OLIVE BRANCH, MS (abc24.com) - It's a busy new year for DeSoto County politicians gearing up for election season. Filing is underway for local mayor and aldermen races.
In Olive Branch, it's the first time in almost two decades Mayor Sam Rikard's name won't be on the ballot. Rikard isn't running again. Two candidates have already filed for the mayoral race and half a dozen to run for aldermen.
"The important thing now and through July will be the transition from my administration to the next," Rikard tells abc24.com.
When voters are choosing who to next lead the city he offers this advice: "Someone who has shown commitment to Olive Branch, who has either government experience or a good business background." And someone who's a good listener, he adds, "with good judgment and who does what's best for the entire city."
"There will be a lot of interest in the mayor's race this year," he says. "Also there's going to be a lot of interest in Board of Aldermen races too."
The general election is this June. Winners take office in July.
"There's just a very short time frame." Rikard's hoping for a smooth transition.
"There will be hopefully a lot of interaction between me and whoever takes my place over that three or four week period," he says.
Rikard is completing his 16th year in the mayor's seat, and whoever takes over will need to learn the ropes.
"If (the next mayor) does as good a job as Rikard I think that'd be okay," says Lester Sisk. "Sam seems to have done a pretty good job."
"I think the only major challenge for the next mayor is going to be making sure things are done so Olive Branch maintains the reputation of being a great place to live and work," Rikard adds.
Candidates can file for office through the beginning of March. Olive Branch is expecting many more politicians to do so before then.