Tupelo candidates ask retirement community for votes

I'm a journalist focused on government, policy, politics and people.
I find what matters and bird dog it like nobody's business.

By Robbie Ward/NEMS Daily Journal

TUPELO – Dozens of residents at Traceway Retirement Community gathered Monday to hear from City Council and mayoral hopefuls who wanted their votes.
With about 170 registered voters living at Traceway, the four candidates had the attention of more than a third of the residents, who will share their views with friends who didn’t attend.
While living in a retirement facility, men and women there said they haven’t retired from their civic duty to learn about political candidates and vote. They said they wanted to have a say in who manages and sets policy related to city tax dollars.
“We’re paying for it,” said John Caruthers, 76, a retired music teacher and resident at the facility for 16 months. “We should have a voice in what’s going on.”
Having moved from Ward 6 to Ward 2 in the recent city redistricting, residents received visits from their current councilman Fred Pitts, 70, a businessman now running for mayor, along with his general election opponent Jason Shelton, 36, an attorney. Ward 2 candidates, Lynn Bryan, 50, a contractor, and Tom Carr, 48, an online college student seeking medical retirement from the military, also spoke to the crowd.
Republicans Bryan and Carr will face each other a week from today in the primary election. With each council race to be decided in primary election, the mayor’s race will be the lone election on the ballot for the June 4 general election.
Voters have until Saturday to vote absentee for the primary election and register to vote for the general election in the City Hall. Residents can also register to vote at the Lee County Circuit Clerk’s office at the county’s Justice Center.
Retirees asked the candidates about a range of topics, including efforts to create more bike paths in the city and possible solutions to limit trains interrupting traffic.
Before and after speaking at the retirement community, candidates handed out campaign materials. While all residents listened as each candidate spoke and answered questions, some had already made up their minds.
Frances and Jimmy Brenner knew they’ll vote for Republican Pitts, 70, before any of the candidates spoke to them.
“We’ve known him for a long time,” Mrs. Brenner said of Pitts, who attends the same church as the husband and wife. “He’s a faithful church member and a good businessman.”
Pitts, however, will not receive votes from everyone in the crowd. Preferring Democrat Shelton, 36, to lead the city, Valeria McElhannon, 97, said the attorney seemed like a good guy.
“I’m tired of the good old boys,” she said. “They’ve been here for hundreds of years and keep the same old ball of thread going.”
robbie.ward@journalinc.com