DeSoto’s Caldwell wants another shot at MDOT leadership

By Patsy Brumfield/NEMS Daily Journal

TUPELO – John Caldwell of Nesbit strongly suggests that if he’s elected Northern Mississippi transportation commissioner, he’ll help fire the department’s longtime director.
“You know, if your team’s got a lot of good players but you keep losing,” he said Thursday, “at some point the coach has got to go.”
He was talking about Butch Brown, who’s been a controversial leader at the Mississippi Department of Transportation and just days ago had charges dropped against him for misbehavior at a Gulf Coast conference.
Caldwell, 49, formally announced his candidacy beside the busy Crosstown railroad tracks, just after a midday freight rolled by and stymied traffic for blocks.
That’s why Caldwell said he selected to stand beside what he termed “one of Tupelo’s most infamous intersections” for his announcement.
“It’s a great example of MDOT not getting it done. We need a change in leadership,” he said to a small crowd of friends and media.
A special election Jan. 11 is set to elect the district’s new commissioner after the death of Bill Minor on Nov. 1, who was elected in 2003.
Caldwell was the Republican Party’s nominee for the post then, but was called to military service as a Marine Reservist for six months during the campaign. Thursday, he said that’s not likely to happen again.
Others mentioned as possible candidates include state Rep. Warner McBride of Courtland, Tippah County supervisor Ray Grisham, Minor’s brother, Ray, of Holly Springs, and Minor’s assistant, Joey Hood of Itawamba County.
As transportation director for the DeSoto County Schools, Caldwell said he’s gained valuable experience for the state post. He said he’s focused on safety first, then on a transportation system that aids economic development.
And he said DeSoto County’s diversity – from rural to high-traffic, plus rail and river – helps him be better prepared for the transportation post.
He said he favors an elected commission and wouldn’t support change to appointments, unless it’s the only way to “change the status quo down there.”

Contact Patsy R. Brumfield at (662) 768-1596 or patsy.brumfield@djournal.com.

Caldwell facts:
• Age – 49
• Home – Nesbit
• Family – Wife, Lee; four children
• Job – DeSoto County Schools transportation director
• 2003 GOP nominee for post, got called up by Marine Reserves.
• Of note – He’s the seventh of nine children in his family.