Two leaders, two approaches in Tupelo mayor's race

Those who know the mayoral candidates say this about their leadership styles

Deas is
passionate, willing to compromise, caring, understanding, open, direct, inclusive, a hard worker, not willing to take “no” for an answer, civic-minded.

Reed is
a servant leader, a visonary, great at a communicating, positive, even-keeled, organized, inclusive, family-oriented, accessible, civic-minded.

TUPELO – Those who best know Tupelo’s two mayoral candidates say the city will prosper with either one of them at its helm.
But the way they govern will differ.
Democrat Doyce Deas is a hard-working woman who includes everyone in the decision-making process and won’t take no for an answer, say those who have worked with her through the years.
Republican Jack Reed Jr., on the other hand, is a servant leader whose positive attitude inspires people to achieve the best in themselves and for the common cause, according to his colleagues and associates.
The two face off in Tuesday’s general election, and the winner will succeed Ed Neelly, who decided not to run for a second term. The four-year terms begins in July.
Deas, 64, is president of the Learning Skills Center and currently serves as an at-large councilwoman on the City Council. She has run her campaign around a message of unity and experience, vowing to tackle the tough issues of city business from her first day in office.
Reed, 57, is president of the R.W. Reed Co., which owns the region’s iconic Reed’s Department Store. New to politics, Reed focused his campaign around bringing a fresh start to City Hall and ushering in the return of the Tupelo Spirit.
Many who spoke on behalf of one candidate also had kind words for the other, saying that while they might rally behind Deas or Reed, either would make a fine mayor.
“It’s a win-win,” said Bill Rieves, former assistant superintendent of the Tupelo Public School District who worked closely with Deas during her 15 years on the school board.
Rieves described Deas as a smart and savvy businesswoman whose zeal for high-quality public education made her one of the city’s strongest allies during her time on the school board.
He also credited her passion and can-do attitude for establishing the Link Centre, a cultural organization that hosts the Tupelo Symphony and numerous nonprofit agencies.
“She takes what looks impossible and lets it become possible,” Rieves said. “‘No’ might not be in her vocabulary.”
Others who know Deas shared similar sentiments.
Nationally acclaimed floral artist Tracy Proctor launched his career working in Deas’ family-owned business, The Gizmo, which has since closed.
He said the candidate gave him the flexibility to pursue his dreams while still maintaining hours at the shop, and that she impressed him with her ability to thrive in a crisis.
“When other people are so downcast about problems, she starts wheeling through and finding solutions,” Proctor said. “When everyone else is throwing in the towel, Doyce would be working to find a solution.”
That knack for problem-solving arises from Deas’ passion, said Jim High, a close friend who also co-owned Flowers on the Park flower shop with her years ago.
“I know two things about her management style,” High said. “Doyce is 100 percent passionate and interested and devoted to what she is involved in. And No. 2, she was always willing to sit down and listen and discuss whatever issue came up, and make the mutually best and agreeable decision.”
Kathy Riles agreed. For the past 14 years, Riles has run Deas’ business, the Learning Skills Center, which provides individualized instruction in reading, math and other subjects to children and adults.
Riles described Deas as a consensus builder who wants to hear all sides of an issue before making a decision. The candidate also cares as deeply about her employees and the community as she does her own family, Riles said.
“I have seen a private side to Doyce that rarely is seen by other people, and I know the things she has done to help individuals to better their lives or help them in a crisis situation,” Riles said. “One of our employees’ parents’ home was leveled by a tornado a couple years ago, and she donated money to the family to help them replace whatever they needed to first, and would often check with their daughter to see they had the things they needed and what else could she do.”

Reed also cares about the community and others, said his colleagues, who described him as compassionate and family-oriented.
“If you go into his office, it’s filled with memorabilia, of family, of friends, of pictures. Things really seem to mean a lot to Jack. He is touched,” said Cindy Sparks, president and clinic administrator of Good Samaritan Health Services Free Clinic, where Reed was one of the founding directors and chairperson.
And he expects his employees to put their families first, too, said Lucia Randle, director of marketing and advertising at Reed’s Department Store. He never complains, she said, when they leave work to attend school plays or take a sick child to the doctor.
He’s also even-tempered and willing to share the work, she said.
“Jack leads by example,” Randle explained. “He’s a true servant leader. You’re just as likely to see him on the sales floor straightening merchandise and helping customers as you would in his office. He’s positive, and he approaches every situation with a half-full attitude. The staff responds to that positively because he leads with a can-do positive attitude.”
Sparks said Reed was hands-on in his service at the free clinic, too, even mopping the floor when necessary. And she called him a consensus-builder who invited numerous opinions before trying to assimilate them into a solution everyone could agree with.
“What I see in Jack is an openness and a willingness to hear from everybody,” said Sparks, who also has served on several boards with Deas. “Doyce has a tender heart and she listens to people, too.”
Former Community Development Foundation Chairwoman Mary Werner also served with Reed while on the CDF board of directors, where he succeeded her as its chairman. She called him an optimist who works hard to achieve his dreams.
“There is a joie de vivre about Jack that even when he is under stress or duress or tension, Jack tends to see the glass half-full,” Werner said. “I don’t think Jack is a politician, I think he is more of a statesman.”
Werner marveled at Reed’s accomplishments over the years – law school, running the family business, numerous volunteer positions – and credited it to his organization and planning skills.
“I think he gives a lot of thought to what he does,” she said. “And he can carry ideas through to the end.”
Perhaps Reed’s strongest point, said department store Office Manager and Chief Financial Officer Clyde Biddle, is his ability to effectively communicate his vision to employees and give them the tools to carry out their tasks.
“He’s has a strong vision, and he is willing to give people responsibilities,” Biddle said. “But we’re always held accountable for what we do.”

Contact Emily Le Coz at (662) 678-1588 or emily.lecoz@djournal.com.

Emily Le Coz/NEMS Daily Journal