By Emily Le Coz/NEMS Daily Journal
TUPELO – Seated outside City Hall on a windy Sunday afternoon, Mayor Jack Reed Jr. confirmed he will not seek re-election in 2013.
Reed, whose first term will expire at the end of June, had announced his decision in a full-page ad in Sunday’s Daily Journal. He held an impromptu press conference later in the day to take media questions.
“One reason to make this announcement now is to make sure there’s plenty of time in the term to continue moving forward,” Reed said. “This isn’t a retrospective, because we’ve got eight more months to keep going even faster than we have been.”
It was four years ago this month that Reed first announced his Republican bid for Tupelo’s highest elected office. He ultimately defeated several challengers, including Democrat Doyce Deas in the general election, to win the seat.
No one has yet announced plans to run for the soon-to-be-vacant office in the upcoming race, though several names have been floated, including that of Deas, council President Fred Pitts of Ward 2, and Councilman Mike Bryan of Ward 6.
Bryan couldn’t immediately be reached for comment, but both Pitts and Deas said they’re considering a run.
“I’m weighing my options,” Pitts said.
Said Deas: “I’ve had a lot of people ask me that, but I haven’t made a decision yet.”
Reed said he’ll support any mayoral candidate whose priorities match his own.
In his ad and during the press conference, the 61-year-old mayor cited several factors leading to his decision to step down after one term. Among them is a desire to spend more time with his family and resume work full-time at his family business – Reed’s Department Store; he has been moonlighting there most weekends.
“I never wanted to be mayor, it was never on my bucket list,” Reed told the Daily Journal. “The biggest motivator for me running for mayor four years ago was I thought the ‘Tupelo Spirit’ was waning. Race relations were strained. There was acrimony between the council and the mayor.”
Reed said he felt a duty to serve the community and try to improve the quality of life for residents.
Since taking office in July 2009, Reed has implemented numerous changes in city government, some of which he mentioned in his ad. He created the position of a municipal communications director, established a recurring fund for neighborhood revitalization, ushered in the passage of Sunday alcohol sales, and formed volunteer-citizen task forces to improve neighborhoods, education, health and fitness and the economy.
Because of these efforts, Reed helped Tupelo cinch its fourth All-America City award and its first Healthiest Hometown award. He also oversaw Tupelo’s first successful annexation case in more than two decades.
Reed’s time in office hasn’t been without controversy, though. Although he denied a direct role in rehiring former Assistant Police Chief Robert Hall, the episode brought criticism of the mayor during the first year of his term.
Hall, who initially had left the city in 2006 after pleading guilty to misdemeanors, resigned the second time after the state declined to reinstate his police certification.
Reed also faced criticism and opposition to his attempts to implement a sweeping neighborhood revitalization plan. The first draft would have used Major Thoroughfare Program roads funds to finance it; the second and more comprehensive plan would have used urban renewal bonds instead.
Neither plan passed the City Council, although smaller strategies have since been implemented, including a new rental permitting program and an annual $600,000 neighborhood revitalization allocation. The allocations help demolish neglected properties, improve infrastructure, create parks, and make neighborhoods more attractive in general.
Reed hinted at another major step in Tupelo’s neighborhood revitalization efforts, though he said it’s premature to provide any details at this point.
As the afternoon sun shone on the 30-minute press conference, Reed concluded by acknowledging his accomplishments and looking forward to the future.
“I feel like we have accomplished a lot,” he said. “Whoever is elected next will have a great city team to continue moving forward.”