JACKSON, Miss (WJTV) – On Monday, Jackson Mayor Tony Yarber will step down as Chokwe Antar Lumumba is sworn in.
In the final hours of May 2nd, it was clear Yarber was not going to be Jackson’s leader anymore.
During his administration, the pastor turned politician dealt with an ever-shrinking budget, several lawsuits and crumbling infrastructure.
Just as the polls predicted, he finished in fourth place, only getting 5 % of the vote. That’s only 1,800 people, in comparison to the 18,000 votes for primary winner Lumumba.
“It was just an overwhelming sense of relief and release…For me it closed the door on any future aspiration on doing any local politics. So there’s nobody here locally, whether you’re a local representative for the state, or whether you’re a supervisor or mayor or council person, I don’t want it,” he said.
Yarber feels the lawsuits filed against him before campaign season played a big role in his loss. He even lost church members.
In August, the mayor’s former executive assistant, Kimberly Bracey claimed she had an affair with Yarber and filed an eight page sexual harassment lawsuit. And in February, a former city worker filed a sexual discrimination lawsuit that accused city leaders of bid-rigging to benefit Yarber’s friends. “It’ll be a year since the sexual harassment lawsuit was filed on August 25th. So I anticipate some movement hopefully before then…As far as the cloud and as far as the stress of it all, I’m free from that stuff,” he said.
When asked what he told his children once the details were released, Yarber responded, “don’t get suspended from school fighting to defend your daddy.”
He doesn’t regret anything in from his time in office, but he thinks his administration could have done a better job at communicating the work that was being done.
“We paved over 100 [streets]. Matter of fact we’re still paving streets. There were over 100 in the last 20 months.”
Through the 2015 initiative “Operation Orange Cone“, 90 streets have been re-surfaced as of March. A little over a dozen more are either planned or under construction.
Beginning next fiscal year, the city will collect about $3.2 million for infrastructure from the state under the Capitol Complex Improvement District bill. By 2020, that yearly amount will grow to about $11 million. “Leaders around Rankin, Madison, they all came together and said we’re going to help lead this effort on behalf, or help join this effort rather on behalf of the City of Jackson,” Yarber said.
Though there’s much more work to go, Yarber is satisfied that he’s leaving the city’s infrastructure better than he found it.
As for the 1% Sales Tax Program specifically collected for infrastructure, he thinks more could been done if he and the 1% Sales Tax Commission didn’t bump heads on the Infrastructure Master Plan.
“The commission believed that they had the responsibility of approving expenditures. That ain’t in the legislation. We just missed $90 million because the commission believed and made it public that the city did not have the authority to leverage the 1% for $90 million. Had that $90 million dollars been in place right now, Mayor-Elect Lumumba could come in…There’s money that’s able to be spent immediately on streets roads sewer water.”
Towards the end of his term, Yarber was heavily criticized by his political opponents. Several said he didn’t take the job seriously. To that, he says he was the same person that he was on the city council.
Here’s his message to the city as it welcomes a new administration:
“If we get mad with him, we can’t throw him away. Because if we continue to create this revolving door of leadership, we will continue to be stagnant. I am settled on a leader. His name is Chowke Antar Lumumba. He will always have my support from here until God sees fit for him not to be there anymore.”
Next on the agenda for Yarber is entrepreneurship and full time pastoring.
His last day in office is June 30th.