Ward 2 hopefuls have contrasting visions for Tupelo

By Robbie Ward/NEMS Daily Journal

TUPELO – Ward 2 Tupelo City Council candidate John “Tom” T. Carr Jr. wants to make a statement with his political campaign.
Carr, 48, an online college student seeking medical retirement from the Mississippi Army National Guard, hasn’t spent money on advertising, yard signs or nearly any material associated with a political campaign.
“I’ve spent about $30 total,” he said.
With a very different approach, Lynn Bryan has many yard signs throughout the ward located in the central part of the city with older neighborhoods. His family has knocked on doors throughout the area handing out campaign literature. He has run advertisements promoting his campaign.
Bryan, 50, a contractor, acknowledges spending a “little bit more” than Carr to spread his campaign themes.
Carr said he has fashioned his campaign expenses like he would try to govern.
“Don’t spend what you don’t have,” he said.
Carr said he was convinced to run for the council after receiving a letter from the city about having to move his picnic table from the front yard. After moving the picnic table to his carport, Carr decided to run for public office.
“I think some of our ordinances are really too far reaching,” he said. “Some of the younger people I’ve spoken with said those ordinances have had something to do with them moving somewhere else.”
While neither candidate supports raising taxes, Carr wants to focus on a strict limited government platform. Bryan said he wants to look at long-term goals to help Tupelo reach new heights.
“Some people might think it’s as great as it’s going to get, but I see a lot of potential here,” Bryan said.
The men will face each other in the May 7 Republican primary. With no Democratic opponent in the general election, the Republican winner will win a four-year term on the council. Current Ward 2 councilman Fred Pitts is running for mayor.
Bryan said the success of the Tupelo Public School District and the city are linked. The community has long had a reputation of successful public schools, and he wants to help make them better by voting for the best school board members. He favors school board appointees with young children in the public school system.
He also said the school district is impacted by decaying neighborhoods throughout the city and wants to help improve them.
“The schools and the city are one and the same,” Bryan said.
Bryan said more focus should go toward neighborhood redevelopment. He supports public-private partnerships to redevelop blighted neighborhoods and tax incentives for homeowners in selected areas to improve their residences.
Tupelo has experienced slower population growth in recent years than some surrounding communities.
“You’ve got to make it nice enough that so when they consider moving to Tupelo, they don’t even consider moving anywhere else,” he said.
Both candidates are veterans. Bryan served in the first Gulf War during the early 1990s and received the Bronze Star and other honors. Carr, also a Gulf War veteran, has leadership duties with the local American Legion Post.
In fact, Carr said his involvement in military affairs has kept him from the campaign trail. Knowing Bryan through local veterans groups, Carr said he won’t worry if he doesn’t win the election.
“If I lose, I’m not worried about the ward,” Carr said. “It’ll be in pretty good hands.”

Contact info: lynn@lynnbryan.com (662) 840-2081; (662) 321 2081

Age: 50

Family: Married with two daughters and one son.

Education: Tupelo High School, Mississippi State University, B.A. in Management

Occupation: Contractor

Military: Parachutist Badge; Bronze Star; Meritorious Service Medal; Army Commendation Medal (2); Army Achievement Medal (2); Meritorious Unit Commendation Community Activities: Tupelo Kiwanis Club, NE Miss. Homebuilders and Remodelers Association; Gum Tree Art Museum; All Saints’ Episcopal Church.

Contact info: jtcarr@earthlink.net (662) 269-3268; (601) 596-5848

Age: 48

Family: Divorced with three children

Education: Tupelo High School; Itawamba Junior College 1984-85; Austin Peay State University 2010-present, near completion of B.S. in Political Science

Occupation: Full-time student and member of Mississippi Army National Guard Community activities: Commander of American Legion Post #49; Lee County Veterans Support Court Mentor Coordinator; Chef de Train elect of Forty and Eight; Veterans of Foreign Wars; Disabled American Vets; Marine Corps League; Tupelo Veteran’s Council; Tupelo Veterans Activity Committee

1. What relevant experience and personal qualifications would you bring to the Tupelo City Council?

As a small business owner and employer that makes a payroll weekly, I bring a level of experience to the council on what business owners throughout the city are facing daily. As a councilman, this same experience in budgeting and policy making will lend a hand in whether our new mayor will be an effective leader or not.

I am a life-long student of government and history. I have been a leader with 23 years of military service, 22 years as a non-commissioned officer.

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

1. Shore up neighborhoods and develop policies and plans for increasing middle class housing.
2. Nominate and approve school board members that have a direct stake in the game. I will not nominate or vote for any nominee that does not have children in elementary school. The nominee must be willing to enjoy and suffer from their decisions.
3. A strategic plan, 25 years, that betters our quality of life, focuses on neighborhood redevelopment, and maintains and betters our infrastructure for future growth.

1. Reduction of strangling ordinances that are running people away from Tupelo.
2. Reduction of spending by the city and work towards a lower sales tax.
3. Restoration of freedoms and rights of all Tupelo citizens.

3. 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?

Our schools are the nucleus of our city. Our current school situation is a byproduct of poor housing policy and bad planning. Housing policy that focuses on home ownership, tough but fair rental property enforcement, and neighborhood redevelopment is the answer to improving our schools. Large businesses are heavily recruited by CDF and the MDA, and get incentives to locate within our area. We the city can do the same. We can offer tax abatement on improvements to houses, in selected neighborhoods, for improvements to the structure. The owner must occupy the house for a given period of time, 5 to 7 years based on amount of the abatement, before they can sell the house.

Restoration of freedoms and rights of the citizens would go a long way towards curbing the exodus of citizens from Tupelo. I am not sure we may ever get them back once they are settled in other communities, but most people I know, especially younger ones, express a dislike of the strangling ordinances in place.

4. Tupelo has begun a taxpayer-funded neighborhood redevelopment initiative. Do you support continued action and expansion of these projects?

This is not a taxpayer-funded redevelopment. When it reaches it fruition, it will be a public/private funded initiative to improve our city. The neighborhood in question is old and so is its infrastructure. The city purchasing condemned an unsightly property is a good investment. Once the purchasing is complete, and a master plan forged, private developers will be able to build, with their money, based on the development code outlines. You now have a neighborhood with new infrastructure and instead of house with a $15,000 cost basis, that’s what the city paid for the last one, you have one with a $120,000 or more cost basis.

I am against any initiatives that involve federal taxpayer money. As long as it is funded at a local level, I see little problem with it. Federal money usually comes with strings attached.

Click video to hear audio