Citizens on the northern end of the county decided last week that it was time for a change at the top when it comes to city government.
Voters in both the city of Ruleville and the town of Drew selected new mayors Michael Clark and Melanie Townsend-Blackmon, respectively.
Clark, an independent candidate and longtime law enforcement officer in the community, defeated Democrat incumbent Shirley Edwards.
Townsend-Blackmon defeated Jennie Lewis. Outgoing Mayor Harvey Burchfield was eliminated from the race during the April primary.
Clark, a Doddsville native, began his career nearly two decades ago working at the Mississippi State Penitentiary at Parchman.
For the last 14 years, he’s been working as a patrolman in Ruleville.
“I just wanted to do something a little bit different,” Clark told The E-T about his decision to run for mayor. “Being with the community and knowing the community for the 14-plus years I’ve been here, I’ve established a lot of good relationships with the citizens of Ruleville, so I decided to try the political field.”
Clark was still wearing his uniform and still out on patrol earlier this week, but he will soon have the task of working with the Ruleville Board of Aldermen to run the city’s business.
His patrols over the past decade-plus have given him a front row seat to a lot of the issues that face the city.
“I figured I could be a little help in some areas,” he said. “I figured I could be a little help to our community.”
One of the areas Clark will attack first is unifying the city.
“Everybody can grow and everybody can prosper within the community,” he said.
Clark said Ruleville’s biggest asset is its people.
“We have the people that want to go forward,” Clark said. “We have people in place that can reach out and bring business and have the know-how to establish the things we need right here in Ruleville.”
Clark said, along with his work experience, he brings trust, fairness and a willingness to listen to the citizens to City Hall.
Clark is the son of the late Walter and Celestine Clark.
A few miles up the road in Drew, Melanie Townsend-Blackmon is already preaching a similar message of unity as the nearly 54-year citizen of the town plans her first year in office.
“I want to clean this city,” she told The E-T. “First, we have to clean the town. If we clean the town, and the people see we are all working together. I want to bring us all together. We have been divided for so long.”
Townsend-Blackmon was a longtime employee of the Mississippi Department of Corrections. She worked most recently as a compliance monitor for MDOC.
She has also served as a trustee on the board for the Sunflower County Consolidated School District.
Townsend-Blackmon said she is looking forward to getting out in the community, introducing herself to the local business owners and also connecting with the citizens.
“I want to hear their general concerns and some of the things they want the board of aldermen and mayor to do in this city,” she said. “I know I can’t get it all done in one day, but hopefully I’ll get to network with some of the people in the community to hear from them.”
Townsend-Blackmon has eight grandchildren, and she said she hopes to bring something to Drew that will give the children of the town actives to do.
“If we lose our children, we’re not going to have anything,” she said. We’ve got to take care of our children first.”