Q: What experience and personal qualities can you offer to the City Council?
NEWELL: Being an educator for 23 years has allowed me to acquire organizational skills, leadership qualities and strong communication skills. I have a master’s degree from Mississippi State University in public administration. I have taught public policy for 14 years at Itawamba Community College and am currently a chairperson for one of ICC’s major healthcare programs. I have served on professional committees, written self-study reports and participated in three accreditation processes. I have been involved in community outreach, leadership roles and lay ministry through All Saints’ Episcopal Church.
WITHERSPOON: I’m a current business owner with public relations and mass communication skills. I have a vested interest in the city of Tupelo. I was raised here, educated here. I raised my family here. And from a citizen’s standpoint, I know what citizens of Ward 3 and the entire city expect from the City Council and mayor. And that’s what I intend to bring to the position.
Q: Name three goals or projects you will pursue if elected.
NEWELL: Improve and protect Ward 3 neighborhoods. I have visited with many citizens. Their No. 1 concern is their immediate surroundings – the quality of their neighborhood, value of their homes, and property taxes. Improve and promote the South Gloster business district and medical complex. Most citizens of Ward 3 want to see South Gloster redeveloped so they don’t have to drive across town for services that could be provided in their area. They also want the completion of five lanes from South Gloster to South Green Street. Improve the communication and unity between the City Council and new mayor.
WITHERSPOON: Right now we have a neighborhood association, but I’d like to organize a Ward 3 organization. I’d like to work with the Parks and Recreation Department to upgrade the parks in Ward 3 and bring more activities for the kids in Ward 3. I’d like to connect with the other council people and the mayor and work together and move Tupelo forward into the 21st century.
Q: This past municipal term was marked with conflict and lack of communication between the mayor and City Council. What specifically will you do to open the lines of communication and minimize conflict?
NEWELL: I will work with the new mayor. As an outsider, I will not have the political influences that have existed with the current mayor and council. My background working with professionals in the health care industry and education community for 23 years will give me the needed skills to resolve conflict constructively. I am all for a healthy political debate, but City Council members should stick to the issues at hand, and not allow it to become personal.
WITHERSPOON: I will personally do my part to work with the others to achieve the goals that the city would want to achieve by coming together as one, developing creative solutions and mobilize partnership of government and community resources.
Q: The recently completed ethics study was a source of much controversy during the past term. How do you propose the city move beyond this turmoil while still addressing the needs of the residents and municipal employees?
NEWELL: The key is to move beyond this turmoil. If any wrongdoing is suspected, it should be addressed internally, and individuals should be held accountable through the chief executive officer. The mayor will need to set a standard of expectations for all municipal employees and department heads, and if those expectations are violated, the individuals should be held accountable. If internal resolution can’t be agreed to, the only oversight that council members will have is to order an outside investigation like the ethics report, which I would oppose.
WITHERSPOON: Tupelo is a very diverse city. I guess there had to be a problem to initiate the study, and I will do my part to work with people. And we need a council and mayor that are for all people. And I hope we can work together and work beyond this type of situation. Going into the 21st century, I think people are looking for change and a different atmosphere and attitude from the council and mayor. We cannot expect a different result if we’re going to do the same thing. We have to change to move forward.
Q: The city’s new comprehensive plan recommends denser growth patterns using existing space, yet Tupelo is in the midst of an annexation bid to add roughly 16 square miles to its boundaries. How do you reconcile these two different paths of growth?
NEWELL: From what I’ve read, I’d favor of many of the recommendations (more walking tracks, public transportation, more green spaces). But it seems most of the development is planned for the North Gloster and Fairpark districts. What about the South Gloster district? I’d support the plan if it includes redevelopment and vitalization of South Gloster.
WITHERSPOON: I’m basically for growth. Tupelo is a fast-growing city, and it’s got to go somewhere. I would be willing to look at the outline of Tupelo and do some studying and maybe come to a conclusion at that point. As of now, I can’t say yea or nay.
NEMS Daily Journal