Tupelo grabs its fourth All-America City honor

By Emily Le Coz/NEMS Daily Journal

KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Tupelo captured its fourth All-America City designation Friday after an intense competition among 26 finalists for one of 10 coveted awards.
Elvis Presley’s hometown was the fifth to be announced.
“In this community, becoming an integral part of the whole starts at a very young age,” said Sharon Metz, foreperson of the All-America City Awards while announcing Tupelo’s win.
“In this community,” she continued, “the citizens came together to transform an eyesore into a crown jewel. In this community, people came together to make sure their elders have a place to call home.”
Cheers erupted from the crowd as Tupelo representatives made their way to the stage during the award ceremony at the Hyatt Regency-Crown Center in Kansas City, Mo.
It’s in Kansas City where the friendly, week-long competition took place. Each finalist had sent a team of residents to represent them; Tupelo had dispatched about 35 people who sang, danced, cheered and praised the city’s achievements before a panel of judges.
The presentations are archived on the National Civic League’s website, www.allamericacityaward.com.
“We are obviously, obviously excited, but we are obviously also humbled,” said Mayor Jack Reed Jr. while accepting the award, his delegation behind him at the podium. “We have been so impressed with every city here this week. Babe Ruth said, ‘Yesterday’s home runs don’t win today’s games.’ We certainly will go back to Tupelo knowing we’ve been with the all-star lineups.”
Reed also thanked city Communications Director Annabeth Freeman Wyatt, whom he called the Tupelo team’s quarterback. Wyatt, who is pregnant, could not attend the event on doctor’s orders.
Finalists were culled from a list of hopefuls during the first phase of the competition in April. Each community had to submit an application describing how they solved three community challenges.
Tupelo chose the revitalization of its former fairgrounds into downtown’s new Fairpark District, the innovative care of senior citizens at the Green Houses at Traceway; and the tackling of childhood obesity and learning problems through the Mayor’s Task Forces on Education, Youth and Health.
“Tupelo’s a Deep South town,” Reed said. “At our best, we do things together, and this award will certainly encourage us to keep doing our best.”
The NCL has awarded designations every year since 1949 to cities that have creatively solved problems using public, private, nonprofit and grassroots civic engagement.
Tupelo had previously won in 1967, 1989 and 1999.
“I know all of you came with some naysayers back home,” Metz told the crowd. “Hopefully, you didn’t bring any with you, but I know what this means to you. I know the tears and the blood and the guts and the courage it takes to come here.”
Contact Emily Le Coz at (662) 678-1588 or emily.lecoz@journalinc.com.

The winners
1. Fort Worth, Texas

2. Fayetteville, N.C.

3. Scott City, Kan.

4. Kenai, Alaska

5. Tupelo

6. Belleville, Ill.

7. Eden, N.C.

7. Dublin, Calif.

9. Lakewood, Colo.

10. South Bend, Ind.