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Southaven Emergency Communications Director Chris Shelton received a proclamation from Mayor Darren Musselwhite Tuesday acknowledging National Public Safety Telecommunications Week and honoring emergency dispatchers for their work.

The ability of a candidate for DeSoto County supervisor to speak on behalf of his candidacy to a governmental body was challenged before Southaven Mayor Darren Musselwhite and the Southaven Board of Aldermen Tuesday night. 

Ray Denison, who is one of three candidates seeking the Republican nod for District 3 Supervisor to replace Bill Russell, had asked for and was given time to speak to the Board of Aldermen at Tuesday’s meeting.

Russell is not seeking re-election and a total of five candidates, three Republicans and two Democrats, have qualified to be on the August primary ballot.

Part of the city of Southaven is included in DeSoto County Supervisor District 3.

But, just before Denison spoke, fellow candidate Bobby Reed spoke up from the boardroom audience and said, “Point of order!”

Reed then stepped forward to state that if Denison was allowed to speak, the city would be in violation of a state law and Reed would be filing a complaint with Mississippi Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann. It was Reed’s contention candidates cannot “campaign” before a governmental body meeting unless all of the candidates spoke at the same time.

When Musselwhite offered Reed the opportunity to also speak to the board, Reed declined, saying he would also be in violation if he did so.

All three Republican candidates for the seat were actually in the same room at the same time, because current Southaven Alderman Charlie Hoots was there in his role as alderman.

Hoots is also a candidate for the Republican nod. The Democrats who are running are James Hawkins Sr. and Bacardi M. Harris.

Following a brief moment with City Attorney Nick Manley, Denison was allowed to continue, where he spoke on his background, upbringing in Southaven, and his candidacy for supervisor.

After Denison’s presentation, Hoots commented he was glad to hear from a candidate who he is running against.

“I’m happy he came here today and I appreciate Mr. Reed showing up, too,” Hoots said.

Musselwhite said he allowed Denison to appear as an aid to his aldermen, stressing he was not advocating any candidate over another.

“I know with your busy schedules you do not have time to appear at every political forum,” Musselwhite told the board. “So, for them to come to you and introduce themselves I think is a worthy move. If the next person asks to speak, we’ll let them speak. We’ve done it before.”

It’s not an unusual for a candidate to do this, apparently. For instance, District 25 state representative candidate Randy Denton appeared for the same purpose before the Horn Lake Board of Aldermen at a recent meeting.

If Reed follows through and files a complaint, the Secretary of State’s office is likely not the right place to go.

When contacted Wednesday morning, Attorney and Assistant Secretary of State of Communications Leah Rupp Smith said in a statement, “No complaint has been filed with the Secretary of State's Office. Our agency handles the receipt of qualifying paperwork and campaign finance reports related to candidates.”

During the Mayor’s Report portion of Tuesday’s meeting, Musselwhite announced that a skate park that was taken down may be revived in a new location.

The area on Rasco Road that had ramps and jumps set up for skaters to use was surplused and the ramps were taken down when a strong voice of complaints came up from neighbors about what was going on there.

“Residents that lived on Coventry Drive had been asking for three years to close the park,” Musselwhite said. “They complained of extreme profanity, both verbal and graffiti format on the ramps. We’ve had vandalism, anti-police messages and those disrespectful to women and I’m going to stop there.”

The mayor said it was a tough decision that he fought over the past couple of years but it had finally come to a point as a public safety nuisance the ramps had to come down.

Now, Musselwhite said SouthPoint Church has come forward asking the city to donate the ramps to the church so they can erect an area on their property near Highway 51 and Main Street.

“We were looking for other locations and other places to put this park where we would have better supervision,” said Musselwhite. “They’ve asked to take the ramps and to move the skate park over to the SouthPoint location.”

The skate park would become part of a community center Musselwhite said the church would like to have at their location. He said not everything had been finalized but that it appears that the ramps would eventually be given to SouthPoint Church.

DISPATCHERS HONORED: Board members approved a proclamation recognizing the work of its city dispatchers as part of National Public Safety Telecommunications Week and city Emergency Communications Director Chris Shelton took the opportunity to recognize some of his personnel with awards.

Shelton pointed out the Southaven center in the past year received 42,271 911 calls and 67,092 calls for service. He added that radio traffic, according to Motorola, makes Southaven one of the busiest centers for the entire state of Mississippi.

Dispatcher Amber White was honored with the department’s highest award as Dispatcher of the Year for providing CPR instruction over the phone and for handling a domestic dispute called in by an youngster when one person was being assaulted by another.

“This dispatcher kept the youngster extremely calm while reassuring them that help was on the way,” Shelton said. “This action resulted in a quick response where the offender was arrested and the victim received emergency care.”

Another incident handled by White was when police officers were being fired upon and she relayed calls for additional officers to respond.

Lisa Randle was recognized with a Lifesaver Award for an April 2018 instance where she assisted in the delivery of a baby girl while her parents were on the interstate before first responders could arrive.

Morgan Edmonds also received a Lifesaver Award for two instances in 2018 where he provided CPR instructions over the phone to citizens who performed CPR while fire and EMS services were being dispatched.

SOUTHAVEN ETC.: Board members Tuesday also approved an ordinance addressing regulations for small cell communications technology with the advent of new 5G cellular services that will be entering the market. The city also gave authorization to advertise to bid for work to construct the Snowden Grove Pedestrian Path project, part of the city’s attempt to make it more pedestrian friendly. Memphis Urban Metropolitan Planning Organization, or MPO, funding was received to help in the project. Musselwhite also received approval to have CivilLink design a new bridge over Horn Lake Creek on Stateline Road West. Emergency state funding awarded to the city is helping fund the project.

Bob Bakken is Managing Editor for the DeSoto Times-Tribune.

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