Firing of airport director splits Tupelo Council

TUPELO – City Council members had mixed reactions Wednesday after Terry Anderson’s firing as Tupelo Regional Airport executive director.
Anderson, who had managed the airport since 2000, was terminated Tuesday.
“It appears to me that it’s a difference of opinion, which in my eyes that’s not a reason to fire somebody,” said Ward 3 Councilman Jim Newell. “If his performance skills are acceptable and he’s doing an acceptable job, that’s distressful to me to hear that.”
Council President Fred Pitts declined to comment, saying the council has no control over the airport authority and therefore his opinion is moot.
Also declining to comment were Ward 7 Councilman Willie Jennings and Ward 6 Councilman Mike Bryan. Jennings said his silence was due to lack of inside knowledge; Bryan said he was withholding comment because of potential litigation between Anderson and the authority.
Anderson hired Tupelo attorney Jim Waide last week upon hearing he might lose his job. Waide told the Daily Journal on Tuesday he’d encourage his client to take legal action against the authority.
“I will say this, though,” Bryan added, “based on the actions of the airport authority last night, this confirms my position on rescinding the past council’s decision on relocating West Jackson Street Extended.”
The council last year voted to allow the rerouting of Jackson Extended so the airport could extend the runway. Bryan wanted that decision rescinded after the council this year agreed to pursue a tunnel so the road could stay open along the same route.
The $9.3 million runway expansion was a source of contention between Anderson and some authority members. They wanted to slow the project to allow more time to study its impacts while Anderson wanted quicker action.
It’s unclear how much that situation contributed to Anderson’s dismissal this week. Whatever the factors, Ward 4 Councilwoman Nettie Davis said it wasn’t worth losing Anderson.
“I just don’t think they can find a person to replace him who has that kind of expertise,” Davis said. “I think he has moved the airport to another level, and it’s just really confusing to me what the problem is and why they didn’t want him anymore.”

Emily Le Coz/NEMS Daily Journal