McGee eyes opportunites in 9th term
“Lead by example” continues to be a mantra for Mayor Gene F. McGee as he runs unopposed for his ninth term as the mayor of Ridgeland.
“I am very fortunate the city has allowed me to serve,” McGee said. “I am blessed and thankful for everyone who has supported me for eight terms. I would specifically like to mention my wife, Jane, who has sacrificed so much over the years for me. I feel blessed.”
McGee sat at a work table in a brand new office in the brand new 30,000 square foot $15.9 million building a the corner of School Street and U.S. 51.
“This building is evidence that we have accomplished our goals,” McGee said.
Drawings were submitted to the board in 2014 but a new building has been a goal of McGee and current and past board members for more than a decade. The building was completed in January and had a ribbon cutting on Valentine's Day.
The City Hall is just one of the latest long-term major capital projects completed by the city in McGee’s latest term.
The city is also wrapping up the Lake Harbour Drive extension project, a $22 million undertaking in partnership with the Mississippi Department of Transportation that has widened and improved the roadway and extended a bridge over the interstate.
Both of these projects were part of a long-time goal for McGee which has been to create a more traditional, walkable downtown environment centered on Jackson Street.
McGee said that after the sale of the old city hall building at U.S. 51 and Lake Harbour they want to use some of the money towards that goal.
“We want to grow it in the right way,” McGee said.
McGee said they hope to slow down traffic and get through traffic off of the roadway with a variety of city planning techniques including landscaping and lighting.
A walkable downtown fits in with the city’s image as a health community. In 2013 the Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Mississippi Foundation named the city of Ridgeland “Mississippis Healthiest Hometown.”
The city is regularly recognized for its healthy options. The city maintains a robust Parks and Recreation department and oversees many facilities that offer a variety of options like the Ridgeland Tennis Center, handicapped accessible fields and a disc golf course.
The city also maintains miles of multi-use trails in conjunction with the National Parks Service that crisscrosses and connects the city and even accesses the Natchez Trace.
“We offer recreation programs for all ages and have many options and programs for the less fortunate,” McGee said.
That is another way McGee leads by example. McGee is an avid cycler and member of a robust cycling community that rides trails and roadways throughout town often starting in the wee hours of the morning and covering distances that will make your head spin.
McGee is also an active vegan. He said he has been pleased to see the city grow into a place where there are multiple establishments with vegan options.
“I have been vegan for several years now,” McGee said. “It has made all the difference. I don’t really even like the smell of cooked meat anymore.”
McGee said his good health and good vision for the city qualify him for another term.
“We provide a great quality of life, and I am certain we can continue to offer that,” McGee said.
To accomplish his vision, McGee has to work with a lot of people. He works with seven alderman and numerous department heads. McGee came to politics from the business world. He said the biggest lesson he had to learn was patience in decision making.
“In the business world I was the one making decisions but as mayor, I have to work and plan with the board of alderman,” McGee said. “There are seven of them and one of me.”
McGee said the best way to accomplish strong working relationships is to surround yourself with competent people.