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Bell leads new city election qualifiers

Two early morning Wednesday qualifiers were joined later in the day by two incumbent aldermen and a new face to city elections seeking to move up and take the job of chief of police.

     Current Assistant Police Chief Bobby Bell declared his candidacy Wednesday for police chief. He’s running as a Democrat.

     Incumbent Alderman at Large Karen Sullivan and Ward Four Alderman Shirley Estes also formalized their intentions to seek terms. Both qualified as Republicans.

     The three new qualifiers joined City Clerk Mike Jinks and Ward Three Alderman Mary Wilson as the only official candidates thus far.

     Bell has been with the Brookhaven Police Department 31 years, and he said taking the top post has long been an ambition of his.

     “I have always contemplated running for police chief,” Bell said.

 “I’ve just been waiting for my turn.”

     Bell’s entry into the race potentially sets up a contest between the top two officials in the department, but that remains uncertain.

     When contacted Wednesday, Chief of Police Pap Henderson would not say whether he’ll seek another term. Rumors have circulated that Henderson plans not to run, but when asked about these rumors, he wouldn’t comment.

     Bell did say he’d discussed the idea of running with Henderson as well as former police chief Fred McKee.

     Following the June 2011 retirement of Nolan Jones, Bell moved up to the assistant police chief post. Bell pointed back beyond his promotion to his long history with the department when describing his qualifications for the job.

     “I’ve been preparing myself ever since I started,” Bell said. “I can’t think of another person that’s more qualified for this job at this time than I am.”

     Bell originally hails from Jackson but moved to Brookhaven in 1977.

     “This is home,” Bell said.

     That sense of home also plays into Bell’s plans to seek the police chief. He’s never run for elected office before.

     “I want to make a difference in this community,” he said.

     If he’s elected as chief, Bell said his goals for the department would include improving the equipment and technological resources available to police officers.

     The latest aldermen qualifiers Sullivan and Estes both said they feel they have more to contribute to city government.

     “I’ve said all along I was going to run a second time,” Sullivan said. “There’s a lot of unfinished business, and I want to be involved in it.”

     Sullivan has recently helped begin a number of projects she said she’d like to see through to fruition. These include landscaping at Interstate 55’s exit 40 and an overhaul of the entryway into Rosehill Cemetery.

     With a new executive vice president coming to the local chamber of commerce, replacing the outgoing Cliff Brumfield, Estes hopes the board and chamber will be able to help expand Brookhaven with a new term.

     “I would really love to see us move on with economic development,” Estes said.

     Estes also pointed to the development last year of a recycling program in the city as a success she’s proud of on the board.

     “We’ve made great strides in recycling and hope to continue to involve more people,” she said. “It was very rewarding to serve on that committee to get recycling established.”

     Sullivan is completing her first term. Estes won the Ward Four seat in a 2004 special election, replacing her late husband, Don Estes. She’s served two full terms since then.

     No challengers have qualified yet in any of the aldermen races. The qualifying deadline for city elections is March 8.