By Emily Le Coz/NEMS Daily Journal
TUPELO – Mayor Jack Reed Jr. called the first year of his administration a success despite the inevitable bumps along the way.
In an interview with the Daily Journal, the mayor said he has worked hard to set a positive tone for his four-year term. He also credited the City Council for its efforts to collaborate with him and nurture healthy relationships with each other.
Here are excerpts from that interview, which touched on issues like the city’s current annexation attempt and a tumultuous year for the Tupelo Regional Airport.
Q: What has been your mission as mayor?
A: I think my personal mission and responsibility is that of every CEO, whether it’s of a private company or governmental position, is to articulate the vision of Tupelo at our best and then, by the power of example, be a carrier of that vision.
Q: Beyond that?
A: A mayor’s two fundamental responsibilities are safety and solvency, and I think we’ve done well on both of those. On safety, we have an excellent police force … and I think we’ve got a great new chief of police. He’s a unifier and he’s committed to community policing. On solvency, with the decisions I made … to promote Kim Hanna to city clerk and bring in Lynn Norris as CFO gives us the best financial team in the South, I would say. This is a serious time financially, and all cities are having challenges financially. We continue to drive down expenses where we can and be prudent with our savings but still recognize basic services our citizens expect us to provide.
Q: How do you see your relationship with the City Council?
A: I think I’ve had a great year with the council. That’s one thing the citizens wanted with the mayor and five new council people is the sense we’re on the same team and not against attach other and I certainly think that has happened.
Q: It’s been a tumultuous year for the Tupelo Regional Airport with the sudden firing of longtime Director Terry Anderson, the threatened loss of essential air service and the controversy over the runway extension. Your thoughts?
A: I probably spent more hours in my first year on the Tupelo Regional Airport than on any other single issue because of the twin challenges of essential air services and then the runway extension decision. And then there was the director change. But I think the twin virtues of patience and persistence that I believe in have proven to work out pretty well on the airport extension. We got a both-and instead of an either-or. We’ll make a meaningful difference with 650 more feet (on the runway) but we’ll still keep all three of our east-west arteries in Tupelo open.
Q: The council’s decision to allow Sunday beer and alcohol sales also caused great uproar. Six months later, do you see a difference in our city because of it?
A: That turned out to be a non-event. People have behaved themselves and got along. I’m delighted that it’s kind of been a non-event. Hopefully that’s a good lesson for us; life does go on.
Q: The city’s long-held goal of annexing more territory reached a milestone under your administration when it finally went to trial in Lee County Chancery Court. Although the judge has yet to render his opinion, what do you think has been the effect of that effort?
A: I say to the supervisors and citizens of Lee County that I think annexation is probably just one crucible that every county, every city, that goes through it just has a disagreement about. You almost can’t help it. No matter the outcome, we will continue to cooperate in every way with the board of supervisors, other mayors, people who live in the county. We are really one people. It’s an inescapable exception to getting along with each other. I understand that some of the folks in the county that would be annexed if it’s approved as requested don’t want to pay any more taxes. That’s human nature, but I hope we can prove to them if it goes through that the benefits of being a citizen of Tupelo will be worth it to their quality of life.
Q: What do you think about Toyota’s announcement this month that it’ll resume construction of its auto manufacturing facility?
A: It’s a game-changer for all of us. I went to Georgetown, Ky., two weeks ago to talk to them about their town and the difference Toyota has made. It will make a tremendous difference for all of us.