GULFPORT — A familiar name will be conspicuously absent on the March 8 election ballot in Gulfport.
Michele King, a real estate agent who has been on the City Council for six years, has decided not to seek re-election.
Several factors entered into the decision, said King, who makes no bones about how much she loves Gulfport and serving on the council.
A family illness, she said, made her realize what's important in her life. And dealing with a small group of community activists who always have her in their sights isn't one of those important things.
"I don't want all that bad stuff floating around my head anymore … all that negativity circling me all the time," King, 63, said.
Part of the battle between King and some of the city's vocal constituents has been over Clam Bayou and how to get it cleaned up. King has always been opposed to dredging the estuary, something neighboring residents have fought for.
King talked about her accomplishments and changes she has seen during her six years on the City Council.
"Gulfport has come a long way. We have a downtown that is relatively full. We managed to keep our businesses down there," she said.
The city co-sponsors or pays for many of the events that bring people to Gulfport.
"As long as you have people coming downtown, you are going to keep businesses downtown. We managed in the worst economic times that I've ever been through to keep a downtown. Many small cities haven't.
"This is a city people love, except a handful of people who think they can do it better. Most of the people in the city think the City Council is doing a good job."
In a letter King sent to the local weekly newspaper, she said, "In my opinion, Gulfport's next step is the redevelopment of the 49th Street corridor. Without helping new good business to thrive in that area Gulfport loses its ability to grow. We need to embrace new techniques and programs to bring good paying jobs to Gulfport and the 49th Street corridor is the perfect place to begin.
"My sitting on council jeopardizes that redevelopment. It's dumb and it's petty, but it's true. This small group of people that have targeted me for the past four years would rather see the 49th Street plan go up in smoke than agree to a plan that I support."
When asked if she regrets her decision not to run or if she has plans to return to Gulfport politics in the future, King paused before saying, "I loved that job. We'll see what happens. Right now, I don't have plans to get back in or to run for anything else."
The candidates who are seeking King's soon-to-be vacated Ward 2 seat are Avrio Taylor and Barbara Banno. (See box above.)