Tom Stingley, 61, is running for city council as a service to his hometown of Jackson. If Stingley is successful in his bid for the Ward 2 seat, he promises to waive most of the $25,000-per-year salary that council members receive.
"I'm not trying to build a resume. My resume is built. If haven't built one at 61, something is wrong," Stingley said. "You don't need anyone who's going to be learning on the job. Because a brand new council person who's not familiar with city government systems is going to be overwhelmed the first six months."
Stingley, an attorney, counts his experience as a city department head for 15 years for three Jackson mayors--Russell Davis, Dale Danks and Kane Ditto--and stints at the attorney general's office and Mississippi Department of Transportation.
How would you harness your experience to tackle the largest priority in Ward 2?
The first thing I'm going to do after being sworn in is fast for three days, and ask for wisdom and guidance. I have experience, but you still have to do that. The second thing I'm going to do is try to convene a meeting with one representative from every homeowner's association in the ward. I want a representative from every business in the ward or adjoining the ward. I want all the pastors or their representatives at that meeting.
I don't want any one neighborhood competing against the other one for limited resources. If were dealing with limited resources maybe we can get a consensus that if there's flooding in Presidential Hills, and it's a greater need than two streets that need to be repaved in the Woodhaven area. I want those two neighborhoods to agree on their priorities.
This is why you need an experienced attorney with government and federal program experience. I'm going to be trying to look at every rock to look for any type of federal or state funding that's available.
As you're campaigning, is there any issue that sticks out that people want to see progress on?
On the top of the list right now are streets. That's all you hear is (about) the potholes. You know, you're going always have that problem unless you have some type of maintenance program for your streets. The city just passed a $10 million bond issue, and it's important, but it's a drop in the bucket. But that's the only tool you have right now.
The second priority is economic development. A councilperson is responsible for giving tools to the CEO, which is the mayor, so that he or she can do the job that they need to do. We have to give the mayor clear directions on our priorities. If the mayor's office is not performing like they should, yeah, we should criticize them, but we should criticize them in private not in a public meeting. And if we do have to criticize them in a public meeting, it should be done in a very impersonal way--no sarcasm, no personal vendettas.
That's what makes those meetings entertaining.
If that's the case, and I'm there, look for some dull meetings, because I'm going to be about the business. I think we're going to have some drag out fights. And don't get me wrong; I'm a litigator, so I'm a pretty tough--plus, I grew up in west Jackson. If we're going to fight, we should do it before we get in front of the table in front of the public. I'm real concerned because I remember Farish Street in its heyday. I'm real concerned that the Farish Street project has not moved forward
What's the city supposed to do about that?
The city needs to take an assessment, say, "Do we have the right people handling this?"
But that's not a decision the city council would make. That's JRA's deal.
The city council and JRA need to have a meeting of the minds. You can't just sit back and say that's their responsibility now. You have to stay in your lane and do what you can, but you have to hold them accountable.
What would you say in that meeting?
I'd want to hear what they have to say first. What's the status? What do you plan to do about it? What's your timeline? Let me see your matrix for getting this done. Also, a key to being a successful person is that you always need friends in different areas of expertise. What has helped make me successful, I always need to have a group of friends--CPAs, attorneys, community development associations, to bounce ideas off of. Sometimes a small businessman or woman running a business on a corner has an insight on something you haven't even thought about. You're not going to use everything you hear, but you're going to use some of it.
Let's touch on crime.
A lot of young people now are growing up differently in terms of what their values are. You're going to have to deal with that with your community organizations, your ministers and your schools. A councilperson, you're getting into somebody else's lane when you do that, but you try to promote it.
The other thing is, you've got more dropouts than you realize. I used to do some bad check representation, and one of the things I do is ask your educational level. One common element ... some of these brothers and sister are highly intelligent, but they dropped out in 10th grade. That's a matter we've got to deal with.
We need to give the police department the tools they need to do their jobs. Something that's a pet peeve of mine: I've always thought police folks and teachers were the most underpaid people in the state. And what's sad about that is one group is training our young folks to be leaders in the future and the other group is protecting our personal safety and property, they should be some of the best-paid people in this city.
Would you be comfortable with a smaller police force that's better compensated?
No. That's one area where I want my cake and eat it, too. I want more police but I want them very well paid.