Voters in the City of Gray decided by a strong majority to keep the incumbent Mayor Pro Tem in office for another four years.
The office of Mayor Pro Tem was the only council position that faced opposition on the Nov. 2 ballot. James Collins defeated challenger Rick Tipton with a vote of 211 to 92, winning close to 70 percent of the ballots cast.
The only other item on the ballot was package alcohol sales in the city limits. The vote was 153 for the alcohol sales and 154 against, which means the referendum lost by one vote.
Collins was elected to the position of Gray’s Mayor Pro Tem in 2018 to fill the position of Kema Clark, who resigned from the position that May. He took office in November of 2018 and is completing his third year in office.
The Mayor Pro Tem said it was fun to get out and meet new people when campaigning door-to-door. He said he also enjoyed getting to know people better that he met in his first election campaign in 2017.
Collins’ first try at politics was an unsuccessful bid for Mayor against Ed Barbee in 2017. His takeaway from that attempt was positive, and he built on that experience when campaigning this year.
Collins was not opposed when he qualified for Mayor Pro Tem in 2018, which he said made this his first winning campaign experience. He said he tried to bring something positive away with him every time he went campaigning.
“I am honored by the support I received. Four years ago, a lot of people didn’t know who I was,” Collins said.
The Mayor Pro Tem went on to say he could not have done it without the support he received with putting out signs and calling friends.
He said he made it a point to talk to people who live on Stewart Avenue, Fraley and Washburn, who were affected by a recent zoning vote by council that allowed the construction of Jack’s Restaurant.
Collins said he had goals when he took office in 2018 and is glad to have achieved the improvement with job descriptions for city employees and strengthening the working relationship with Jones County.
He said he enjoyed attending the joint training with city and county firefighters Oct. 28 with Jones County Commissioner Sam Kitchens. Collins is proud of helping to make Gray a Second Amendment Sanctuary City and that he was able to vote to support the completion of the Downtown Development Authority’s renovation of Butler Hall.
The Mayor Pro Tem said council members have big decisions ahead with how to spend the American Recuse Program funds, continuing the improve the water system and keeping city taxes low.
“We are entering 2022 with a shorter list but perhaps more important,” he said.
Collins said he hopes to be able to build a team looking toward 2025.
“We need to work together. It just doesn’t work to try to do it alone,” he said.
The Mayor Pro Tem said the city has a great crew that works together well. He said City Clerk Cindy Yancey and Deputy Clerk Ashley Roberson work hard to help council members do their jobs.
“The way our department heads work together makes it easier for all of us,” he said.
Collins said he supports smart growth, and he is glad to see big stores and small businesses opening in Gray.
“People see how well Gray’s doing, and they want to be a part of it,” the Mayor Pro Tem said. “I’m so glad to see Bent Axle doing so well.”
Collins said it is important for the city, county and board of education to work together. He said he wants to continue to be a part of that.
“I’m thankful for the opportunity to serve Gray for four more years.”