By Danza Johnson and Emily Le Coz
TUPELO – Republican mayoral candidate James R. Presley opened his campaign headquarters Saturday with a rally that attracted numerous supporters.
Even though he didn’t have the attendance numbers that some of his opponents had at their rallies, Presley delivered a strong message.
“Everywhere I go I hear about the lack of unity in our city government, and these past few years it’s been terrible,” said Presley. “I don’t think the other candidates understand the role of mayor. They are supposed to take care of city business and leave the private sector alone. We have to get back to taking care of city business. We’ve chased too many rabbits and not taken care of the business.”
Presley talked about the city’s proposed plan to elevate the railroad tracks at Crosstown as being a waste of money.
“I saw a coal train the other day come through with loads of uncovered coal,” said Presley. “Can you imagine what would happen if that fell off from an elevated track onto a car? They’re talking about $400 million to raise the tracks. There are better things we can be doing with that money.”
Presley, 62, announced his candidacy for mayor in February and faces Jack Reed Jr. in the May 5 primaries. The winner of this contest will compete against either Democrat Doyce Deas or Kentrel Boyd in the general election on June 2.
Although this is his first bid for public office, Presley’s family includes several current and former elected officials, including Public Service Commissioner Brandon Presley and former Lee County Sheriff Harold Ray Presley.
If elected, the candidate has vowed to bring unity to City Hall by working with department heads and City Council members to build consensus.
He also said he wants to bring common sense back to municipal government.
Presley is the branch manager at Mid South Machinery and has three grown children with his wife, Barbara.
He said the lack of good candidates caused him to join the race.
“I got to thinking about who I would vote for and I couldn’t vote for either candidate,” he said. “So I decided to run myself. We need a mayor that can take the bull by the horns. I think I’m man enough to keep the City Council on track and that’s why I think I can do the job.”