By Lloyd Gray/NEMS Daily Journal
TUPELO – A tired but happy All-America City team returned home Saturday determined to use Tupelo’s latest award as a springboard to future progress.
The 35-member delegation spent most of the week in Kansas City, Mo., where on Friday night Tupelo won its fourth All-America City designation given by the National Civic League.
A long bus ride home ended with a police and fire escort to City Hall, where the group staged one last brief celebration, dancing to Elvis’ “That’s All Right, Mama.”
“It was a lifelong memory,” said Donna Loden, the group’s unofficial head cheerleader.
The experience of cataloguing Tupelo’s attributes and stacking them up against exceptional cities around the country motivated many on the team to come home and do more.
“It was a lot of work telling the story, but now we have to live up to it and make Tupelo even better,” said Deepika Dey.
City Council President Fred Pitts said one thing he took away is that “you can’t stand still. When things get tough, you need to get tougher. You’ve got to continue to find ways to improve your city.”
Tupelo was among 26 cities selected as award finalists and invited to Kansas City, where 10 were selected as winners after presentations to a panel of judges. Tupelo highlighted its Fairpark downtown redevelopment, Traceway’s Green Houses and health and education initiatives.
Zell Long, noting Tupelo’s current challenges, said the award comes at “the right time” and shows that “the good outweighs the bad.”
The judges cited the diversity of Tupelo’s delegation as the strongest among the cities represented, and Long and others said this bodes well for the city’s future as it deals with changing demographics.
Tupelo’s reputation as a city that welcomes and incorporates newcomers was on display in the delegation. Only five in the group were Tupelo natives.
While the award is a morale boost for Tupelo, outsiders will take notice, Pitts said. “Across the country, it means a lot.”
Contact Lloyd Gray at (662) 678-1579 or firstname.lastname@example.org.