By Robbie Ward/NEMS Daily Journal
TUPELO – Residents of the Joyner Neighborhood Association passed yard signs supporting mayoral candidates as they drove to the St. Luke United Methodist Church for the group’s meeting.
Inside the church, they found the candidates.
Democrat Jason Shelton, 36, and Republican Fred Pitts, 70, joined six candidates for city council to explain to residents of the neighborhood group why they deserved ballots cast for them in upcoming city elections.
While City Council Wards 1, 2 and 4 – those that cover part of the Joyner Neighborhood Association – will be decided in the May 7 primary election, the two mayoral candidates won’t face opposition until the June 4 general election.
As the candidates stood in front of the crowd, they had offered different qualities and experience. For Keith Kantack, the neighborhood association president and a local attorney, seeing the mayoral candidates in person formed a strong impression.
“I think there are very significant differences that are fairly obvious when you see them together,” said Kantack, who declined to give his preference.
With the younger Shelton, an attorney who has served as the Plantersville municipal attorney for a decade, he fielded questions from a crowd curious about his experience and qualifications. He admitted to having similar positions on some issues with his opponent, although he didn’t name any.
“I don’t think the differences are night and day,” he said.
With Pitts, a longtime businessman finishing a term on the City Council representing Ward 2, he discussed the importance of attracting young, professional couples of the city and stressed his experience working in the city.
“As president of the city council for four years, I understand what it takes to work with the city council,” Pitts said. “I know how to do that.”
Listening to the candidates, Lisa Hansberger said she leaned toward Pitts but hadn’t committed. She said Shelton had a strong presentation.
“I think his energy is wonderful,” Hansberger said. “My only hesitation is his experience.”
Pitts and Shelton will appear at the BancorpSouth Conference Center at 7 a.m. today for a “Hobnob with the Candidates,” a free event organized by the Community Development Foundation.