Mayor Jason Shelton’s first State of the City speech late Monday afternoon, delayed earlier by winter weather, offered high praise for the city’s departmental workforces and a broadly based vision of how he will approach revitalization citywide.
Shelton, elected in mid-2013, is the first Democrat to lead City Hall in more than 30 years and won election with a strong vote citywide, including historically Republican precincts.
Shelton repeated his reservations about extending the model of the West Jackson Street redevelopment project, as it has been shaped, to other neighborhoods.
“The city’s effort to agree upon a consolidated Neighborhood Redevelopment Plan has been a long fought one. While I am proud of the work that is being accomplished by the pilot Jackson Street Redevelopment project, I simply do not believe that we can wisely afford to bankroll property purchases in every neighborhood in the city,” he said.
Shelton also said, “I am optimistic that we will have a formal citywide revitalization plan in the near future.”
A comprehensive plan is necessary to move revitalization forward, and while the property-purchase and renewal approach used on West Jackson has strong proponents, Shelton and the City Council must agree on a plan that can be implemented citywide.
Shelton restated his belief that every neighborhood individually needs a plan that is at least partially custom-designed to fit its needs.
No less specificity is needed in a customized plan by neighborhood than with the West Jackson approach.
“I assure you that I am committed to being a good steward of the hard-earned dollars we as taxpayers pay. It is time for us to … really create an arsenal of possibilities that potential homeowners can tap into to make their dream of owning the perfect home a reality right here in the City of Tupelo,” Shelton stated.
No plan that’s citywide in scope will be easily detailed, but the identified details, and holding to them, make plans work.
Shelton also made a point of emphasizing the strengths of the Tupelo Public Schools, which have strongly rebounded from a period of floundering.
“To anyone who has doubts about the Tupelo Public School District, I challenge you, as I have many times before, to get out and get involved with our schools,” Shelton challenged the audience.
The best dreams will go unrealized without a cooperative spirit to find common ground and put them into practice.