TUPELO – After more than three decades working in Tupelo City Hall, Zell Long decided it was now or never if she was going to change careers.
Long, 58, the director of Community Development for the city, is the new chief professional officer for the Boys & Girls Club of North Mississippi. Long’s last day working for the city she loves will be Sept. 24 and her first day working with the young people she loves will be Oct. 1.
Long has been working for the city since 1976, so leaving has been much easier said than done, she said.
“I’m going to miss so many things about Tupelo,” said Long with the same engaging smile Tupelo residents have been accustomed to seeing over the past three-plus decades. “The people I worked with, the citizens I’ve worked hard for, the mayors I’ve served under, the good I was able to do for Tupelo, all of those things will never leave my memory. But this career change was a now-or-never venture for me, so I took a leap of faith and accepted this new challenge.”
Long said when the opportunity with the Boys & Girls Club presented itself, her love for children and public service motivated her to apply.
“The thing I love about working for the city is also what drew me to this job, and that’s the people,” said Long. “I’ll get to work with young people who one day will grow up to be adults that will give back to our community. So even though I’ve moved to a new job, my goals are the same – to build a strong community and starting with the children is a great start.”
As chief professional officer, Long will be in charge of clubs in Tupelo, Ripley, Oxford and New Albany and she’ll do it all from her new office in the McLean building, which is just west of her old office downtown. The only problem she said she foresees at this time is fighting the urge to pull into her old parking space at the city every morning instead of her new one up the street.
Long said she feels her 34 years working for the city of Tupelo is going to help her in her new job.
“Because of the people I’ve met while working for the city and because of the many roles I’ve served in, I feel I’m prepared for this new challenge,” said Long. “This is a new chapter in my life and a new chapter for the Boys & Girls Club. I feel like we have a strong staff here and that is a big reason I decided to take the job.”
Long added: “I’ve been doing community development for most of my life and the only thing I’m doing now is helping to develop the youth of our communities. Same job, different audience, that’s all.”
As for her old job, Long said she hopes her replacement will have the same love, passion and respect for Tupelo and its people.
“I just hope that person loves this place like I’ve loved it over the past 34 years,” said Long. “That’s all I ask.”
Contact Danza Johnson at (662) 678-1583 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
About Zell Long
■ Zell Long, 58, graduated from Hernando Central High School in DeSoto County. She attended Mississippi Valley State University and majored in English. In 1971 she married J.B. Long and moved to Tupelo. Long is the mother of eight children and 14 grandchildren.
She began working for the city of Tupelo in 1976 and was the first African-American to work in City Hall in Tupelo. Long started out as a secretary in the budget department, and then was promoted to secretary in the planning department where she was responsible for permits.
Long later became a development specialist for the city and she helped write grants. She currently serves as director of Community Development for the city. She is a member of Jesus New Testament Holiness Church in the Red Hill community. Long said she loves to read, sing and serve the people of her community.
A quote that she has lived her life by has been, “If not me, then who?”
Danza Johnson / NEMS Daily Journal