Q&A with Ward 4 candidates

Q: What experience and personal qualities can you offer to the City Council?
BETTS: Being the owner of two businesses, I have a head for business, a heart for people and hands and feet to serve all people of Tupelo, regardless of color or status. I have also worked for three law firms, including the public defender for Aberdeen, been involved in real estate and served on the first Quality of Life Committee of Tupelo, and a notary public. Mostly, understanding the needs of people. We must give of ourselves, not to ourselves. When you lead you serve.
DAVIS: I’ve served on the City Council two terms. It has been a learning experience as well as a challenge. For 30 years before becoming a councilwoman, I taught art in the Tupelo public schools. Also: I graduated from CDF’s two leadership programs – Leadership Lee and Leadership Institute; I became certified as an elected official through the Mississippi Municipal League; I have attended six National League of Cities Conferences; I’m a community activist involved in many organizations and have organized many events and activities; I’m a lifelong member and certified lay associate of the United Methodist Church.
Q: Name three goals or projects you will pursue if elected.
BETTS: Better schools = better neighborhoods. Even though schools and government are two separate entities, city leaders and school board members need to work together and reach common ground to be the best. Educated kids are priceless and our future leaders. Also, better relations between municipal workers and support of small businesses.
DAVIS: To protect and utilize the taxpayers’ dollars to the best benefit; to support neighborhoods and develop housing for medium- and middle-income citizens; and to support fair and equal opportunities for all people.
Q: This past municipal term was marked with conflict and lack of communication between the mayor and City Council. What specifically will you do to open the lines of communication and minimize conflict?
BETTS: Our eyes are placed in front because it is more important to look ahead than to look back. We need to focus on the people’s issues, not our own agenda. We should use our time wisely and be respectful and compassionate to our leaders and people in general.
DAVIS: No one loves conflict. In order for our council to work as a team, we must communicate with each other. Respect for each other’s opinions would eliminate negativity and turmoil. Each councilman represents the citizens in their wards and their needs and opportunities. We also in live in an All-American City where every citizen is important. We also live in a world where the democratic process is necessary. All councilmen bring to the table intelligence and talents.
Q: The recently completed ethics study was a source of much controversy during the past term. How do you propose the city move beyond this turmoil while still addressing the needs of the residents and municipal employees?
BETTS: The needs need to be addressed by our own selves, not an outsider. Municipal employees have rules and rights. All leaders need to be accountable; you can’t have authority and not be accountable. The word “ethics” has been used too lightly. It has meaning, and this whole matter needs to be taken seriously.
DAVIS: The NAACP submitted a list of allegations to the mayor and council of unfair hiring practices and lack of minorities in key positions. The council held a Race Relations Forum and then formed a Race Relations Committee of councilmen to resolve the issues. This committee hired an ethics group to do a study. If there had been a spirit of cooperation, the study would have been over. The administration and media would not allow us to receive an unbiased assessment. Interferences have constantly interrupted a positive assessment. Weaknesses were not accepted graciously.
Q: The city’s new comprehensive plan recommends denser growth patterns using existing space, yet Tupelo is in the midst of an annexation bid to add roughly 16 square miles to its boundaries. How do you reconcile these two different paths of growth?
BETTS: As we all know, 16 square miles is equivalent to 10,340 acres. This will be in different areas and in both situations we need to make the most of best land use and taxpayers’ money. Even though the annexation will bring in more money, we also have a lot of existing space. We want Tupelo to grow, but in the best way.
DAVIS: I have supported annexation from the beginning of my tenure on the council. We must look to our city’s future. I also support the comprehensive plan. It’s necessary for the comprehensive plan to be updated. Denser growth patterns are a necessity because of the fast growth of the area. Tupelo is a city. There is a need for more moderate-income housing and multi-residence living. A city needs green space, parks, walking trails, recreational activities and shopping areas. All of the these things will enhance the quality of life.

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