Vernis Mims, a tutor and substitute teacher, is seeking the mayor’s seat for the City of Three Rivers in the Tuesday, Aug. 8 primary election. (Photo provided)
By Robert Tomlinson
Editor’s note: This article, originally published in the July 14 edition of the Commercial-News, is the second of a three-part series profiling all three candidates in the race for Mayor of Three Rivers.
THREE RIVERS — Education and learning are big things for Vernis Mims.
A tutor at Glen Oaks Community College and a substitute teacher, Mims said he first started learning about how things worked in the city after attending some Three Rivers city commission meetings in the past year or so on the advice of his godfather. Ever since, he’s been learning about the city, its functions, and how things work.
“I went to the commission meeting, and I learned some information, then I was like, well if everybody knew this, then they’d be involved,” Mims said. “Before this I didn’t believe I could run for mayor either; I didn’t even know the process. But through knowledge and being in the right place at the right time, you figure out certain things, and like I say, from my area, who’s going to help the community? Who’s going to change anything about Three Rivers?”
Now Mims, armed with some knowledge he’s accrued already, a willingness to learn about the functions of the city he’s lived in for the past 15 years, and his own ideas for the city, is looking to be the next mayor of Three Rivers.
Mims is one of three candidates running for the city’s mayoral position in the Tuesday, Aug. 8 primary election in the city to determine the top two candidates to appear on the November ballot, along with incumbent mayor Tom Lowry and challenger Natalege Zaritz. A native of Harvey, Ill., a city just south of Chicago, he originally came to Constantine for a job prior to moving to Three Rivers 15 years ago. He chose to settle in Three Rivers for a variety of reasons.
“It was like a big-sized town with a small-town feel,” Mims said. “Fifteen years ago, Three Rivers was really going on, the downtown area was going on and there was a lot to do here. I really just chose and made my best decision to be here as opposed to Chicago, where violence was running rampant and things weren’t the best for my demographic of people in the first place. This is a lot quieter.”
Mims is a graduate of Glen Oaks Community College with an Associate of General Studies degree, and got his bachelor’s degree in Management Information Systems from the Mississippi University for Women in Columbus, Miss. He said he got steered down the route of business and computers beginning at Glen Oaks.
“When I first entered, I wasn’t sure what to do. I got my Associate’s in General Studies from Glen Oaks, and I took some computer classes,” Mims said. “I wasn’t ever computer illiterate, but when I became more computer literate, since I’m certified in PC repair, I’m also certified in cybersecurity, and when you learn those kinds of things, that was the avenue I had in college.”
The biggest reason he decided to run for mayor was because he wanted to get more involved with the city, as in his view, there hasn’t been too much change in the city over the past decade-plus.
“Since I’ve been here, I haven’t seen a lot of change, except for on the 131 side. Mayor Lowry’s been the mayor for a while, and not to say anything bad about him or whatever, because he’s a good guy from what I’ve heard, but downtown isn’t going on anymore like it was,” Mims said. “I felt like, if not me then who? If I’m not going to start today, then when will we start?”
He said he initially wanted to run to be a commissioner, and not mayor, but because he would have been running against Torrey Brown for at-large commissioner, someone he considers to be a friend, he decided to run for mayor.
Mims was appointed back in May to the city’s Housing Development Corporation Board, his first taste of being part of how a city works. He said it’s been going well so far, and has learned a lot about that particular agency and how it helps residents in the city.
“I like the things I’ve been learning, because there’s a certain system to the city, a certain process to each thing,” Mims said. “Until you’re in those meetings, you don’t know how anything goes. That’s what I’ve been learning, is how everything goes. If I want to be part of the change, I have to be part of the change.”
The word “change” is in a lot of places with Mims’ campaign, even borrowing his slogan from President Barack Obama’s 2008 campaign, “A change you can believe in.” Mims has plenty of ideas for the city, such as bringing more trade programs to people in the city via grants, including those at the probation center, as well as community policing and putting more of an emphasis on fixing streets in the city.
“I’ve been here for a long time, and a lot of the streets will mess up your front end if you drive around,” Mims said. “From where I’m from, they call it barbershop talk, a lot of people will talk about it but not exactly know how to go about fixing it, so I’m putting my hat in the ring to be able to go about fixing it in the manner that I know how that I’ve been educated in college to go and be a leader.”
When it comes to community policing, he said he wants to be a bridge between the police and the people.
“I want to be the mediator, the middle, to let them know the police aren’t against them because they have a job to do, as well as the people aren’t against the police, because that’s a big narrative going on,” Mims said. “We need the police as much as the police needs us to have a job. It’s a thin line between love and hate, but I feel like I could be the middle ground that can connect the people to the city and the city to the people.”
That kind of philosophy is also how he sees the role as mayor.
“The mayor’s job is to hear the voice of the people and give a voice to the people of the city. Like, the city manager and city clerk, and all the working pieces of the city,” Mims said. “The mayor is not a person of control; the mayor is a person that helps to control the city. I’m not in control, I’m not trying to control anything, but I want to be a part of the working pieces that help this city function.”
When it comes to the water situation in the city, Mims said he wants to help find alternative avenues to finding funding to replace the lead pipes in the city.
“With the water situation, we don’t want to exactly charge the residents of Three Rivers to be able to go and do something that should be done with the water. I would like to find other avenues to be able to fund the money to get our water situation fixed faster. They’re already doing a pretty good job, they’re not slacking, but we can always do better,” Mims said.
Another idea Mims has is to bring solar energy to the city. Not in the form of a solar farm, he says, but starting with lights in downtown.
“When I talked to the city manager, they spend almost $100,000 on electric in the city, and they lease it through the electric company that they get it through. I say put solar lights downtown to be able to get us off the grid a little bit but also generate money a little bit to go back into the city,” Mims said.
Mims said he doesn’t believe the current administration has done a bad job in running the city, but he feels like he can bring in a new perspective to the city.
“I want to be the new blood into the city of Three Rivers. I’m not saying the system has been run wrong; our city has been growing still. The city manager has done a great job, and even Mayor Lowry has been in his position a long time. The thing for me is, if I’m not going to be the person, then who will be,” Mims said.
He said whether or not he wins or loses the election, he still would like to be a “pillar in the community.” If he does win, he said he’d love to learn more about how the city works from Lowry before he becomes mayor.
“That’s what I’ve been doing, educating myself on how the city works. I’d love to have tutelage from Mayor Lowry, because he’s a great necessity to the city. He’s the person that’s made the city great,” Mims said. “I want to make the city flourish even more.”
Overall, Mims said he wants to bring change to the city that makes it a place “people want to move to,” and that he is the best candidate to do that.
“I’m the best candidate because I bring a new flavor to the position of mayor, I bring a new thinking to the position. I bring not just a new thought process, but also an old thought process that can migrate into any situation that is thrown my way, because that’s what I’m great at,” Mims said. “I’m very solution-based and a problem solver, and that’s what I’m planning on bringing to Three Rivers, solving some of the problems the people feel like they’ve had in this town for a long time.”
Robert Tomlinson can be reached at 279-7488 or firstname.lastname@example.org.