OUR OPINION: Challenges await reorganized city

Organization of a new city administration always takes time, and nearly three months into new leadership in Tupelo there are still key organizational decisions to be announced.

Mayor Jason Shelton said last week he’d finalized his choices for chief operations officer and department head positions and had communicated those decisions to the people involved. He’ll be talking with City Council members over the next few days since the council must sign off on those choices, but he isn’t likely to make any names public until next week.

While Shelton wasn’t yet ready to confirm it, Daily Journal reporter Robbie Ward has reported that other sources confirmed a likely change in the city COO position.

These are important decisions for Shelton and the city. The day-to-day effectiveness of city government is heavily reliant on capable leadership at all levels.

But it will be good for the mayor and council to get these decisions behind them so they can begin a more concerted focus on critical policy matters facing the city.

One item that is stopped in its tracks is a new development code. It’s unfortunate that a code revision devised in response to concerns that existing regulations aren’t business friendly has been sidetracked by an effort to keep one business from making a $5 million investment in the Barnes Crossing area. Concerns about CarMax being able to locate in the area when local used car dealers weren’t allowed to be there under the existing development code are simply not sufficient to hold the new code hostage.

Tupelo and prospective businesses and developers need clarity on the regulations they’ll be governed by, and the continual delays aren’t helpful.

Related to the development code in its impact on Tupelo as a place to live and do business is an overarching strategy on neighborhood redevelopment, which is key to a sustained revitalization of portions of the city in decline. The city is off to a good start with the West Jackson Street redevelopment, but that needs to proceed quickly with some tangible results and the overall effort shouldn’t stop there. A top priority of the mayor and council over the next few months must be identification of next steps as part of a proactive plan to reverse the biggest threat to Tupelo’s future as a viable and vibrant city.

The team will be organized soon, and both elected and appointed leaders must be primed for the challenges ahead.