By Robbie Ward
TUPELO – The Tupelo School Board meeting last week with only four members highlights a key priority looming for Mayor Jason Shelton.
Appointment of resident volunteers to boards, commissions and authorities is among the duties of the mayor. Most in the city agree that school board appointees rank among the highest in importance.
Shelton said on Oct. 9 he hoped to nominate someone by Nov. 5 to fill the vacant position left when Beth Stone resigned last month. With more than a month passing, Shelton said after Tuesday’s City Council meeting that he’d have a nominee for the City Council to consider at the Dec. 3 meeting.
Nominees must receive a majority of support from the City Council.
Earlier this year during the campaign for mayor, Republican candidate Fred Pitts used school board appointments as a reason to support him, suggesting Shelton would appoint candidates with political agendas.
“Do you want a liberal on your school board?” Pitts asked a crowd at a fundraiser.
A graduate of the Tupelo Public School District, Shelton has said he had no litmus test for potential nominees to fill the school board position that ends in March 2015. However, don’t be surprised if he nominates a woman. With Stone’s departure, the school board lacks a female member.
“I think that’s obviously a very important perspective,” Shelton said.
Shelton has asked for public input on potential nominees.
“I would like your feedback on this very important issue,” he posted on his Facebook page Oct. 12.
With just more than a week until the next City Council meeting, Shelton will meet with council members and other community leaders to discuss possible candidates.
“We’ll definitely have a school board appointment at the next meeting,” he said.
Aside from the school board position, other open positions in city government will likely be filled in the next month or so.
Shelton and Don Lewis, Tupelo chief operations officer, will spend most of Monday interviewing candidates for director of Parks and Recreation, a position held by Lewis before Shelton nominated him to his current role.
Alex Farned, athletic director for Parks and Recreation, currently serves as interim director of the department.
The city also is currently looking to fill department head positions in Development Services and Public Works. Sid Russell announced his retirement from Public Works in September, while BJ Teal in Development Services left in October after citing lack of support from the mayor.
The city’s personnel department lists Friday as the deadline to apply for both positions. Shelton said these positions could likely be filled by January.
City Planner Pat Falkner serves as interim director of Development Services, and Chuck Williams is interim director of Public Works.