Atmore native running for Miss. governor

Published 11:02 am Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Dave Dennis knows all about expectations.

Growing up in Atmore, the Escambia County High School graduate knew what his parents, teachers and coaches wanted from him and his classmates — and he worked hard to deliver.

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Dennis has taken that drive to succeed into business, public service and now into a campaign for governor of Mississippi.

Dennis will face off against other Republican challengers in a Tuesday primary to choose the party’s nominee. Polls show current lieutenant governor Phil Bryant — the biggest fundraiser — leading, but Dennis said a runoff is likely.

The campaign is Dennis’ first run for political office.

“We represent real leadership that does not have any political strings attached,” Dennis said.

Although he is a political novice, Dennis has been a business and civic leader in coastal Mississippi for more than 30 years.

As president of Specialty Contractors and Associates, a commercial and industrial subcontractor, he has been involved with more than 6,000 building projects. He also has served as a representative from the business community on the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve; president of the Gulf Coast Economic Council; state chairman of the Business and Industry Political Education Committee; and a member of the Commission on Recovery, Rebuilding and Renewal following Hurricane Katrina.

Dennis said his entry into politics is similar to that of longtime friend Kirk Fordice, a former Mississippi governor who ran after a long business career.

“I’ve never run for office before in my life,” he said. “But I believe the country is at a tipping point, and our state is at a tipping point. To that extent, private leadership had better step forward.”

Dennis said he has been grateful for the support of friends and family in Atmore during the campaign.

“There have been people who have been very supportive and come to events,” he said.

The Atmore community inspired many of Dennis’ values, the candidate said.

“Anytime you have a wholesome, hometown atmosphere with the level of expectation from parents, teachers and coaches, you tend to take that mindset throughout your life,” Dennis said.

Dennis is the son of the late Jack and Betty Dennis; Jack Dennis was plant manager at the Vanity Fair in Atmore for many years.

Dennis and his wife, Jane, are parents of two children, Kate and Padrick, both of whom recently graduated from the University of Mississippi School of Law.