Speaking to a McComb civic club last week, a city selectman praised the city’s mayor and his fellow Republican representatives on the city board but lambasted colleagues across the aisle.
Ward 1 Selectman Ted Tullos gave an update to the McComb Exchange Club about the various aspects of city government, including infrastructure and recreation projects and the periodically hostile climate on the board whose votes are often split along racial lines.
Tullos began with praise for Mayor Whitney Rawlings and selectmen Tommy McKenzie and Michael Cameron, all white Republicans, calling them “Southern gentlemen” who are acting in the city’s best interests.
Without mentioning them by name, however, he at times heaped criticism on selectmen Albert Eubanks, Ronnie Brock and Donovan Hill, all black Democrats.
Tullos called Rawlings a dedicated mayor who works hard to promote the city.
“In our board meetings it's his responsibility to run those meetings,” he said. “He unjustly gets attacked, he gets verbally assaulted, he gets called a bunch of names and gets accused of things he didn't do.”
He said McKenzie is just as dedicated, often showing up at city hall to consult with the mayor and City Administrator Kelvin Butler on various issues.
“He, too, has been attacked by the Democrats,” Tullos said. “They call him racist and other things, but he shows so much character. He's got so much class.”
Tullos said Cameron, an entrepreneur, brings keen business insights to the table but his businesses have endured attacks on social media.
Asked about his plans for the 2018 city elections, the two-term selectman said, "I'm going to ask the citizens of Ward 1 to allow me to serve one more term, just one more term.
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In speaking about city recreation department projects, Tullos recalled his experience as a former department employee.
"I worked for 11 months in the recreation department,” he said, recalling laying rip-rap in 29-degree weather on a January morning.
He said the city’s multimillion-dollar sports park, built with proceeds from a 3 percent motel tax, is helping the local economy, with out-of-state baseball and softball teams playing there 10 months out of the year.
“We're booked solid now,” he said. “That means people coming from Texas, Arkansas, Louisiana, Alabama. They're staying in our hotels.”
Tullos had little enthusiasm, however, for his Democratic counterparts’ insistence to build a new gym near the Martin Luther King Center. He said he feared the facility wouldn’t properly be taken care of if it was built.
“Three times the city found out they could not afford to maintain that gym,” Tullos said. “Three times it was destroyed. Three times the city lost a lot of money dealing with that gymnasium.”
Gym supporters have noted that past bond issues have mentioned financing a gym, mainly on the contingency that there’s money left over from other projects, but Tullos called that a misguided use of the city budget.
"I'm wondering if there are people on our board who don't know what that is,” he said.
Tullos said other neighborhoods have been benefiting from recent recreation improvements, including a new park in Algiers with a basketball court.
"You can go down there and you can see the basketball court,you can see the playground for children to play,” he said.
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Turning to other topics, Tullos said Butler has been doing a good job of trying to save the city money without jeopardizing public services.
He noted that the city recently switched insurance carriers for a savings of $250,000 annually and used that money to purchase five new police cars.
The city’s animal shelter has seen improvements, thanks in large part to director Michelle Lombas and Police Chief Scott McKenzie and some of his officers, who have volunteered some of their time.
Turning to infrastructure, Tullos said McKenzie, an engineer by trade, has given some insight into repair and maintenance.
“Being that he deals with streets and buildings and such, he said we need to hire an A-Team and buy them equipment” for street work, Tullos said. "You can begin to see recently ... things bing repaired by an A-Team.”
He said the city has plans to repair another 15 miles of the city’s worst-rated streets by the end of next year.
Speaking of streets, Tullos said plans to extend the Anna Drive service road south to 24th Street are dead following a petition drive to contest a bond proposal for the project.
“That's a moot point now. We gave the land back. It's gone,” he said.