TUPELO – Tupelo’s new Accountability Task Force’s rudimentary mission statement, after its first meeting, is to pursue the city’s 2025 Comprehensive Plan and evaluate where the city is veering off course and how those detours can be corrected.
The task force met for the first time Thursday to discuss the mission and hear Mayor Jason Shelton’s vision for the group’s future.
While campaigning he said the task force would be something he pursued immediately upon taking office and in the first meeting, eight months later, he admitted the project took longer than he thought.
“As soon as I got into office I started talking to the council members and said I needed them to appoint members to the task force,” Shelton said. “I blinked my eyes and eight months went by. That rests on me. But, we’re here now and … I want this committee to hold the city of Tupelo accountable to its citizens.”
James Coniglio, the psychotherapist and retired Army colonel who chairs the task force, said he doesn’t see its role as one to point fingers and accuse but to find areas where the city is weak or off track in pursuing goals.
“People think accountability often means finding people who are at fault but that’s not what this is about,” he said. “What I want to emphasize is this is not a blame game. The whole idea is to find what the goals are and motivate the people toward the goals. If we find a problem we’ll address it to the city and mayor and it’s his priority to decide what to do.”
Assigned homework for members is to read the city’s 2025 Comprehensive Plan and return in two weeks with an idea of the task force’s mission statement and an understanding of where they should be heading in light of the plan.
“We spend a lot of time and money doing these plans but it’s hard to stay on course and I think that’s what the mayor is trying to do here,” said Chief Operations Officer Don Lewis.
When the group meets again on April 16, City Planner Pat Falkner will take the members through the city’s comprehensive plan, referring to it as a menu of more than 150 specific strategies for achieving the city’s stated goals.
Coniglio asked city officials to alert department heads the task force will request meetings and information in the coming months to be able to judge progress toward goals. He encouraged committee members to be well-versed on the plan because he doesn’t want to call on department heads until members have specific metrics or questions in mind.
“We’re going to meet each department but I don’t want to have conversations that go nowhere,” he said.