TUPELO – City officials have created two new positions within the municipal government that they say will help manage Tupelo’s image and growth.
A new senior planner in the Department of Development Services joined the city work force this month; a yet-to-be-hired communications director will come aboard by early next month.
Neither job existed before now.
The first comes on the heels of the city’s new comprehensive plan, which recommends a drastic deviation from the way Tupelo has developed in the past few decades. To implement this new growth pattern, the city hired Renee Autumn Ray. Her position was included in the general budget.
The second was the brainchild of Mayor Jack Reed Jr., who during his political campaign vowed to improve the city government’s communication with its constituents.
The communications director will act as a liaison between City Hall and the media, as well as regularly inform the public of events, issues and news.
No one has yet been hired to fill that position, but the City Council on Tuesday approved the creation of salary by amending the municipal budget. Reed said he hopes to have someone in the job by next month.
In the meantime, Ray already has jumped into her role. She’ll spend the next 18 months rewriting the city’s development code to fit its new growth objectives.
She’ll also lead an effort to develop interconnected biking and walking trails through the city. Ray herself bikes to work every day from her downtown apartment.
“Tupelo is at a crossroads,” Ray said Tuesday from her new office at City Hall. “It’s great now, but the United States is changing, Mississippi is changing, the way we build is changing. You can’t build every house on one-acre lots anymore, or not build sidewalks or not have public transportation.”
Ray hails from Clearwater, Fla., where she worked as a city planner. She has a master’s degree in regional planning from the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill and. Although raised in Alabama and Florida, Ray was born in Oxford and attended three semesters at the Mississippi University for Women.
Development Services Director BJ Teal said the new position was critical for the proper functioning of the department, which was formerly called the Planning Department.
“When I came here, the Planning Department had just one planner, and he was doing everything, including planning and running the entire department and all its divisions,” Teal said. “Now it’s finally well-staffed.”
Pat Falkner was the director of the Planning Department but now is the city planner. He said Ray will be an asset to the city and the community.
Contact Emily Le Coz at (662) 678-1588 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Emily Le Coz/NEMS Daily Journal