The Tupelo City Council, with minimal dissent, approved all of Mayor Jason Shelton’s nominees for department heads and administrative positions, setting the city’s course more firmly with the start of the 2014 fiscal year, which began Oct. 1.
Shelton said early in his term that he would not rush to make changes or announcements because all the department chiefs have important responsibilities, and a match of experience and perspective is necessary.
Council members had questions and criticisms as the process unfolded, which is expected and understandable. In the end, in a shorter time and with less animosity than is usually seen in the Legislature and on Capitol Hill, the council found its way to approving all of the nominees, even with reservations in some cases.
Settling on the department heads sets the stage for Shelton to more fully develop his vision for Tupelo and rely on the people he has chosen to help execute it.
The highest-profile change was bringing the city’s legal counsel inside City Hall, ending 40 years of contracting with a Tupelo law firm to handle legal affairs. Mitchell, McNutt & Sams has been replaced by Ben Logan, an attorney who is mayor of Sherman and in private practice in Tupelo. Logan is not an unknown quantity. He once served as Tupelo alderman, and he was the Democratic nominee for mayor in 1993, but lost to Jack Marshall. Logan has said he will eventually resign as mayor of Sherman, a town in the three corners of Lee, Pontotoc and Union counties and that he will leave his private law practice.
Capt. Steven “Bart” Aguirre, was Shelton’s choice for police chief, and he was confirmed. Police Chief Tony Carleton will take an assistant chief position in Columbus.
Former Parks and Recreation Director Don Lewis was confirmed as Chief Operations Officer, and former COO Darrell Smith will move to become director of the Major Thoroughfare Program. Athletic Director Alex Farned was nominated as interim director of the Parks and Rec Department, and he was confirmed.
These are the other department heads:
• City Clerk: Kim Hanna
• Chief Financial Officer: Lynn Norris
• City Judge 1: Jay Weir
• City Judge 2: Willie Allen (effective Nov. 1)
• City Prosecutor: Richard Babb
• Convention and Visitors Bureau: Director Neal McCoy
• Development Services: Director B.J. Teal
• Fire Department Chief: Thomas Walker
• Human Resources: Cassandra Moore
• Public Works: Chuck Williams
• Tupelo Water and Light: Director Johnny Timmons
All the new appointees need and deserve the help of Tupelo’s residents as their important roles begin to unfold.