EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the last 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 Monday’s Daily Journal. Primary elections for this position, as well as for mayor, will be May 5. The general election will be June 2.
By Emily Le Coz
TUPELO – The largest of the city’s two minority districts, Ward 7 has the most diverse population living in some of the most close-knit neighborhoods.
Hugging the southern border of Tupelo and jutting north into the center of town, Ward 7 covers Lawndale Elementary School and portions of several residential areas including Southern Heights, Willis Heights and South Thomas.
Ward 7 is home to the substandard Evergreen Square apartment complex, the site of recent city-code crackdowns.
But it also has the nationally acclaimed Haven Acres neighborhood, which transformed itself from a blighted crime magnet into a model of clean living and community pride.
More than 4,900 residents live here – almost two-thirds are minorities.
Like other wards with a lot of low-income housing and rental properties, Ward 7 has a crime problem that residents say must be confronted.
“There have been some issues about lack of patrolmen in the area,” said Jerry Coleman of the Southern Heights Neighborhood Association, located in south central Tupelo.
Those comments were echoed by residents of the Willis Heights and South Thomas Street neighborhood associations, located in the central part of town.
“If we had more police on the streets that the thugs could see, it would stop some of it,” said Charlene Fulghum of the South Thomas association.
The only area to report little crime was Haven Acres, where association President Ophelene Moore said the streets are safe from criminals. They’re not, however, safe from reckless drivers.
Moore and Coleman said motorists break traffic rules and speed, despite the presence of children. They’d like to see more enforcement from the city.
Republican Berdell Jones currently represents Ward 7 on the council and is seeking a second term. He faces first-time candidate Chris McKissack in the May 5 party primary.
The winner will advance to the June 2 general election to meet one of four Democratic opponents: Willie Allen, Eric Hampton, D. Raphael Henry or Willie Jennings.
Residents said they want their councilman to do several things in the next municipal term: increase code enforcement to crack down on neglected properties, finish the Mitchell Road improvement project, install more playground equipment in area parks and prevent a proposed dirt pit from opening near Haven Acres.
The councilman who does this will earn gratitude from constituents who love their neighborhoods but want them to be better.
“I’ve lived there for 20-plus years,” Coleman said. “We’ve got a few concerns that you would have anywhere you go. Overall I’m comfortable with it.”
Emily Le Coz/NEMS Daily Journal