Keidron Henderson was declared the new mayor of Walls on June 4 after being the only person to submit the 50 registered voter signatures to be placed on the ballot.
Henderson replaced long-time mayor Patti Denison, who stepped down to provide childcare for her granddaughter.
Denison said she was not surprised by Henderson winning by default, as she also won her first election by default.
“A struggle down there is getting community involvement. So I wasn't surprised that there was only one person to come forward,” Denison said.
Denison resigned as the town’s mayor on March 16 and Jimmy Doyle was named as interim mayor. The original special election date was April 28 but was extended to June 16 with Gov. Tate Reeves’ Stay at Home order in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
With only a single qualifier, there was no need to hold an election.
Henderson is the first Black mayor of Walls, a thought he said didn’t even cross his mind until he started receiving messages about it.
“It is exciting, particularly right now with the unrest and so much negativity surrounding us in our country,” Henderson said. “This is a feel-good story, and if I am a part of someone feeling good, then I'm all for it.”
Henderson was born and raised in Walls and he cites a desire to see his town “go to the next level” as the reason he was motivated to run for mayor.
“It is a precious town that hasn't particularly experienced, you know, the growth that the county as a whole has seen,” Henderson said.
Augmenting public services is the cornerstone of Henderson’s platform. He says the public schools, police, and fire departments are in good shape but need to be improved.
Denison said retaining police officers and firefighters in Walls was a major concern during her tenure.
“They stay for a little while and then they move on which we can't blame them for that. So that was a constant struggle,” Dension said.
Another focus for Henderson is revitalizing youth recreation programs. One summer program gave him many childhood memories that have stuck with him throughout his life, memories such as the first time he went swimming, put on a pair of rollerskates, saw a movie in a theater, and went to a zoo.
“There are just so many firsts,” Henderson said. “It meant so much to me, and I want to be able to bring that type of thing back to Walls.”
Stimulating economic and residential growth is another focus for Henderson, which is no easy feat in a town with a population of just over 1200.
Denison says that quality growth is the biggest challenge that Walls currently faces.
“The west side of the county is wide open for growth and development. It's just going to take somebody with some vision,” Denison said. “Someone that has confidence that this side of the county can support something like that.”
Henderson thinks the key to that is maintaining the quality of life in Walls and getting the word out.
“I think it's already an attractive place to live. The world just doesn't know it,” Henderson said. “So we're going to market the town. We're going to let the world know that Walls is here.”