A look at New Albany’s mayoral race

Democrat James Dean, left, and Republican Tim Kent

 

New Albany voters have a chance to help shape the future of the city in the municipal general election tomorrow, June 8.

Four municipal offices, each of them important to how city government policy and practice will be determined until July, 2025, will be filled on that date.

New Albany voters will elect a mayor, an alderman-at-large and aldermen for two of the town’s four Wards. The races for police chief and aldermen for Wards Three and Four were settled when the incumbents in those positions won their party primary races last month and face no opponents in the general election.

This article will discuss the race for for mayor.

Four-term incumbent Tim Kent is being challenged by military veteran and retiree James Dean. Dean is running as a Democrat while Kent, after running as a Democrat in previous races, switched to the Republican Party.

Dean was unopposed in the April 6 Democratic primary, receiving the 226 votes cast in that race.

Kent won the Republican nomination but former school superintendent Chuck Garrett presented a strong challenge, getting 514 votes to Kent’s 592 (46.4 percent to 53.6 percent).

Kent is largely running on his record, citing economic growth including industries such as Toyota, Diversity Vuteq, S and A Industries and more.

Kent is credited with taking the lead in bringing about the 43-mile Tanglefoot Trail and necessary funding when officials in other cities failed to see the potential. The trail draws visitors internationally and has been added to the National Rails to Trails Hall of Fame. He also promoted the trailhead plaza that has become a popular social and small event site and the added welcome center near the library.

Other improvements include a new Main Street trail bridge, renovation of the community center and surrounding park, sportsplex expansion including tennis, soccer and baseball, multi-million dollar expansion of the city’s widely respected museum and more quality of life enhancements including education and healthcare.

New Albany has been singled out by Southern Living Magazine, USA Today and other entities as being the “best” in several categories such as Southern small town, small town and place to live.

Other infrastructure milestones include construction of a $15 million wastewater treatment plant to open this summer and purchase of the former Fred’s and WIC buildings to be renovated as a municipal complex.

Goals and challenges include improving or replacing the popular spray park, developing the Tallahatchie River more for recreation and tourism and making more street repairs.

Under his administration the city has maintained a comparatively low tax levy while retail sales and tourism tax revenue has consistently grown.

He credits his success to the people in the community working together.

Before his election to the mayoral post, Kent served as an investigator and officer for the New Albany Police Department for 11 years and worked for an insurance agency for 12 years prior to that. He graduated from W.P. Daniel High School in 1975 and received degrees from Northeast Mississippi Community College in 1977 and the University of North Alabama in 1980.

New Albany native Dean is a Vietnam army veteran with two Bronze Stars to his credit.

He said he wants to return government in New Albany back to the people and make the city more responsive when people bring up issues. He believes the people do not have a voice and he can make some changes to affect that.

He would have an open-door policy welcoming citizens in without need for appointments.

Dean wants to focus on small businesses, especially some that may feel neglected by city government. As businesses prosper, that will mean more jobs and more shoppers, although he believes there are many types of stores lacking in New Albany.

Following his honorable discharge from the army, Dean graduated with a degree in electronics from the DeVry Institute of Technology.

Currently, Dean is retired, but previously he worked for five years at Futorian Furniture Manufacturing. He also worked for AT&T for 26 years as a lineman, installer and repair technician.

In addition, Dean worked at the Wal-Mart Distribution Center for five years and for Flexible Foam in Baldwyn for five years.

He is the minister of music at the Holy Temple Church of God.

Dean is also a member of Concerned Veterans of Union County Past, Present and Future.

 

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