Ward 3 candidates forum set for tonight

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town_tupelo_greenBy Robbie Ward

Daily Journal

TUPELO – Seven Ward 3 candidates will answer questions today for voters casting ballots in two days, the city’s first election in recent memory to fill a City Council member’s remaining term.

Candidates will appear at a 7:30 p.m. forum at Lawndale Presbyterian Church, the sole public gathering with each appearing together prior to Thursday’s nonpartisan election.

The church’s fellowship hall will open to the public at 6:45 p.m. to hear ideas of residents who want to represent 5,300 others on the Tupelo City Council. The format includes candidate opening statements, questions asked to each candidate and closing statements.

Many potential voters have voiced concern about declining neighborhoods, public transportation and candidates’ vision forTupelo and Ward 3.

The forum is sponsored by the Daily Journal and hosted by the Lee Acres Neighborhood Association.

Candidates include:

• Travis Beard, 68, retired Tupelo Public School District principal.

• Ed Breedlove, 30, an assistant manager at Gibson Corrugated.

• Mike Coutoumanos, 62, healthcare professional and former Ward 3 councilman.

• Lorna Holliday-McGee, 61, a vice president of the Audubon Neighborhood Association and former Tupelo public school teacher.

• James Hull, 62, a pastor and executive director of Move Mississippi Forward, a Jackson-based organization associated with opposition to unionization of the state’s auto industry.

• James “Jim” Pitts, 65, a Comcast warehouse technician.

• Derek Russell, 29, business owner and operations manager at the Link Centre.

Anyone unable to attend the forum can watch a live broadcast at djournal.com.

Two years and 10 months remains in the four-year term vacated by Jim Newell, elected to a second term in June 2013. The nearly 30-year Itawamba County Community College faculty member resigned from the council a month ago after moving to Saltillo.

The whirlwind political campaign has allowed candidates only 20 days from the qualifying deadline to election day. The City Council decided to hold the election in such a short window to allow a candidate winning this week to vote on the $32.8 million 2015 fiscal year budget. State law requires cities and counties approve budgets by Sept. 15.

This election could determine if Tupelo advances debate on public transportation this term. Three council members support a one-year pilot program, needing a fourth for majority support.

A candidate must receive more than 50 percent of votes cast Thursday to win the elected position paying $16,932 annually. Otherwise, the two with the most votes on Thursday will face off Sept. 18.

robbie.ward@journalinc.com

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IF YOU GO

Ward 3 candidate forum

• Today at 7:30 p.m.

• Lawndale Presbyterian Church fellowship hall

• Watch live at djournal.com