Local Elections

Published on May 12th, 2021 | by Jenna Mason


The Race Is On: Q&A with Ward II Candidates Mark Huelse and Afton Thomas for Oxford, Mississippi’s June 8 Municipal Election

For residents living inside Oxford city limits, municipal election campaigns are now underway. Potential voters must register prior to May 10 at 5 pm to participate in the 2021 election for alderpersons and mayor of Oxford. Registered voters who cannot be present to cast votes in the June 8, 2021, election are now eligible to cast absentee votes. Citizens may register to vote at City Hall or at the Lafayette County Circuit Clerk’s office located inside the Lafayette County Courthouse. Both locations are at the downtown Square.

Two seats go uncontested this year: incumbents Rick Addy (Ward I) and Kesha Howell-Atkinson (Ward IV) run unopposed in the general election. Wards II, III, V, VI, and the Alderman-At-Large will be decided by voters on June 8. We’ve asked each candidate a few short questions to help voters make up their minds before hitting the booths on that date.

Mark Huelse (R) – Ward II Incumbant

Tell us about yourself and your connection to Oxford.

I moved to Oxford in 1991 for an Engineering position with a fortune 100 Manufacturing Company, and worked with that company in various management positions until 2001. I left the corporate world so my wife, Becki, and I could remain in Oxford and grow her thriving Interior Design and Home Furnishings business, Something Southern. We have lived in numerous homes in the LOU community since 1991, and moved to Grand Oaks completing our forever home in 1999, where I served as HOA President for 8+ years. Our son’s family, Matt, Lisa, and Nicholas Scott came back to Oxford in 2007 to live in the great Oxford community, and allow Nicholas to attend Oxford Schools.

Why did you decide to run for office? Have you engaged in public service previously?

I decided to run for Alderman in January of 2017, when my current Alderman Robyn Tannehill qualified to run for Mayor of Oxford. I had numerous calls immediately after her announcement, encouraging me to seek the Ward 2 Alderman position. I had been serving on Oxford Planning Commission and was very involved the Vision 2037 Land Development Plan and serving on the Ordinance Review Committee. With my past experience in the corporate world managing multi-million-dollar sales accounts and budgets, and my small business owner perspective, I knew I could be an asset to the City and our citizens. Currently – Alderman, Ward 2; Oxford Planning Commission – Member and Vice Chairman; Ordinance Review Committee; Oxford Square Alliance (Oxford Downtown Council) – President; OUUMC – Trustee Chair, Building Committee Member, Security Review Team; Grand Oaks – HOA President.

What are your top priorities for Oxford?

[My top priorities are] to support our wonderful City departments giving them all the resources available to do their job at the ultimate level; to continue supporting our awesome CALEA certified Police Force and Oxford Fire, with any and all resources available; to protect our existing neighborhoods with current and new ordinances (Vicious Dog Ordinance, Noise Ordinance, Land Development Code); to grow Oxford Development through smart growth strategies outlined in our Land Development Code; to support affordable housing initiatives with our groundbreaking ordinance passed under the current administration, true dollar cost savings incentives to Affordable Housing Developers, with three developments already completed in the last two years.

Afton Thomas (D)

Photograph by Andrea Morales.

Tell us about yourself and your connection to Oxford.

Like many of us that come to call Oxford home, the University of Mississippi brought us here. In 2012, my husband James and our then 11-month-old daughter moved to Oxford. Since then, I have given my time and energy to several community-based organizations. I’ve served on the steering committee for Excel by 5 and the Oxford Tourism Council. I currently serve as board president for Move On Up Mississippi, board vice-president for the Lafayette Oxford Foundation for Tomorrow (LOFT), and I sit on the steering committee for the Oxford Chamber of Commerce’s Leadership Lafayette program, of which I was a 2017 graduate.
I worked remote as a Talent Manager for an IT and management consulting firm for the first two years after moving to Oxford. Discontent with relationships and connections I was able to make from my home office, I began looking to make a change in my career. I joined the University of Mississippi campus community in June of 2014 when I was hired as a Project Coordinator with the Southern Foodways Alliance, an institute of the Center for the Study of Southern Culture. I became the Associate Director for Programs with the Center in 2018.
My family and I live in South Oaks and our children Olive, age 9; and Noah, age 6, attend schools in the Oxford School District.

Why did you decide to run for office? Have you engaged in public service previously?

While I have not run for office before, since moving to Oxford nearly ten years ago, I have partnered with nonprofits and local groups to support community-based efforts like the Oxford Community Market, interfaith potlucks, Party in the Park, Good Night Market, Double Decker Arts Festival, Square Books and public library book events, and community playdates. It is my nonprofit work that has afforded me the opportunities to learn about the needs of our residents and the services that our nonprofits work tirelessly to provide.
I’ve worked alongside childcare providers to organize community-wide activities for families with children of all ages and from all walks of life. Together, and with hard work, these events and many others have increased our children’s literacy, improved our community’s health and well-being, and provided inclusive opportunities for all Oxonians.
I had never considered running for public office until I was asked [whether I had] ever considered it by those familiar with my work in the community. After careful consideration, I decided I could serve my community even further as alderperson for Ward 2.

What are your top priorities for Oxford?

By far, Oxford’s single greatest challenge is our lack of affordable housing. And while our local government has made some efforts to tackle this challenge, we have so much more to do.
Housing is the single most important determinant for a person’s quality of life. Affordable, quality housing is the launching pad for financial stability, educational achievement, and a stronger, healthier community. When your housing is secure, so is your physical and mental well-being. When you have a safe, stable place to call home, your children learn better.
If we want to maintain the quality of our schools, our hospital, and our community, then we have to provide quality, affordable housing to each and every person who helps make Oxford a truly great place to live.
My other top priority is strengthening the relationship between our local nonprofits and city government. Community truly is at the heart of everything I do. It’s why I’m running to represent Ward 2. I believe that with a stronger partnership between our local government and the nonprofits that are meeting our community’s greatest needs, we will be better positioned to create lasting, positive change here in Oxford. From affordable housing to food insecurity, mental health, and financial stability. This is how I believe we can build a better Oxford—an Oxford that truly works for those who need it the most.
For more details on these priorities and concrete solutions, please visit my website at afton4alderperson.org.

Tags: , , ,

About the Author

Leave a Reply

Back to Top ↑
  • Click Here for Food & Drink Specials Tonight
    Click Here for Entertainment this week
    Fetcht Delivery: Your Local Food Delivery Service
    Lafayette County, Mississippi Elections 2023
    The Townies 2023 Local Favorites Awards Results
  • TheLocalVoice.net Categories

  • Top Posts & Pages