By Emily Le Coz/NEMS Daily Journal
TUPELO – Taxpayers could feel a little lighter thanks to a new health challenge Mayor Jack Reed Jr. set for his employees.
Reed urged the municipality’s 460 workers to get fit by setting up initiatives through each department. If it works, he said, employees will get fit and taxpayer-funded health insurance costs could decline.
Last year alone, the city spent $2 million in general fund money on group insurance from Blue Cross Blue Shield, according to City Clerk Kim Hanna. That doesn’t include insurance for employees of the Tupelo Coliseum Commission, Water amp& Light Department or Convention amp& Visitors Bureau, each of which has its own funds.
“It’s good for the individuals, and it should help keep our insurance premiums down,” Reed said. “Plus, if we want to be the healthiest city in Mississippi, we need to lead by example.”
Becoming the healthiest city in the state was one of Reed’s campaign goals when he successfully ran for office in 2009. Since then, he has helped launch numerous health-related initiatives.
Employees have eagerly embraced the latest challenge. Municipal Court workers have committed to walking around the block twice daily in a program they call “Courting Fitness,” said Court Administrator Larry Montgomery.
At the Parks and Recreation Department, workers are either hitting the elliptical machine they put in their office or walking around the park trails, said receptionist Neely Turner.
Human Resources workers line dance the last half-hour of each day to burn off extra calories and stay in shape, said Assistant Director Contanna Purnell.
“It’s fun,” she said. “We’re enjoying it.”
And other City Hall employees have skipped the elevator in the three-story building in lieu of the stairs, competing for who can rack up the most flights. A large scoreboard on the first floor stairwell keeps tally.