Rogers steps down as Fairpark chairman

BY CARLIE KOLLATH
Daily Journal

TUPELO – Chris Rogers officially retired Tuesday as chairman of the Tupelo Redevelopment Agency, a group that has spent the last nine years turning 50 acres of the old fairground property into an urban renewal project dubbed Fairpark.

He chaired his last meeting at 4 p.m. in the City Council chambers of City Hall, an integral building in Fairpark's multi-use plan. Board member John Oxford was selected at the June meeting to take over Rogers' role as chairman.

Also at Tuesday's meeting, TRA's board elected Jim Collins as vice chairman of the organization.

“Jim's the perfect candidate and he's obviously tough enough to do this,” Rogers said after the unanimous vote. “He's been here since the beginning.”

When the meeting ended, the members headed across the street to the BancorpSouth Conference Center for a reception in Rogers' honor. Hilton Garden Inn owner Tom Ricketts donated the space for the event, because “we owe a lot to Chris,” said sales manager Shari Long Neely.

The event drew many community leaders and business people from downtown. Everyone had something nice to say about Rogers. Board member Reed Hillen even presented him with a commemorative T-shirt with “TRA” on the front and Rogers' nicknames, “The Chairman AKA Grumpy,” written on the back.

Mayor Ed Neelly said he admires Rogers and thinks “the world of people who have the vision.”

“Sometimes mayors have to brag on people they don't think highly of,” Neelly said with a chuckle, adding that it wasn't the case with Rogers.

“The proof is in the pudding,” he said. “We are standing in it right now.”

Rogers was quick to say that his fellow board members, including Suzanne Smith who retired after eight years, “deserve as much credit, if not more than I do.”

“It's been a fun trip,” he said. “It's been difficult at times. It's been a group of citizens volunteering for one goal and that is to strengthen downtown … It's not over yet but the future of downtown and Fairpark looks mighty bright.”

Contact Daily Journal business reporter Carlie Kollath at 678-1598 or carlie.kollath@djournal.com.