Jackson Extended among top worries in Tupelo's Ward 1

EDITOR’S NOTE – This is the first part of a seven-part series about Tupelo’s wards. Each ward elects a representative to serve on the City Council. Candidate responses to an issue questionnaire will be published in a special section in the April 27 Daily Journal. Primary elections for this position, as well as for mayor, will be May 5. The general election will be June 2.

TUPELO – When City Council members get ward envy, it’s usually toward Ward 1.
The district covering most of northwest Tupelo includes some of the community’s grandest homes and affluent residents. It has some of the newest roads and, seemingly, the fewest problems.
Ward 1 stretches from the northwestern most tip of the city limits south to Bulter Road and then east to Gloster Street and back north to the edge of town.
It includes the Tupelo Country Club and Bel Air golf course, much of the Joyner neighborhood and Beldeer, the Tupelo Furniture Market and the Tupelo Buffalo Park and Zoo, as well as much of the McCullough Boulevard commercial district.
Some 5,100 people live there – nearly nine out of 10 of them white.
But the area isn’t without its issues. Chief among them are the imminent closing of West Jackson Street Extended to prepare for an airport runway expansion.
The main east-west thoroughfare connects much of Ward 1 to the rest of the city. When it closes, it could choke off a large residential area from the rest of town.
“We don’t think they ought to be able to close the road without having to have an alternative road,” said Debbie Morris, a member of the Ridgeway Neighborhood Association in the western part of the ward.
“Some of the people with the airport want it to go through Colonial Estates, and we don’t think that’s a good option. We think it’s dangerous and it’s just going to cause a lot of problems.”
Morris said she and her neighbors want to know what Ward 1 City Council candidates think about the situation, and residents will cast their votes accordingly in the May 5 primary election and June 2 general election.
Four people are running for the seat currently held by Ward 1 Councilman Dick Hill, who isn’t seeking re-election after two terms on the council.
The hopefuls are Republicans Mike Williams and Markel Whittington, Democrat Patricia “Patsy” Griffin, and independent Clifton “Cliff” Brinkley. All are first-time candidates.
Whoever gets elected will have not only the road issue to negotiate, but also a laundry list of constituent concerns such as neighborhood preservation and code enforcement crackdowns.
“Some of the important issues that we have as Joyner Neighborhood Association have come from wanting to preserve a small-town neighborhood where neighbors know and care about each other; a place where you offer a cold drink or a helping hand.” said Leslie Mart, president of the Joyner association in the eastern part of the ward.
“Our council needs to provide funds and support to our Planning and Development Department,” Mart said, “so they can enforce the codes to assure that properties are kept to a standard and that our neighbors are living in safe, healthy environments.”
Code enforcement and zoning are issues around west Tupelo, too, according to Rebecca Barber, president of the Country Club Estates Homeowner’s Association.
A quick poll of residents in that area showed they’re also concerned about taxes, public safety, education, traffic flow, West Jackson Street Extended, and better relationships among the city’s top officials.
“The City Council and the mayor (must) work as one for the good of Tupelo – no personal agendas,” Barber quoted one of the residents as saying. “Individual agendas tear down the spirit of this great city.”
Contact Emily Le Coz at (662) 678-1588 or emily.lecoz@djournal.com.

Emily Le Coz/Daily Journal