council meeting.
The city last increased the mayor and council’s pay in 2017.
Henderson said the toxic nature of politics could also be discouraging civic involvement.
“I think the political climate is so unpleasant right now. I think that people might not want to put themselves out there for it,” the mayor said.
Thanos also brought up potentially looking at term limits or changing the length of terms for elected officials. The mayor serves a three-year term and city council members each serve two-year terms.