March 9, 2013 8:22:59 PM
The Columbus mayoral race is heating up, with two more candidates qualifying late Friday afternoon for the June 4 municipal election.
Republican Glenn Lautzenhiser and Democrat Willie Petty Jr. filed their paperwork shortly before the 5 p.m. deadline, running against incumbent mayor Robert Smith and independent Bo Jarrett. Smith and Petty will face off in the primary election May 7.
Lautzenhiser, 72, said he wrestled with the decision for the past five months before finally making up his mind Thursday night to run for office. He said he was swayed by the number of people who told him they believe he can make a difference.
"I said I would think about it and pray about it, then other people approached me and what started as a trickle became a rapidly moving stream," he said Saturday afternoon.
Columbus has produced many successful people, he said, but he feels the best days are ahead.
"If we could all start working together in a positive way, it would be so much better for the community," Lautzenhiser said.
One of his primary goals is to increase communication between local government and the constituents, responding swiftly to community concerns. If elected, he said he intends to go into the wards with the councilmen and department heads to talk directly with the people and encourage "proactive dialogue."
Though he is a former chairman and longtime member of the Republican Municipal Executive Committee, he said he takes a bipartisan approach.
"Potholes do not have a political label," he said. "Citizens want the necessary services from their city."
Lautzenhiser, who was born in New Orleans and raised in Memphis, Tenn., graduated from White Station High School in Memphis in 1955. He attended Memphis State University, where he earned a bachelor's degree in political science and philosophy.
He has served 23 years on the Columbus Municipal School District's Board of Trustees and is past president of the Lowndes County chapter of the American Cancer Society. He currently volunteers on Saturdays as a mentor to youth at the Lowndes County Juvenile Detention Center and reads to elementary school children each week as part of the First Book program.
He and his wife, Jan, have three children -- Susan, Perry and Louise.
Petty, 34, said he decided to run for mayor because he believes politicians should follow through on their promises and show constituents they care.
He feels the city needs to focus on improving and supporting the education system, which will lead to economic growth.
"We, as a community, have to all work together," Petty said Saturday afternoon. "Our youth hold the power, but we have to educate them, foster a competitive spirit in them and let them know they need to have pride in the area and integrity about themselves."
He said he is undaunted by the amount of competition for the city's top position.
"No matter who's on the ballot, no matter who's running, if you believe you can do it and you put your mind to it, you can achieve it," he said.
Petty was born in St. Louis and raised in Columbus. He is a 1996 graduate of Columbus High School and earned a bachelor's degree in marketing from Mississippi State University.
He has been involved in the banking industry for eight years and currently works as branch manager at a bank which he declined to name. He was formerly in the financial sales department at Trustmark Bank in Jackson.
Petty, an ordained minister, serves as youth minister at Jerusalem Missionary Baptist Church in Columbus and is chairman of the Columbus High School Alumni Association.
He and his wife, Monica, have three children -- Marquis, 11; Jordyn, 9; and Willie Petty III, 3.
Jarrett, 58, said he decided to run for mayor because he hears complaints about Columbus but he doesn't see anyone stepping forward to solve the issues.
"There's a lot of behind-the-scenes activity in this city that needs to be gotten rid of, and that's one of the main things I'm going to focus on," Jarrett said Saturday afternoon. "We have to get off the racial issue -- that's a thing of the past."
He also cited lowering the crime rate, bringing in better jobs and ending drug trafficking as his top concerns.
He said his experience as the owner of Jarrett's Towing for 20 years gives him the business sense, common sense and mechanical ability to serve all citizens. He also owns a trailer park he declined to name, saying he plans to sell it soon.
"I believe I can make a big difference in trying to make things where the public can understand," he said. "I want to be more fair concerning everyone."
He is a 1972 graduate of Lee High School and attended East Mississippi Community College, where he studied electrical work and maintenance.
He has served as a volunteer for the Market Street Festival, Sounds of Summer and the Legends concert, along with Relay for Life. He is a member of the International Order of Odd Fellows.
He is not married and has no children.
Carmen K. Sisson is news editor at The Dispatch.
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