A leader we can believe in.
Toby Barker’s experience as mayor includes building broad coalitions to get things done at the micro-level, having a direct impact on the citizens of Hattiesburg.
His primary accomplishments during his first term include:
- Worked with all council members and staff to increase the paving budget, year over year, resulting in paving over 75 city miles – 43 more than 29.3 in the four years prior. This investment was spread across all wards, with a total paving spend of at least $1.5 million in each ward.
- Worked with his administrative team, partners in the private-sector and congressional delegation to secure the two largest federal grants in recent history to fund two railway overpasses for Downtown Hattiesburg, which will solve a decades-old transportation issue.
- Completed water and sewer projects in every ward, with a dual focus on decreasing occurrences of brown water through upgrading neighborhoods to properly sized lines; and reducing occurrences of sanitary sewer overflows by replacing sewer lines.
- Created recurring funding to assist with drainage projects across the city.
- Spearheaded the campaign to renew Hattiesburg Public School District’s school bond, resulting in 94% voter approval and over $22 million in renovations for public school facilities.
- Worked with state legislative delegation and local school district to successfully advocate for HPSD to receive a $2.1 million Early Learning Collaborative grant, which came from the 2013 legislative act that then-Rep. Barker co-sponsored
- Worked with City Council to sign an agreement with Pearl River Community College and South Mississippi Planning & Development District to provide any student in Hattiesburg who graduated in the Class of 2019 or later the opportunity to go to school at PRCC tuition-free
- Used city’s grant-writing capacity to successfully win two historic preservation grants from the Mississippi Department of Archives & History to help offset renovation costs at Woodley Elementary and Hawkins Elementary
- Reached agreement with HPSD for city maintenance crews to take the lead on grass-cutting and landscaping at Grace Christian Elementary and Thames Elementary, allowing the school district to save resources
Parks and Recreation
- Championed and lobbied for a one-cent hotel/motel and restaurant tax to create a funding revenue stream for investments in parks and recreation activities, resulting in 81% voter approval. This funding has resulted in new basketball/tennis/pickleball courts, shared use facilities, new sidewalks, a trail extension at Duncan Lake, new batting cages at Vernon Dahmer Park, a splash pad at Dewitt-Sullivan Park, a new green space in Midtown and more.
- Under his leadership, he worked closely with staff, council members, the police department and contractors to find ways to responsibly budget funding for the longtime plans for the Public Safety Complex. The project settled as a $26M infrastructure investment in Ward 2 by prioritizing cost-savings, setting aside $1.8M over two fiscal years and building additional costs into the police department’s annual budget. These actions saved more than $3M of taxpayer dollars. By earning back the city’s Moody’s bond rating, Hattiesburg was able to finance the project at affordable rates.
- Revived plans and spearheaded the push to add Fire Station #9 on Highway 49. Working with City Engineer Lamar Rutland and CAO Ann Jones, the city found and secured one of the few parcels that was not in a flood zone, obtained financing and began construction on Fire Station #9, which is slated to open in April 2021.
- Making manpower a priority, he worked deliberately with Police & Fire Training Academy staff to host two recruit classes per year for both the Hattiesburg Police Department and the Hattiesburg Fire Department.
- Addressed manpower, organization structure and maintenance issues at the Hattiesburg Fire Department through the work of Fire Chief Sherrocko Stewart and Assistant Fire Chief Danny Wade to achieve Class 3 Fire Rating, the city’s first improved fire rating in over 20 years
- Created partnerships with The University of Southern Mississippi and William Carey University to provide for educational development with sworn police and fire personnel, as well as establishing a program with PRCC to provide CDL training to employees – at no cost to them.
- Collaborated with Pine Belt Mental Health to secure a grant and run Mississippi’s first municipal court program designed for offenders with dual diagnosis of mental illness and substance abuse
- Collaborated with Pine Belt Mental Health to create a day resource center for homeless individuals to steer toward mental health treatment, addiction services and job training
Financial Administrative Functions
- Worked with the council-chosen auditor to complete and produce three financial audits (FY 2015, FY 2016 and FY 2017) in 17 months.
- Helped the city to move off audit suspension with multiple state and federal agencies, allowing it to compete for grant funding
- Due to audit status and significant strides toward a structurally-balanced budget, the City’s bond status was restored in December of 2018, after being pulled for lack of audits.
- Continued to produce audits on schedule for FY 2018 and FY 2019
- Worked with his administration to pass the first structurally-balanced general fund budget in 10 years
- Prioritized pay raises for employees based every fiscal year, which includes passing a pay scale for both sworn police and fire personnel, as well as increasing the minimum wage for crew workers across divisions/departments.
His principal accomplishments include:
- Championed the Early Learning Collaborative Act of 2013, handled and negotiated the bill and helped secure Mississippi’s first ever investment in early childhood education
- Handled and negotiated the foster care reform bill in 2016 that moved foster care from the Department of Human Services and created the Department of Child Protection Services and helped secure the $34 million in funding to comply with the state’s federal court order
- Pushed the Department of Corrections in 2015 to end ineffective programs and adopt community-based alternatives in cognitive behavioral therapy for first-time, nonviolent offenders
- Handled the 2012 bill that created the Mississippi Dyslexia Therapy Scholarship to mandate dyslexia screening for all Mississippi students and create more opportunities for high-quality early intervention
While diverse across policy types, Toby’s accomplishments at the state level have been indicative of his relationship with his constituents in Hattiesburg, providing a direct impact on the people he serves.
In his work in the Mississippi Legislature, Toby Barker:
- Secured state resources, by working with Hattiesburg legislative delegation and local officials, to provide sidewalks and safe pathways for Hattiesburg Public School students around Woodley Elementary, Rowan Elementary, Hawkins Elementary and Hattiesburg High.
- Secured ongoing funding in the K-12 budget for technology upgrades at N.R. Burger Middle School and increased state funding for DuBard School and The Children’s Center for Communication and Development, both at Southern Miss.
- Secured capital investment, by working with the Hattiesburg legislative delegation, for both the Hattiesburg Zoo and the Historic Eureka School Museum.
- Authored legislation that allowed the sale of the former Elam Arms residence hall and parking lot to spur the first commercial development for Midtown Hattiesburg.
- Successfully secured an additional $1.3 million in state appropriations needed for The University of Southern Mississippi’s insurance deductible after the 2013 tornado.
In addition to his many accomplishments, Barker has provided unwavering support for Hattiesburg’s educational and healthcare institutions.
Toby chaired the House Performance Based Budgeting Committee. In this role, he led the state’s adoption of evidence-based programs, strategic planning and performance budgeting. Working with Senate colleagues, he created the Seven Objectives of Quality Program Design, which has become part of the Legislature’s screening of new expenditures. Parts of these Seven Elements have been adapted for use in several state and local governments across the country.
As Mayor, Toby has proven the success of using a data-driven approach at the municipality level, and he continues to use it to solve local challenges.