By Jack Reed Jr.
I am excited and optimistic about Mayor Jason Shelton and the new City Council as they take responsibility for leading our city. Mayor Shelton loves Tupelo. If he surrounds himself with people who are for things, I have no doubt that he will be successful.
When I look back on our term in office, I conclude: it’s been a great four years. It has been an honor to serve as the mayor of my hometown.
Together we have accomplished things one could have never accomplished alone. I had personally never been part of winning a state championship. Together, we won the title “The Healthiest Hometown in Mississippi!” Our successful efforts to become a more active culture, with smarter eating lifestyles, will make life-changing differences in the lives of our youth and our adults.
I certainly had never been on a national championship team. Together we touted Tupelo’s success at transforming elder care in the Green Houses; at empowering our citizens through our Mayor’s Task Forces to transform their city; and creating Tupelo’s Front Porch in Fairpark where citizens of all ages and races and backgrounds could come together to be in community. And we won the national championship of cities – our fourth All America City Award.
I have experienced joy with a new mother and father receiving their newborn’s first book – a copy of “Goodnight Moon” given by generous donors to begin a lifetime of reading for that child.
I have expanded my mind and my thinking about the real meaning of life by listening to bright 70- and 80-year-olds discussing the book “Tuesdays with Morrie” at our Lee County Library.
I have gotten a kick out of creating Tupelo’s first adult coed kickball team, The Mayor’s All-Stars, as our young adults enjoy life in a cool community.
I got to meet one of my music heroes Robert Earl Keen at a Down on Main concert at Fairpark and hear him play my favorite song “It Feels So Good Feeling Good Again.”
Of course there have been some tough times. But I’m not interested in revisiting them today.
I’d rather remember the smiles on the faces of our Parks & Recreation Challenge Athletes as we played basketball and tennis together. Aren’t you proud to live in a town that provides that special opportunity to some of our most remarkable citizens? I am.
I’d rather recall the unbridled exuberance of Hank Boerner as we jumped and danced to exercise videos at Carver Elementary getting those children ready for a day of learning.
I’d rather recall the courage of our local Guard men and women as I wished them well on their deployment to Iraq and Afghanistan and the blessing of experiencing the tears of joy and laughter as they reunited with their families upon their return home.
I’m proud of how well our city team responded to significant challenges that could have crippled a weaker team:
• The ice storm – we were prepared and executed our emergency plan exquisitely.
• Annexation – the only calls we’ve received from our new residents have been calls of thanks thanking us for our quick police response, the quick fire response, the recycling pickups.
• The Great Recession – by year two we submitted a balanced budget (which we’ve repeated), an intelligent five-year capital plan, and a reserve fund of now over $20 million – all without any new taxes nor layoffs.
• Our Tupelo Public School District is racing back to the top – now “High Performing”; and if our young families will not retreat but hang in there – they will help us write our own Chapter of The Tupelo Spirit.
We’ve strengthened the Salvation Army, and the Police Athletic League. We’ve built Gum Tree Park, Music Bend Nature Trail, six new tennis courts (including our first four indoor) and a world-class Aquatic Center that will be a 50-year crown jewel for our own citizens and an economic development engine.
We’re tearing down blighted properties and will replace them with attractive new homes for middle-income families who deserve good, safe neighborhoods.
That sounds like the kind of town I would like to live in.
I’m looking forward to it.
JACK REED JR. is the mayor of Tupelo. His term ends Monday when Mayor-elect Jason Shelton takes the oath of office. Contact him until Monday afternoon at firstname.lastname@example.org.