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TUPELO • Mayor Jason Shelton’s decision not to seek re-election has already triggered rampant speculation about who may run to replace him, but the formal qualifying period won’t yet open for months, beginning in January of next year.

Most cities and towns across Mississippi will hold municipal elections next year. In Tupelo, the mayor’s office and all seven City Council seats will be on the ballot.

Candidates for all municipal offices must be a registered voter of the municipality, meaning they are entitled to vote there based on their residence and are of voting age. Candidates for City Council seats must also be residents of the ward they are seeking to represent.

In Tupelo, all seven City Council seats represent specific geographic areas. The Tupelo council no longer contains any at-large seats.

Candidates for municipal office must also never have been convicted of bribery, perjury or any crime punishable by a minimum of one year in state prison, unless pardoned. Candidates must also never have been convicted of a felony in any state court or federal court.

The qualifying period will open in January and run about three months. Candidates running with a party identification must submit qualifying papers and pay a qualifying fees. Independent candidates must submit a petition signed by registered voters, with the number of necessary signatures varying based upon the population of the town or city. In Tupelo, a petition signed by 50 registered voters would be necessary to qualify for office as an independent.

After the qualifying period, party primaries and, if needed, a runoff will occur followed by a general election in June. New four-years terms of municipal office will begin in July.

Party primaries are managed by municipal party committees. In the primaries and in the general election, municipal precincts rather than county precincts will be used.

Tupelo’s second-term Democrat mayor says he will complete his current term but won’t seek a third. Assuming he completes his second term as planned, Shelton’s eight years at City Hall will make him Tupelo’s longest-tenured mayor since Jack Marshall, who served 12 years from 1985 until 1997.

Marshall was succeeded by Glenn McCullough, who left partway through his first term. Larry Otis won a special election to replace McCullough and then won a full term of office, but didn’t seek re-election, serving as mayor in total from 2000 to 2005.

After Otis, Ed Neelly and Jack Reed Jr. each only served a single term.

Twitter: @CalebBedillion

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