Tupelo Mayor Candidates Q&A

By NEMS Daily Journal

1. How do you view the mayor’s role in the mayor/council form of government? What will be your leadership style?

PITTS: The role of Mayor differs from that of Council member in that the Mayor carries the vision for the city and works to build consensus amongst City Council. The Mayor must listen and gather input from Council as well as citizens to help with moving forward the city’s vision. As a Deacon in my church I have learned what being a servant leader means and I will practice that in the Mayor’s office.

SHELTON: The Mayor’s role is that of a head spokesperson and is charged with overseeing the day-to-day operations of the City. The Mayor must keep proven leaders in place in running the City’s departments and must be friendly and focused on promoting the City of Tupelo. The Mayor is the quarterback/head cheerleader for the City and must be energetic and upbeat, while being open, accessible and able to relate with the citizens. I will have an open-door policy and my style will be “let’s sit down and talk” and build a consensus of how to best address the issues facing the City. I believe in a servant leadership style and working with everyone in reaching creative and innovative solutions. I believe that we need to keep taxes and spending low and focus on moving Tupelo forward. I believe in a consensus-building approach to leadership.

2. Name the top three goals/projects that you will pursue if elected.

PITTS: First, I will place primary focus on creating jobs within Tupelo through economic development and tourism, and by working with local merchants, health care, hotel and restaurants to retain and obtain jobs. Second, I plan to work closely with the Major Thoroughfare Committee to be sure we are getting the best return on our investment. Third, in the first six months I will appoint a committee to work with council members to identify qualified committee and board appointments for the next four years.

SHELTON: To better our schools and community, we must: 1. Improve quality of life, 2. Increase affordable housing and, 3. Increase economic opportunity. I will work tirelessly to recruit young, working families to Tupelo and I will work with the City Council, CVB and CDF to make this happen. Home ownership is a major issue and we need young, working families to call Tupelo home and become vested here. We must use common sense in making housing affordable and making sure that we offer high quality of life and job opportunities that make Tupelo vibrant and attractive. We must provide quality city services, great public schools and economic opportunity. The recruitment of new residents and retention of current residents are among the top issues facing our city. I am the right candidate for these tasks, as I understand that we must relate with and actively communicate with our residents.

3. What experiences and personal qualities qualify you to run the city?

PITTS: As a Republican small business owner for 35 years I understand conservative budgeting and watching expenses to stay within or even to save more. My 40-plus years of involvement in many local, state and regional organizations have introduced me to a lot of people that I can call on. I have been exposed to many different types of organizations and budgeting. I believe I can make a smooth transition to the Mayor’s office because of my four years of experience on the City Council.
SHELTON: I have the most relevant experience of any candidate in this race and have more direct government experience than the current mayor had prior to his taking office. For over 10 years, as the Plantersville Municipal Attorney, I have been involved on the ground level of the Mayor’s decisions on basic city services, easements for water, sewage and road projects, personnel decisions, writing ordinances, police and fire protection, and issues of taxing, spending and public expenditures. I have also, for over 10 years, operated a business with over a dozen employees and a substantial annual budget. On a personal level, I did not become an advocate for Tupelo to run for Mayor; I am running for Mayor because I want to continue living in an All-American City. I am passionate about our city and want to bring the next round of energetic leadership to City Hall.

4. The 2010 Census showed stalled population growth and median income in Tupelo compared to northern suburbs. How should city government help retain and recruit middle-class residents?

PITTS: We must level the playing field in home purchasing as compared to surrounding areas. In the first 100 days I will work closely with the City Council to offer a plan. This issue will need the effort of our total city to help create a quality of place to help attract new families to Tupelo. I will work closely with our schools to assure a quality education for all Tupelo children.

SHELTON: The Mayor must be actively and passionately involved in recruiting young, working families to live in Tupelo. We must be friendly and focused on providing core quality of life opportunities, affordable housing, strong public schools and economic opportunity. People are leaving because other areas are providing better options. When it is too complex and expensive to live in Tupelo, we cannot be surprised when citizens build or buy elsewhere. We need common-sense solutions, with passionate energy for making Tupelo continue to be the driving force of our region. We need incentives for private investment in one’s own property or for the purchase and renovation of existing properties. Tupelo must be a fun, vibrant community with abundant economic opportunity. We have to work with the CVB and CDF to make Tupelo more of a destination location and make the City in a position to sell itself to our guests.

5. Tupelo has begun taxpayer-funded neighborhood redevelopment initiatives. Do you support continuation and expansion of these projects?

PITTS: If areas of the city decline, then the commercial and residential owners who are left pay the price with decreasing property values. Of course, the city also pays the price with a declining tax base. As a last resort we will acquire and remove blighted properties to protect surrounding homes or businesses. We will not become a developer on my watch.

SHELTON: I support the revitalization of Jackson Street and many such projects, but we must be mindful of the Constitution and role of government when we use public funds to get the City in the real estate business. We must seek out the most cost-effective ways to revitalize neighborhoods. I support more incentives for private investment to revitalize our neighborhoods without increasing public debt. We can give tax credits/rebates for a person investing in their own property. These private initiatives can be done with passion, energy and common sense. We simply cannot afford to buy all of the unsightly properties, pay for everyone’s college tuition, guarantee home loans and other spending projects without raising taxes or going bankrupt in the future. We must keep taxes low to attract property owners. We can revitalize and keep taxes low with incentives for private investment in addition to the public commitment.

6. What will you do to ensure recently annexed areas in the city are finally served and integrated into the community?

PITTS: A plan to integrate city services into our newly annexed areas is in place and as Mayor I will see that the plan is executed.

SHELTON:I was directly involved in the long-running annexation battle and it is time to heal the wounds as quickly as possible. While I represented Plantersville at no additional expense above my regular salary, Tupelo spent millions to annex residents who had intentionally built or purchased outside of the City limits. We have to move expeditiously in keeping our promise to these citizens in making sure that we immediately provide them with each and every city service that they are entitled, and we also have to be mindful in code enforcement that they may need time to adapt to the many new and complex codes that they are being asked to adhere to. We also need to work quickly to establish neighborhood associations for the annexed areas so that they can be informed of matters related to the city as in our existing associations.

7. The “Tupelo Spirit,” the can-do attitude of working together to solve challenges has been a defining trademark of the city. What will you do to keep this spirit alive?

PITTS: Being part of the successful All-America City team showed me the importance of having all our city involved in making Tupelo all it can be. We are in a competition with our neighbors and we must have not only the spirit, but also the effort to win. Together we will Advance Tupelo to be the best place to live, work, play and serve.

SHELTON: I was born and raised in Tupelo and am a product of the “Tupelo Spirit.” It is alive in me and I am passionate about continuing to live in an All-American City. I am a common sense, fiscal conservative who grew up in a city where we were consistently recognized as the very best, and I still believe that we are head and shoulders above the competition. The Mayor’s office has to embody this spirit and promote our City with passion and energy on every occasion. We must be friendly and focused in our desire to reach out to everyone in our community to find the best ideas; and work tirelessly to promote our schools, community, quality of life and economic development. My goal is simple: Together, let’s make Tupelo too good to leave!