Shelton drops plans to keep former COO Smith

By Robbie Ward

Daily Journal

TUPELO – Tupelo Mayor Jason Shelton said Friday he will no longer seek City Council support to keep former chief operations officer Darrell Smith working for the city.

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While nominating someone else to replace Smith as COO last week, Shelton said he hoped Smith would continue working for the city, likely as coordinator of the Major Thoroughfare Program.

Earlier this week, Shelton and the City Council met in closed session to discuss a personnel issue with the MTP. He wouldn’t discuss after the closed meeting how council members responded.

As COO, Smith earned $81,955 annually. Shelton said he recommended Smith fill an unbudgeted position at a salary of $65,000, more than $12,000 than the previous coordinator position earned.

On Friday, however, Shelton revealed that a majority of the City Council didn’t support funding the position, which wasn’t filled after a retirement earlier this year.

“Mr. Smith is widely respected and very highly regarded by myself and members of the council,” Shelton said. “As a budgetary matter, I don’t think I have the support to fund the position.”

The City Council approves the city’s annual budget, along with any changes throughout the year.

Smith has been away from City Hall using vacation time and likely will no longer be employed with the city after his remaining leave time runs out in a week.

Smith joined the city as COO during former Mayor Larry Otis’ administration nearly nine years ago.

Former Tupelo Parks and Recreation Director Don Lewis replaced Smith as COO earlier this month.

Smith did not respond Friday to a message left on his city-issued cellphone.

robbie.ward@journalinc.com