By Emily Le Coz
TUPELO – Voters got their first glimpse of Tupelo’s four mayoral candidates Thursday at a forum where each tried to woo the crowd.
Democrats Kentrel Boyd and Doyce Deas shared a stage with Republicans James R. Presley and Jack Reed Jr. at the Tupelo Young Professionals’ Mayoral Forum. About 75 people attended the one-hour event, held at the BancorpSouth Arena.
The candidates had five minutes each to present themselves and explain why they’d make a good mayor. They then took a few questions from the crowd.
Boyd went first. The Aberdeen native and current Nettleton police officer said he sees potential in Tupelo and wants it to become a technological hub. By drawing high-tech industry to the area, he said the city could become “the next Silicon Valley” and offer steady employment to the residents. Boyd also said he wants to focus on improving education and providing opportunities for working-class people.
Of the candidates, only Boyd has previously run for mayor. He lost to Ed Neelly four years ago as a Republican.
Deas is the only candidate to have held public office. She’s a first-term city councilwoman, as well as president of the Learning Skills Center. The candidate talked for several minutes about streamlining city government to better use tax dollars. She said the municipality is well run but not necessarily well managed. The Tupelo native also talked about her lengthy public-service experience and said she wants to bring more sidewalks and affordable housing to the city.
“I am not afraid to tackle the tough issues,” Deas said. “I want to be your mayor.”
Presley has never sought public office but has several relatives who have held elected position, including current Public Service Commissioner Brandon Presley and former Lee County Sheriff Harold Ray Presley. The candidate emphasized unity in city government and said it’s time for elected leaders to work together to solve problems.
“We need a mayor who will take the bull by the horns and get the job done,” said the Tupelo native and branch manager for Mid South Machinery.
Reed also never sought public office, but his father once ran for governor, losing to Ray Mabus in 1987. Reed is president of the R.W. Reed Co.
He outlined the five initiatives he originally had presented at his campaign headquarters opening in February. They are: creating good jobs for all residents; building consensus; making sure all neighborhoods are safe and attractive; making Tupelo known as a city for lifelong learning; and helping Tupelo become the healthiest community in the state within the next four years.
“It’s an achievable goal,” he said.
Candidates then took a questions about public transportation, downtown parking, affordable housing and quality of life.