Local elections remain the foundation of democratic governance. Few except the overwhelmingly ambitious run for council, board or mayor in small towns and cities with the expectation of fame. The attraction to elective public service remains strong because almost all candidates believe they can help bring about positive change for the hometowns to which they are devoted.
Success for their communities’ endeavors is all the reward most want, and citizens usually respond to progress with spirited participation.
Some municipal officials took the oath late last week; some were sworn Monday, as in Tupelo, with an afternoon ceremony and public reception at City Hall in Fairpark downtown:
n Mayor Jack Reed, Jr., succeeded former Mayor Ed Neelly, who did not seek re-election.
Five newly elected members began their first term on the City Council:
- Markel Whittington, Ward 1.
- Fred Pitts Ward 2.
- James Newell, Ward 3.
- Jonny Davis, Ward 5.
- Willie Jennings, Ward 7.
Two incumbent council members, Nettie Davis of Ward 4 and Mike Bryan of Ward 6, were re-elected and also took the oath.
Tupelo’s two at-large council seats were abolished by court decree as a violation of the Voting Rights Act. At-large councilwoman Carolyn Mauldin did not seek another office. At-large Councilwoman Doyce Deas ran for mayor and lost in the general election to Reed.
Across the region, dozens of officeholders were replaced by voters, an affirmation that voting makes a difference in outcomes and jump-starts the wheels of change.
Mayor Reed, in remarks to the spirited overflow audience, invited additional citizen efforts for new initiatives. Reed said he and the council already have informally agreed on four task forces for four specific goals he articulated in the campaign:
n Empower good jobs for every Tupeloan who needs one.
n Ensure safe, attractive neighborhoods in every ward, and attractive public spaces.
n Make Tupelo a center for “life-long learning.”
n Make Tupelo the “healthiest city in Mississippi” within four years.
Tupelo works best when it’s working together, and the four-point program hits the ground running for the new administration in the strong, broadly based civic spirit that has driven Tupelo’s progress since 1870.
Reed asked for himself and the council the “benefit of the doubt” for a time as they begin service, a reasonable expectation that should be granted by all.