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A flag draped the spot Tuesday night where Mark Aldridge sat as Olive Branch Ward 5 Alderman before his unexpected passing from a heart attack. Olive Branch aldermen determined June 19 would be the special election date to fill the vacancy declared.

Voters in Olive Branch’s Alderman Ward 5 will be tasked with electing a new representative next month and potential candidates may start gathering signatures to have their name placed on the ballot.  

The Olive Branch Board of Alderman approved June 19 as the date to fill the remaining term of Mark Aldridge, who died Sunday, May 6 after suffering a heart attack at the age of 53.  

In Tuesday’s regular session, aldermen had to declare a vacancy by procedure, then set about approving the June 19 election date.

By setting the date, July 10 became the date of a runoff election, if no candidate receives the needed 50 percent plus one vote required for outright election.  

“The runoff is set by state law so any runoff is three weeks after the special election,” City Attorney Bryan Dye explained.

Aldermen Tuesday night also passed on recommendations for appointments to the Municipal Election Commission and set payment for commissioners and poll managers in preparation for the June 19 election. DeSoto County District One Election Commissioner Paul Beale will consult the city in the special election.

The vacant seat where Aldridge sat at the front of the Municipal Court chambers, where the Olive Branch Board of Aldermen meet, was draped with an Olive Branch city flag to honor the man who was first elected as Ward 5 Alderman in 2013 and was re-elected again in 2017.

Mayor Scott Phillips, admittedly still emotional from the loss of someone he called a friend, expressed the thoughts of the board in his comments during Tuesday’s meeting.

“Mark is the ‘salt of the earth,’” Phillips said. “He was just a good guy and has been a part of this community for a long time. He can’t be replaced but I don’t think you could ever fill those shoes.”

Phillips added that state law provides a timeline for when an election to fill a vacancy can be held and the June date was chosen after consultation at the state level.  

“We’ve talked to the Secretary of State to get the dates looked at and approved by them,” Phillips pointed out. “The board makes the final approval, which they have now done. It can’t be no sooner than 30 days or longer than 45 days after the vacancy date to fill the vacancy. The best date that we saw was June 19.”

May 30 is the deadline date for signatures to be submitted and qualIfied for potential candidates.

Board members Tuesday night also heard from Meredith Wickham, the new First Regional Library System Director, who has been making introductory rounds of the various municipal governing bodies in her system area.

Wickham comes to the First Regional Library system from the Kemper-Newton Library system in southeast Mississippi. She was introduced by B.J. Chain Library Director Suzanne Argo.  

Several planning and zoning issues were approved and Dixieland Contractors Inc. was awarded the successful bid for work regarding a box culvert on Hummingbird Drive, Lot 1, at a cost of $82,802.

Matters discussed in executive session involved personnel in the Street, Police and Sanitation departments and discussion with City Attorney Dye regarding disposition of property involving wastewater treatment assets.  

Bob Bakken is Staff Writer and may be reached at 662-429-6397 ext. 240.  

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