By Chris Kieffer/NEMS Daily Journal
TUPELO – Two longtime Lee County leaders are vying for a spot on the Lee County School Board.
Former Lee County Administrator Ronnie Bell and former Saltillo Mayor W.K. Webb are both running to represent District 2, which includes parts of Saltillo and Guntown. The nonpartisan election will be held on Nov. 6, the same day as the U.S. presidential election.
The winner will serve the final four years of the six-year term to which Jim Bain was elected in November 2010. Bain resigned from the school board in March, citing personal reasons, and Bell was named interim board member on March 8. The term will expire in December 2016.
Meanwhile, incumbents are unopposed for two other spots on the board. Mike Mitchell will again represent District 3, which includes Mooreville, and Mary Edwards will represent District 4, which includes Shannon.
Mitchell is currently the board’s vice president, and Edwards is its secretary. Their terms are full ones and will expire in December 2018.
Bell, 50, served as county administrator from 1989 until 2008 and has also worked in the state auditor’s office and for a local CPA firm. He is currently employed by Three Rivers Planning and Development District, where he is division director of government functions.
Bell did not intend to seek election when he was first named an interim board member, but has since changed his mind after several people, including other board members, encouraged him to run.
“It has really been an eye opener for me the last six months,” he said. “When you sit in these school board meetings, week in and week out and see issues facing school districts in this state, it is overwhelming.”
Webb, 70, was Saltillo’s mayor from 1985 to 2004 and also served on Saltillo’s Board of Aldermen.
He has spent more than 32 years in politics and ran for the Lee County School Board in the 1970s. He said he lost by 11 votes.
He worked closely with Saltillo schools when he was mayor and has served as president of Saltillo’s PTO and football booster club.
“I’m retired, and I’m not satisfied with not being able to do something for someone,” he said. “I want to make sure we are getting all we can for our children. I’m running because I love kids, and I want to do what I can do to help.”
Both candidates said they were concerned with state funding cuts for schools.
Bell said he also was interested in exploring the expansion of early-childhood education in the region.