By Robbie Ward
TUPELO – A pastor, retired educator, business owner and even a modern-day blues musician comprise the group of Ward 3 residents ready to also describe themselves as a local policymaker.
Candidates for the vacant City Council seat have until today to officially qualify for the Sept. 4 nonpartisan special election to serve out nearly three years left in the term of Jim Newell, who abruptly resigned after moving out of the city.
A half-dozen likely contenders bring a wide mix diversity in age, professions and other experiences in the local contest to represent the city ward of about 5,300 residents.
Candidates who have qualified or plan to meet today’s deadline are:
• Travis Beard, 68, recently retired Milam Elementary School principal and former math teacher and coach.
• James Hull, 62, a pastor and media consultant.
• Mike Coutoumanos, 62, a health care professional and former Ward 3 councilman from 1997-2001.
• Ed Breedlove, 30, an assistant shipping manager at Gibson Corrugated and a singer/songwriter.
• Derek Russell, 29, director of operations at the Link Centre and owner of an animal care business.
Also, Lorna Holliday McGee has collected signatures to qualify to seek the office but attempts to reach her have been unsuccessful.
State law requires the candidates to collect a petition of 50 current registered voters in the city ward as part of paperwork to qualify.
A single candidate must win at least 50 percent plus one vote to avoid a runoff election on Sept. 18. As the field of candidates grows, chances of avoiding a runoff election shrink.
A runoff election will prevent the winning candidate from voting on Tupelo’s $32.8 million Fiscal Year 2015 budget.
State law requires local governments to approve budgets by Sept. 15.
Ward 3 stretches from the central part of Tupelo near Crosstown and includes neighborhoods in the historic downtown, Gravlee and Mill Village, along with Lee Acres and Audubon.
The ward also includes the commercial and medical areas along South Gloster and Green streets and extends south to the recently annexed Summit subdivision near Verona.