‘Meet Your Mayoral Candidate’ event draws crowd despite rain

By Hank Wiesner/Southern Sentinel

RIPLEY – More and better paying jobs, completion of the planned city park, and offering reasons to keep people in Ripley and attract more people to the city were common themes expressed during the Ripley Main Street Association’s “Meet Your Mayoral Candidate” town hall style event at the Ripley High School Auditorium on Saturday, Feb. 4 at 3 p.m.

About 100 people turned out on a rainy afternoon to meet the candidates seeking to become the next mayor of Ripley.

Following short introductions by each candidate, Joe Akins, Charles Braddock, Jon Grisham, Chris Marsalis, Benjamin “Ben” Ridge, Matthew Smart and Breat Tye answered a series of questions presented by moderator Marty Miskelly. Candidates Lewis Davis and Jerrell Lewellen were absent.

Local residents recently submitted the questions to Main Street. The names of those submitting the questions were not revealed. Main Street personnel compiled the questions into a list which was distributed to each candidate before Saturday’s meeting.

The questions were presented in random order Saturday afternoon, with each candidate answering a question until the list was covered.

Each candidate offered short closing remarks after the question and answer period.

Summaries of each candidate’s positions, in the order they spoke:

–Braddock: He sees the economy as the number one issue facing Ripley. As a full-time mayor, he would support and protect existing businesses for the jobs they supply. He would also support training young people for the jobs which will be developing over the next five to 10 years. “I’ll operate the city of Ripley as a business, and I’ll be a full time, open-door mayor,” he said.

–Akins: He would recruit more and better paying jobs, and push to get the planned park operational to bring more people and revenue to the city. His goal: “Make people want to move to Ripley, and keep our people here,” so they aren’t forced to seek opportunities elsewhere.

–Chris Marsalis: He would push to complete the park, and if revenue permits, perhaps build mini-parks. He also values local history and culture. “We need to think big. We owe it to our children and grandchildren to invest in their future now. We need to pull together and make it go.”

–Matthew Smart: He supports trying to bring a Wal-Mart Supercenter here for the jobs, revenue, and other businesses it would generate. A supercenter would also help keep people here to shop, he believes: “People go to Booneville, Corinth and New Albany now to get things because those things aren’t available here.”

–Breat Tye: An 18-year City of Ripley employee, Tye’s goals are to develop more jobs, increase tourism and complete the park. He would also develop the city’s entertainment options: “I’d like to see us make a Ripley a better place for our children” by putting in a swimming pool, building soccer fields and basketball courts, and trying to bring in a movie theater and a bowling alley.

–Jon Grisham: More jobs and industry would be Grisham’s top priority as mayor. To do that, he would seek help from local groups, county supervisors and area members of Congress. “We’ve got to keep our existing jobs, recruit new ones, and keep our city clean and litter-free.”

–Ben Ridge: As mayor, Ridge would listen hard to others and try to find as much common ground with them as possible. He believes most people want low taxes, good schools, jobs and affordable housing, and said he’d push for those things. “The mayor has to be a good communicator and a people person, because it’s investors and businessmen that open businesses, not the mayor.”

The first of its kind event in Ripley event was televised and broadcast on Ripley radio station THE SHARK.

“The purpose in this event is to make the voters of Ripley as informed and educated on the candidates as possible,” Ripley Main Street Director Libbi Bryant said.

The election will be held Tuesday, Feb. 14 to choose a successor to serve the balance of the term of the late Mayor Kerry W. Hill, who died late last year.

Read more: tippah360.com – Jobs finishing park enhancing city were common themes at Meet Your Mayoral Candidates program Saturday in Ripley