TUPELO – During their first retreat since taking office in July, city leaders on Monday promised long-term cooperation and mutual respect.
The mayor and City Council spent six hours together at an informal session that was as much about education as it was fellowship. After a crash course from Marty Wiseman about the mayor-council form of municipal government, the group – along with spouses – dined together at Fairpark Grill.
Wiseman, executive director of Mississippi State University’s John C. Stennis Institute of Government, said Tupelo is one of nine cities in the state where the mayor acts as the executive branch and the council as legislative branch.
He called this form a government “an invitation to struggle” because the mayor and council hold equal power, just in different areas.
“It works so much better,” Wiseman said, “when you have a good relationship.”
Several council members nodded at this comment. They, along with Mayor Jack Reed Jr., had run their political campaigns on fostering positive relationships among city leaders.
Members of the previous administration, by contrast, had grown bitter and openly hostile toward each other by the end of their four-year term.
That atmosphere caused numerous rifts, not only among council members, but between the council and mayor.
“I used to think the mayor-council form of government was just a way for us to block each other,” said longtime Ward 4 Councilwoman Nettie Davis. “I really did. But now I think it has to do more with personality, and if each respects the other, then government works in any form.”
Wiseman praised the group for its efforts to collaborate and communicate thus far.
He also urged members to continue this open dialog, especially after questions arose about the council’s powers to influence mayoral decisions – for example, using its control of city funds to force a hiring or firing.
“Personnel and money are generally the greatest opportunities for friction,” said Wiseman, adding his hope that the group can avoid power struggles by reaching mutual agreements instead.
The mayor and council wrapped up their session with a group dinner across the street from City Hall, where they and their spouses swapped stories about kids and church and aspirations for a better community.
Contact Emily Le Coz at (662) 678-1588 or email@example.com.
Emily Le Coz/NEMS Daily Journal