By Emily Le Coz/NEMS Daily Journal
TUPELO – City Council President Fred Pitts is the first to enter the mayor’s race, telling a crowd of about 75 people on Wednesday that he’ll seek the municipality’s highest office in 2013.
“I want to continue to advance Tupelo to be the best it can be in all regards,” said Pitts, speaking in the lobby of the Convention & Visitors Bureau downtown.
Pitts made the announcement just a week and a half after current Mayor Jack Reed Jr. said he won’t seek a second term.
Two other councilmen are mulling a bid for the same office: Markel Whittington of Ward 1 and Mike Bryan of Ward 6. Former At-Large Councilwoman and past mayoral candidate Doyce Deas also said she might enter the race.
Party primaries are May 7 and the general election June 4, with the new term beginning July 1. The candidate qualifying deadline is March 8.
Pitts, a 69-year-old Republican, is currently serving his first term as a councilman. He beat incumbent Thomas Bonds in the May 2009 primary and Democratic challenger Shelia Nabors in the general election in June of that year.
“I ran for City Council because I didn’t like the tone of the city government or the direction the city was headed,” Pitts said at his announcement.
He and his elected colleagues have spent the past three years improving municipal politics and steering the city toward a more prosperous future, Pitts said, but he insisted more work remains.
“I will listen, and I will ask the hard questions,” Pitts said. “And as a community, we will solve our problems.”
As the council president, Pitts has presided over the council’s twice-monthly meetings, represented the mayor in Reed’s absence and attended most municipal events. Pitts also has been one of Reed’s staunchest allies in City Hall, most notably supporting the mayor’s neighborhood revitalization efforts even when many of his colleagues disagreed.
Neither Reed nor any of Pitts’ fellow council members attended the announcement.
If elected, Pitts said he will promote Tupelo’s tourism industry and work with county and other government officials to draw new people and new industry to the city.
His campaign theme is “Advance Tupelo.”
FAMILY: Married, two grown children, five grandchildren
WORK: Current City Council president, representing Ward 2, and owner of SafeStore of Tupelo
OTHER EXPERIENCE: Community Development Foundation member,
former Lee County election commissioner, past president of the United Safeguard Distributor organization, past president of the Tupelo Kiwanis Club and past Kiwanis lieutenant governor, deacon and director of church-wide Sunday school at Calvary Baptist Church and served in the Mississippi Army National Guard