By Robbie Ward
TUPELO – Tupelo Mayor Jason Shelton acknowledges oversights with his Accountability Task Force.
First, he said the week before taking office he’d create the group as one of his first actions in office. He appointed the chairman but then postponed naming the other eight members for more than eight months.
Second, one member confirmed Tuesday isn’t a Tupelo resident.
Shelton attributes the delay to discussions related to who appoints the members. He championed transparency and accountability during his campaign but then realized government can move slower than the mayor would prefer.
“Part of the delay in this is sometimes there’s just a difference between the campaign and the office,” he said.
Tupelo City Council members unanimously approved Tuesday each remaining slot on the task force. Each member will serve the remainder of the administration’s four-year term, except for Verona resident and Tupelo/Lee County NAACP President Chris Traylor.
“I had understood he lived in the city of Tupelo,” Shelton said minutes after the meeting.
After Shelton confirmed his appointee’s residence, the mayor said he’ll ask Traylor to resign and place a Tupelo resident on the task force.
“His bio said Tupelo,” Shelton said. “I’ll appoint a replacement member very soon.”
Shelton said even after a few glitches, residents keeping watch on how local government achieves goals can only help increase confidence in Tupelo government.
Task force chairman James V. Coniglio, a retired Army colonel and psychotherapist, said his military background has accustomed him to accountability. He served as an intelligence officer and foreign service specialist in South America.
Besides Coniglio and Traylor, other members are David Copenhaver of Ward 1, retired Toyota executive; attorney Reagan Wise of Ward 2; Sherry Ashley of Ward 3, president of the Lee Acres Neighborhood Association; Gunner Goad of Ward 4, AT&T regional director of external affairs; Susan Griffin of Ward 5, a real estate agent for Tommy Morgan Inc. Realtors; poet and author Patricia Neely-Dorsey of Ward 6 and Ron Richardson of Ward 7, associate pastor at Tupelo First Presbyterian Church.
Coniglio anticipates the group providing quarterly reports for the public to determine effectiveness of tax dollars. The group will evaluate progress Tupelo has made toward achieving goals in the 2025 comprehensive plan, which provides a vision for the city.
“We’ve got to make sure we meet the concerns of the citizenry,” he said.