Anthony Witherspoon said Tuesday that he would seek another term as mayor of Magnolia, saying the city needs leadership that’s reflective of its population, not that of “Trump Republicans” who he says are running for the office.
“It was my honor to serve as your mayor for seven years in the city of Magnolia,” he said, adding, “I couldn’t set back and let the Democratic Party not have a nominee for mayor.”
He made the announcement in a Facebook video Tuesday, a day after the Enterprise-Journal published an article that quoted him in another video posted over the weekend in which Witherspoon said he had moved to Africa and had set up various businesses.
Witherspoon, who has refused to answer questions about his plans or political aspirations after resigning, criticized the article, calling it part of a conspiracy to call his residency into question ahead of his mayoral campaign and a continuation of a false narrative about Africa.
Magnolia elections are this year, and candidates have until Friday, Feb. 5 to qualify for office.
Witherspoon said he has bought a home in Africa, but his primary residence continues to be in Magnolia.
“I have a home in Magnolia. I have a home in McComb. I have a home in Fern-wood,” he said. “Pike County is home. My wife and my children are in Pike County. My taxes are paid in Pike County.”
Witherspoon noted his ownership of businesses in Pike County, including a day care center and insurance agency. He said it is not uncommon for public officials to own second homes, including some in other countries and it would be unfair to dispute his residency when the practice is so common among others.
“Now the new thing will be he can’t run for mayor because he lives in Africa,” Witherspoon said. “There’s nothing wrong when people of the other persuasion have multiple businesses, multiple residences. I’ve got white friends; they have vacation homes everywhere. Magnolia is my permanent home.”
Witherspoon noted that mayor is a part-time job and added, “Yes, I will be going back and forth from here to Africa” to tend to businesses there.
He pointed out numerous accomplishments in the city that took place under his watch. In the past year, Magnolia officials unveiled a new park and farmer’s market pavilion.
Magnolia has also undertaken street paving projects and replaced old manual water meters with new automated ones.
Witherspoon said he and aldermen “removed the city out of a potential $14 million debt on wastewater” through planning for new infrastructure to comply with environmental regulations.
In addition to the Enterprise-Journal, he called out local political hopefuls in his video, including former alderwoman and prospective Republican mayoral candidate Mercedes Ricks, current alderman Joe Cornacchione and newspaper reporter Terry Jackson of the Magnolia Gazette.
“We won’t let Trump Republicans run the city of Magnolia,” Witherspoon said. “You won’t walk into office in Magnolia and take over our city.”
Witherspoon described his continued involvement in local politics as “messing with the white supremacist power structure in Pike County.”
The former mayor also discussed his business ventures in Africa, including a tourism company.
“I want to encourage you guys to come to Africa and check out the opportunities here,” he said, noting that his tours focus on the modern developments of Africa, not safaris and jungles.
“I haven’t seen a zebra yet or a giraffe yet,” he said, criticizing the use of a photo of giraffes that ran with Tuesday’s article about his work in Africa.