By Robbie Ward
TUPELO – Tupelo Mayor Jason Shelton will end this year very differently compared to a year ago.
Instead of rooting for the Mississippi State bulldogs at a bowl game, Shelton will monitor an ongoing FBI-led investigation related to a Tupelo police officer’s death and another critically wounded.
Much of the 37-year-old’s world changed since June, when Tupelo voters elected the attorney mayor, the first Democrat to win the city’s top office in 28 years.
Shelton spent part of this year trying to convince a dozen people to run for mayor, succeeding Jack Reed Jr., who decided against re-election, instead returning to Reed’s Department Store, his family business.
Friends and supporters convinced Shelton to seek his first elected public office, signing up to run days before the March 8 qualifying deadline. Soft-spoken Shelton faced then-City Council President Fred Pitts, a Republican who represented Ward 2, who announced plans to seek the office first in November 2012.
In an unusually negative campaign for Tupelo’s standards, Shelton received attacks including anonymous push-poll phone calls and the state GOP mailing negative mails with unflattering photos just before the election. Shelton, however, kept a positive campaign.
Elected with a supermajority of 60 percent, Shelton vowed to continue Reed’s efforts to attract more residents to Tupelo and improve quality of life here. But the former Plantersville municipal attorney also stressed desires to make City Hall friendlier and more accessible. He has brought more hesitation to use city tax dollars for future redevelopment projects.
Serving since July 1, Shelton presented a balanced budget with no tax increases or dips into city reserves, along with convincing the City Council to support hiring an in-house attorney.