Paul Ray will be Gulfport’s next Ward 3 councilmember after the filing deadline passed at 12 p.m. Tuesday, December 12 and no other qualified candidate had submitted paperwork to run against him.
“Although I was fully expecting and was prepared for a challenge from someone from Ward 3, I am equally humbled by winning by default,” said Ray in a social media post. “I would have liked to have had opposition.”
Ray has lived in Gulfport for nine years and also serves on the board of Gulfport’s Merchants Association. He originally first visited Gulfport 18 years ago and says it reminded him of home.
“It reminded me of Cape Cod without having the cold breeze a lot of the time,” Ray told the Gabber on Tuesday, December 12. Ray talked about his desire to preserve the “character” of Gulfport.
“Change is inevitable but you can keep the character and flavor of Gulfport,” Ray said. “It’s how you manage the change that is important.”
Ray’s background is as a software engineer and his goal is to use this knowledge to make improvements to the city’s website. “We can further streamline the functionality of the site so people can get more information from it,” he said. “One example is the software suite we use has the ability to show a full PDF of a utility bill online rather than making a call or going to the city building to get the information.”
Ray also mentioned using technology to pay it forward to other Gulfportians. “Some cities have implemented the function to round up a utility bill payment,” said Ray. “For example, if your bill is $49.50 you could round it up to $50 and the extra payment could be applied to people who are needy. I think that is something Gulfport can embrace.”
Ray will take over for Yolanda Roman when he is sworn in 10 days after the election in 2018. Roman, who has been the Ward 3 councilmember since 2014, did not to pursue reelection.
“Serving on the Gulfport City Council and working with City Staff is very rewarding; I know Paul will add a tremendous amount of innovation and positive vision to the work ahead of him,” said Roman in a December 12 Facebook post.
Current councilmember Dan Liedtke now has only one opponent for his Ward 1 seat after April Thanos withdrew her application to run. Thanos lost a close election to Liedtke in 2016. Attorney Bruce Plesser, who has lived in Gulfport for 12 years and is running for the first time, will oppose Liedtke, who is running for his fourth term in 2018. Liedtke has served on council since 2012.
Liedtke told the Gabber he wants to finish projects he has started while on council.
“I want to continue our focus on infrastructure; continued improvement of roads and sewers, and also adding more sand to Gulfport Beach to make it more appealing to visitors,” said Liedtke. “I would also like to continue work on remodeling the Senior Center. The 55 and older group is the fastest growing demographic in Gulfport.”
Plesser says he feels his experience will help him get to the heart of the issues.
“I’ve been a prosecutor and defense attorney so I know how to ask the right questions to get the truth,” said Plesser. “I want to make sure the whole story gets explained. I think we need more transparency.”
Like Ray, Plesser says he is also concerned with the look and future of Gulfport.
“It’s important to have a balance between progress and keeping the character and flavor of the city the same,” said Plesser. “Personally, I think Gulfport needs a change and I think I can make a difference.”
Gulfport residents will decide for themselves in the election on March 13, 2018.