By Michaela Gibson Morris/NEMS Daily Journal
TUPELO – With a week to go before the qualifying deadline, City Council president Fred Pitts is the only candidate for Tupelo mayor, but at least three others are mulling a run.
Tupelo attorney Jason Shelton, journalist and minister James Hull and former city councilwoman Doyce Deas, who ran for mayor four years ago, are all weighing possible candidacies ahead of the March 8 qualifying deadline.
“I’m passionate about the city of Tupelo,” said Shelton, who was born and raised in Tupelo. “I’m strongly considering seeking the office of mayor. I’ll make a formal decision by noon Monday.”
Deas, who heads the Learning Skills Center in Tupelo, said she’s weighing public issues she feels need to be addressed in Tupelo against personal needs.
“I am still struggling with a decision,” Deas said.
Hull said he is watching to see who gets into the race in the last week.
“If no one has qualified that I feel I can support, I will qualify,” Hull said. “There has to be someone in the race who will talk about issues I feel are pertinent” such as employment opportunities and diversity in city government, police profiling, disparities in city services and the homeless population.
The primary election will be May 7, and the general election will be June 4. New terms begin July 1.
Incumbent Jack Reed Jr. is not running for re-election.
Pitts is a Republican. Shelton said if he runs it will be as a Democrat. Hull said he would run as an independent. Deas also said she would run as an independent as she did successfully for an at-large post on the City Council in 2005. She ran unsuccessfully for mayor in 2009 as a Democrat.
This week, two new candidates qualifed for council seats.
In Ward 1, Daniel Owens, 35, owner of Jump and a Tupelo firefighter, qualified in Ward 1 as a Republican. He will face Republican incumbent Markel Whittington, 63, a local business owner.
In Ward 3, Liz Dawson, 54, who serves as the North Mississippi Health Services community health director, qualified to run as a Republican. She faces incumbent Jim Newell, an Itawamba Community College professor who is also a Republican.
Previously, candidates have qualified in the five other city wards:
In Ward 2, two Republicans have qualified: Lynn Bryan, 50, a general contractor, and Tom Carr, 48, Mississippi National Guard staff sergeant.
In Ward 4, incumbent Nettie Y. Davis, 71, an artist and retired educator, will face fellow Democrat Mark Hardin, a special education teacher.
In Ward 5, incumbent Jonny Davis, 48, a private property manager, and Buddy Palmer, 72, a retired businessman, have both qualified as Republicans.
In Ward 6, there are four Republicans running: incumbent Mike Bryan, 49, an insurance/financial sector businessman; Wayne Chrestman, 35, an insurance adjuster; Tom Hewitt, 74, a small business owner and minister; and James “Mickey” Jenkins, 62.
In Ward 7, incumbent Willie Jennings, 60, a small business owner, has qualified as a Democrat.