Graham returns as town Alderman
A popular former town Alderman, who resigned six years ago when his employment put him in a conflict-of-interest situation, will return to Wesson's governing board
In municipal elections last month, Van Graham won a three-way race for Alderman-at-Large, garnering 92 votes against incumbent Stephen Ashley's 61 and challenger Mark Douglas' 45.
Wesson voters also re-elected incumbent Mayor Alton Shaw and Aldermen Larry Hall (Ward 1), Jarrad Ashley (Ward 2), Billy Ellison (Ward 3) and Mike King (Ward 4), who all were unopposed in a low-turnout election with only 198 persons casting ballots. Shaw captured 181 votes throughout the four wards. In the Aldermen races, Ellison's 57 votes topped all the other candidates, with King's 22 the lowest vote total. Hall and Ashley received 51 and 48 votes respectively.
The Mayor and Aldermen were sworn in at a 6 p.m. City Hall ceremony on Tuesday, June 29, before the July Aldermen's meeting the following Tuesday, July 6
The low turnout mirrored voting throughout Mississippi, which analysts said stemmed from the lack of excitement in an off-year and possibly lingering questions about the election system raised in the 2020 Presidential race.
Graham originally served ten years as a Wesson Alderman, starting in July, 2005, and continuing until his resignation in August, 2015, after a State Ethics Commission opinion that a town cannot do business with a company which employs an alderman. At the time, Graham worked at Wesson Ace Hardware from which he has since retired.
A Wesson native and graduate of Wesson High School, Graham attended Co-Lin on a band scholarship, then started his career in the hardware business in the Jackson area where he worked until 1991 with the exception of six months in Savannah, Georgia. He and his wife Wendi returned to Wesson to take over the home in which his grandparents had resided on Ninth Street. He joined Wesson Ace Hardware in 2000. He has a daughter, Jessica Renee, and a son, John Marshall (wife Sarah) and two grandsons, Gabriel and Ian.
When Graham left town government ten years ago, he lifted up a vision encompassing wide involvement of citizens -- not just their aldermen -- in government, a citizenry which understands the issues affecting Wesson and how its government works, attends board meetings, takes pride in the town, seeks to contribute to it and has a sense of ownership in community development.
Graham cited Dollar General's decision to locate in Wesson as a high point during his previous service as an Alderman. "The Board had laid the groundwork for the new business and Mayor Shaw made a personal telephone call to the company's officials to make it happen," he relates. Graham also considered the Old School community center, new sidewalks, work which was then scheduled to begin on the municipal park and the renovation of City Hall as high points that reflected "emphasis the town has placed on developing sources of revenue outside sales and property taxes through grants from federal and state government and private organizations."
Graham also added "I have learned that things take time. It can be years after the photo opp with the giant cardboard check that you get the real check to begin a project." He credited the town's relationship with the Mississippi Municipal League (MML) for helping improve governance by the Board of Aldermen and guiding it in serving Wesson. An MML speaker, who talked about "Changing the Character of Citizens," shaped Graham's vision of involved citizenry.