When Batesville voters cast ballots in the upcoming elections, the first results will come in Ward 2, where two Democrats are competing for the seat.
In Ward 2, Alderman Rufus Manley and opponent Ted Stewart are facing off in the May 3 primary.
Manley, who is retired from the U.S. Post Office in Memphis, lives at 309 Armstrong Street.
Stewart is a self-employed land developer. He lives at 118 Martinez Street.
Ward 2 is located in northwest Batesville, where Panola Avenue roughly splits the ward in half.
Streets south and west of Panola include Patton Lane, Field and Bright. To the east and north are Gordon, Hoskins and West among others.
Ward 2 adjoins Wards 1, 3 and 4.
Manley, 71, said he’s visited every home in Ward 2 although, of course, he didn’t find a voter at every door.
"The people wanted to know about the hospital – when it was going to be sold," Manley said. "They also wanted to know why some (officials) in office have been in there so long that they think nobody can replace them."
Manley said he has a "very good" working relationship with the current Mayor and Board of Alderman. As the sole minority on the board, he feels respected by his colleagues.
"I feel like I’m very much part of the Board of Alderman. I give my opinion," Manley said.
Even so, Manley said, he was disappointed that street overlaying in Ward 2 – and the rest of the city – was overlooked in favor of street projects in east Batesville, namely around Tri-Lakes Medical Center and Wal-Mart.
"I don’t know of any street that was overlayed in the city," Manley said.
Stewart, 55, said he’s visited about half the homes in Ward 2.
If elected, Stewart said he will hold a quarterly town-hall meeting, overseeing the cleaning of ditches that have been overlooked, and look into adding a public swimming pool and more basketball goals.
"The people of Ward 2 feel like the city needs to do something for the kids," Stewart said. "They want the city to be more involved in the community."
Stewart’s Martinez Street neighbor, Stella Griffin, said the candidate stopped by her home several days ago to ask for her vote.
"He was telling me what he plans to do if he gets elected," Griffin said. "They all say what they’re going to do until the time comes to do it."
Regarding crime in Ward 2, both Manley and Stewart say the minority community is a safe place to live and work. An ongoing concern, however, is young men loitering on street corners.
"Everybody on a street corner is not selling drugs, but some are," Stewart said.
According to Manley, he has worked closely with the police department to clamp down on corner drug dealing and loitering.
"It’s improved greatly in the last four years," Manley said.
Manley and Stewart both stressed the need for the community to work closely with police officers.
"You’ve got to support the police," Stewart said.
Drug dealing is a persistent problem in Ward 2, Manley said, but crimes such as robberies and break-ins are rare, and more heinous crimes are non-existent.
Both Manley and Stewart support relocating the Boys and Girls Club from its Martinez Street location to the old National Guard Armory, which is located at Hwy. 51 and Eureka Road.
The club is now located across the street from Stewart’s home. He would be saddened to see it relocate but understands the reasoning behind the move.
"Some folks are against (the move) because they want it to stay in the community, but I support it," said Stewart. "It needs room to grow, and maybe more everybody will be involved if it moves to the armory."
Regarding the possible relocation, Manley was more succinct.
"The Boys and Girls Club is for all children, including white children," Manley said. "Those children won’t come so long as it’s in a totally black area, and I think
the community fully understands that."