By Emily Le Coz
TUPELO – Some top officials in city government could lose their jobs at the start of the next municipal term depending on who’s elected mayor.
According to state law, existing city department heads must be re-appointed by the mayor and confirmed by the City Council to continue serving another four years in that position. But the mayor can oust anyone with a new appointment, and the council can block anyone with a majority vote.
A new term begins July 6, and Tupelo will have a new mayor and at least two new council members – the result of current officer-holders stepping down.
Three of Tupelo’s four mayoral candidates said they’re considering a few shake-ups at the top, but none will give specifics.
“It’s something I’ve been thinking about,” said Democratic mayoral candidate and current At-Large Councilwoman Doyce Deas. “For the most part, we have very strong department heads, but obviously, in instances that have been discussed through the last several years, there are places where changes need to occur.”
Deas didn’t elaborate.
Democratic candidate Kentrel Boyd said he’s “definitely looking at doing some changes,” and Republican candidate Jack Reed Jr., said he’s been thinking about it but that it’s premature to say much else.
Only Republican candidate James R. Presley said he’d re-appoint all department heads if elected mayor.
The city has eight department heads and one chief operating officer, whose position also must be appointed and confirmed. The longest-serving head is Tupelo Water amp& Light Manager Johnny Timmons, who took over his department in 1995. Developmental Services Director BJ Teal is the newest, having earned her position in February.
None of the department heads nor the COO changed when Republican Mayor Ed Neelly took office in 2005, although some have shuffled out of position since then. Neelly originally kept all nine appointed employees from the previous administration, which was headed by Republican Mayor Larry Otis.
That’s common practice, but it might not occur this year, said Marty Wiseman, director of the John C. Stennis Institute of Government and professor of political science at Mississippi State University.
“If you’ve got a mayor where everything has run well and the mayor simply chooses to retire, and a new mayor comes in and decides to keep most or all of the department heads, it’s likely the council will go on and confirm them,” Wiseman said. “If you’ve had contention and grumbling about services from different departments, and you get someone elected who was an opponent of the mayor on the council, then chances are they’ll have a fairly nice little house cleaning.”
Contact Emily Le Coz at (662) 678-1588 or firstname.lastname@example.org.