Ward 5 wants its fair share

EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the fifth of a seven-part series about Tupelo’s wards. Each ward elects a representative to serve on the City Council. Candidate responses to an issue questionnaire will be published in a special section in Monday’s Daily Journal. Primary elections for this position, as well as for mayor, will be May 5. The general election will be June 2.
By Emily Le Coz
Daily Journal
TUPELO – Once its own city, east Tupelo now falls into the municipal district of Ward 5.
The area was annexed in 1948, but six decades have done little to erase its sense of identity and community pride.
Ward 5 is the largest of the city’s seven municipal districts in terms of land size and is home to the Elvis Presley Birthplace and Museum, Veterans Memorial Park and the Itawamba Community College and University of Mississippi Tupelo campuses.
It’s also the site of the new downtown Fairpark District, which includes City Hall and the BancorpSouth Coliseum.
More than 4,700 people live here – roughly three in four of them are white.
Residents say they sometimes still consider themselves as being separate from Tupelo, but that distinction carries consequences both good and bad.
“We feel occasionally that we’re kind of neglected” by the municipal government, said Mae Stanley, a member of the Presley Heights Neighborhood Association, which covers most of Ward 5.
It’s not a new complaint. Many have long grumbled that east Tupelo doesn’t get its fair share of city goods and services. Or that its roads aren’t as nice as other parts of town. Or that its codes aren’t enforced as stringently.
The City Council representative from this ward must fight for an equal share of the municipal pie, while promoting all the positive qualities of the area, residents here said.
And many positives exist: Residents are most proud of the new Veterans Memorial and the city’s first splash park, both recently constructed in east Tupelo. They also take pride in their annual Azalea Festival and Tour, which attracts thousands of visitors the second Saturday in April.
Republican Bill Martin serves as the current councilman in Ward 5, and he is seeking his second term. He faces three opponents – all Republicans – in the May 5 primary. They are Larry Cole, Jonny Davis and Ashley Lucas.
If no one wins a clear majority of the vote, a May 19 runoff will be necessary.
Priorities for the next four-year term include reining in loose dogs, cracking down on code violations and preserving the area’s iconic water tower, which sits atop a hill off East Main Street.
“We’re working diligently to find a means of funding for the deteriorating water tank,” said Bobby Hodge, president of the Presley Heights Neighborhood Association.
Residents also want to see the busiest portion of East Main Street widened from four lanes into five, which would provide a center turn lane to ease traffic congestion. The project is scheduled to be started within the next two years, but for many people, it’s not soon enough.
“It’s dangerous,” Stanley said, recalling a young mother who was killed in a traffic accident on the street nearly two years ago.
Stanley and Hodge praised the Police Department, though, for its quick response to both traffic accidents and other complaints. They said crime seems very much under control.
Contact Emily Le Coz at (662) 678-1588 or emily.lecoz@djournal.com.

Emily Le Coz/NEMS Daily Journal