TUPELO • Half of Lee County’s voters will get to decide who will be their next constable when they return to the polls next week.
In District 2, Democrat Randy Ellis, 31, is trying to unseat 26-year incumbent Republican Ted Wood. On the south end of the county, Democratic incumbent Tom Henry “Punnie” Lyles will face challenger Johnny Patterson (R). The other two incumbents, Joe Huckaby and Phil Gann, are unopposed in the Nov. 5 general election.
Wood, 67, won a special election for become constable in 1993 and has been re-elected six straight times.
“I work hard and try to treat people kindly,” Wood said. “You have to be discrete. Some times it can be embarrassing to people to be served.
“I enjoy the job. I like working with people.”
He said his health is good and he hasn’t made any plans about whether he would run again if re-elected this year.
“I don’t know how much longer I will work,” Wood said. “I guess I’ll keep working until the people decide I’m not the one they want anymore.”
Ellis ran for the District 1 constable post four years ago in his first venture into politics. He has since moved back to his native Mooreville.
“Being a constable is my dream job,” Ellis said. “You get to help the community during the day and be at home at nights and on weekends with my wife. It’s the best of both worlds.”
Despite his age, 31, Ellis has been working with people and serving the community for nearly two decades.
“I have been working since I was 13, in grocery stores, restaurants, with the sheriff’s office and in the Marines,” Ellis said.
In addition to doing the job of serving papers, Ellis wants to make sure he would be friendly and approachable if elected.
“Law enforcement are there to help and serve the community,” Ellis said. “I want people to be able to call me and say they need help. I want to be someone people can talk to or ask questions of.”
The two candidates on the south end of the county have been friends for at least a quarter century.
“I think the world of Punnie,” Patterson said. “We’ve been friends for 25 years or more, even before I got into law enforcement.”
Lyles has been a Lee County constable since 2004. Before that, he spent about a decade on the Lee County School Board. He is 71 but says he works like a 58-year-old.
“If you love your job, it’s never hard,” Lyles said. “I like being a public servant. I’m a people person. I am concerned about young people and making sure they stay on the correct path.
“Whenever I see young people, I encourage them to stay in school – eduction is very important. I also remind them of the importance of keeping a good reputation.”
Patterson, 57, worked in a factory for years but switched to law enforcement more than 22 years ago. He served as the Shannon Police Chief for five years and has been the interim police chief at Verona since April.
“Being constable would allow me to help more folks and be in a position to work with the public more,” Patterson said. “It would give me a chance to continue serving the public, like I have for nearly 23 years.”
While there are plenty of similarities between a police officer and a constable, he would like the chance to help people outside the constraints of the city limits. A constable’s duties are also considered safer.
“Anytime you deal with the public, there is a chance things could get rough, even delivering papers,” Patterson.
His day job has kept Patterson from campaigning as much as he would like. But since the candidates are friends, the race has been very laid back.