Meridian, Mississippi To say there were fireworks during Thursday night's debate would be an understatement.
The candidates started attacking each other almost immediately after the debate started. One of the main concerns was centered around the city's former police chief, James Reed.
Mayor Cheri Barry immediately defended her decision to hire Reed last summer after former Chief Lee Shelbourn retired. Her opponent, Percy Bland, then retaliated by saying that having multiple police chiefs during one term is a sign of poor leadership. Independent Wally Hudnall said he will look at a short list of candidates for chief and then make a decision, while Walter Patton never really answered how he would fix the police chief problem. Instead, he attacked Percy Bland.
"I think he was an honest man and brought some much to the table in our community," Barry said of Reed. "He was about building our community, bringing our relationships together. He worked with the people of this community. So, I think he was an outstanding choice and I would make that choice again."
"I think one of the things we need to think about when choosing a mayor is, when you've had three or four police chiefs in four years, that's certainly a problem with leadership," Bland said. "And I think that's very telling of the style of leadership."
"I'm going to give the people that work for the city of Meridian, the police officers that have been there five years or longer," Hudnall said. "An opportunity to put an application in, pick the five best and then sit down and discuss it with the city council members. And we'd like to hire within, but we're going to have best police chief and the most safest police department in the state."
"Now Mr. Bland, he talked about Mr. Reed, and he's flip flopped on this issue more than any other issue," Patton said. "We were down at New Hope Baptist Church and Mr. Bland was asked directly if he would hire Chief Reed back. He said no."
Bland refuted those claims made by Patton, saying it is hearsay and that only factual information should be brought to the table.
The debate will be rebroadcast on WTOK-TV on Saturday at 12 noon, Saturday at 7 p.m. on MyTOK2, and Sunday at 3 p.m. on MyTOK2. The debate is also available in its entirety on wtok.com