Shelton names department nominees

Tupelo stockBy Robbie Ward

Daily Journal

TUPELO – Mayor Jason Shelton named nominees for his administration’s department head positions on Tuesday, including the town of Sherman’s current mayor for the recently created in-house city attorney.

Five new faces are among the 14 department heads Shelton will propose at next week’s City Council meeting, including a new police chief, chief operations officer, city judge, in-house attorney and interim parks and recreation director.

Ben Logan, nominee for city attorney and current mayor of Sherman, has strong ties to Tupelo, having run for mayor against Jack Marshall years ago. If confirmed, Logan will be the first in-house city attorney in at least 40 years, a newly created position that pays $90,000 annually.

For police chief, Shelton nominated someone on the current force, Capt. Steven “Bart” Aguirre. Police Chief Tony Carleton announced on Monday his plans to retire next month.

Parks & Recreation Director Don Lewis was nominated for chief operations officer, a position held now by Darrell Smith. Parks & Recreation Athletic Director Alex Farned was nominated as interim director of the department.

Also in what is thought to be a first for the city of Tupelo, an African-American, Willie Allen, was nominated as a city court judge, replacing Daniel Davis. Allen has served as a public defender in both Lee County Youth and Justice Drug Court and as director of elections administration in the Mississippi Secretary of State’s office.

Each of Shelton’s nominees must be approved by a majority of the City Council and will be voted on separately during the meeting Tuesday. If supported by the council, each nominee will be approved for the duration of Shelton’s term, except for the in-house city attorney position.

Shelton and the City Council agreed to revisit the success of the position in a year.

Overall, the first-term mayor said he feels confident his team he has selected to help lead city departments will help encourage more young, middle-class residents to move to Tupelo and retain those already here. With improving quality of life on his mind, Shelton said Lewis has the background, temperament, experience and attitude he wanted for the city’s next COO.

“If we don’t win the soccer moms and dads in Tupelo, we’ll continue to have issues,” Shelton said.

Contacted by the Daily Journal about his nomination for police chief, Aguirre didn’t want to say too much until after he’s confirmed.

“I appreciate the mayor nominating me,” he said.

Logan, who presided over Sherman’s Board of Aldermen meeting Tuesday, would not say yet whether he would resign from his elected position if confirmed as Tupelo’s city attorney but said he’d likely have an answer next week.

“I will meet with the mayor and council in Tupelo this week and we’ll discuss those things and hopefully have an announcement Oct. 1, pending confirmation,” he said.

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