By Robbie Ward/NEMS Daily Journal
TUPELO – Whether longtime friends, political supporters, business people or just citizens curious to meet the 37-year-old who will become Tupelo’s next mayor, more than 250 people stopped by the Hilton Garden Inn early Monday evening to say hello to Jason Shelton.
People who live and work in the community attended a meet-and-greet, introducing themselves and seeing first-hand the man who will lead the city for the next four years. The Tupelo attorney smiled with dozens of people as a photographer snapped photographs and others sipped wine and lemonade.
Shelton invited members of the Community Development Foundation and anyone else in the community to meet him before he takes office.
Will Lewis, managing principal for the architectural firm JBHM’s Tupelo office, introduced himself to the in-coming mayor, someone he’ll likely work with on long-term projects. His firm is currently a partner with the city on the aquatic center in east Tupelo and has provided preliminary design work for a proposed new police headquarters.
Personal relationships are key for business leaders when they seek city projects.
“It’s obviously very important,” Lewis said. “This is starting the process of getting to know each other.”
Many in the crowd have known Shelton and will work with him closely for the next four years. City Council members Buddy Palmer of Ward 5 and Willie Jennings of Ward 7 attended, as did some city department heads.
Former Mayor Ed Neelly stopped by to wish the future mayor good luck as he prepares to lead the city. Neelly attended a fundraiser for Shelton during the campaign for mayor, and his son contributed financially to his campaign.
“He’s young and energetic,” Neelly said. “I look forward to his leadership.”
One of Shelton’s campaign promises was to bring more openness to city government. Emphasizing this, he will hold an open house at City Hall on July 2 from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m., allowing citizens to visit the mayor’s office and see firsthand how local government works.
“Working citizens will have a voice in City Hall,” Shelton said. “You don’t have to be a corporate bigwig to have a voice.”