By Caleb Bedillion
TUPELO – With his first term drawing to a close, Mayor Jason Shelton used Tuesday’s State of the City address to reflect on the nearly four years he has spent leading the All-America City.
“We are in a great position now, and I think we are in a great position moving forward,” Shelton said Tuesday to a room full of city employees and community leaders.
The mayor is seeking re-election though he didn’t directly mention this fact and did not discuss any platform for a second term.
Instead, he reflected on some of the major crises encountered by the administration and the sitting City Council.
“We all know that in the last four years, our road to success has been a little bumpy at times,” said the mayor.
These bumps included the 2013 death of a Tupelo Police Department officer in the line of duty, a destructive 2014 tornado, and controversy in 2016 over the shooting death of a local man by city police.
But in Shelton’s estimation, Tupelo has weathered these storms and come out better for it.
“These challenges our city has met head on. We’ve taken each challenge, we’ve done our best to move forward, and we’ve learned from each challenge,” Shelton said. “Therefore I am proud to stand before you and say that the state of our city, and our belief in the Tupelo spirit, is stronger than ever.”
In tracing the sources of this Tupelo spirit, Shelton spoke briefly on the history of Tupelo, beginning with the Chickasaw people that once called Northeast Mississippi home. He noted the city’s electrification by means of the Tennessee Valley Authority as well as the 20th century growth of Tupelo from an agricultural community to a manufacturing hub and a retail center for the region.
“We’ve done that because of a history of strong leadership,” Shelton said.
And the current leadership of his administration and the City Council has yielded a city that show’s great fiscal strength, according to the mayor. Debt is down, sales tax revenues are record-breaking and the city has routinely run budget surpluses throughout Shelton’s term.
Tuesday afternoon’s address incorporated video clips of City Council members and city department heads.
Council members praised the cooperative spirit of the council over the current term.
“I think this council has worked together in unity more than any other council,” said Ward 4 Councilwoman Nettie Davis.
Shelton spent the bulk of Tuesday’s address reviewing the TUPELO Plan. This plan began as his campaign platform. Once he took office it developed into a strategic guide for his administration.
The TUPELO Plan involves policy goals and initiatives grouped around the following topics: transportation; urban development; public schools and public safety; economic development; low taxes, limited spending and less regulation and open government.