OUR OPINION: Good spirit prevails at start of new term

By NEMS Daily Journal

Tupelo’s new administration wasted no time in starting work after an early swearing-in Monday to ensure everything done during the day before the scheduled ceremonial inauguration at 5:30 p.m. was legal.
Mayor Jason Shelton took the oath Monday morning, and the seven City Council members followed in mid-afternoon and then immediately went into a work session with the mayor in preparation for tonight’s council meeting.
The work session, conducted with a good spirit and large doses of humor, nevertheless foreshadowed major decisions to be made tonight or later during July, including finalizing a contract with Waste Management and several items tabled from earlier session under the previous council.
The whole city should be encouraged by the festive second swearing-in at Lawhon Elementary School’s auditorium, an enthusiastic, overflowing crowd cheering all the council members and Shelton, who attended the school as a child and whose family roots are deep in east Tupelo.
Shelton, 37, is the first Democrat elected mayor in 28 years, but the crowd included elected officials and former officeholders from both parties, an appropriate expression of bipartisanship.
Shelton’s remarks after the oath were brief and optimistic, the kind of speech heard so often from Tupelo’s civic and political leadership in both parties through the decades: Reliance on the “Tupelo Spirit,” hard work every day and innovation to produce continuing and improving quality of life, economic expansion and jobs growth.
All the newly sworn officials doubtless were thinking about the tough decisions, beginning with tonight’s election of City Council leadership. President Fred Pitts, who represented Ward 2 and served a four-year term, ran for mayor and was defeated, so a new president is assured, but little was being said Monday about that choice, which is the council’s alone. The new rule sets the president’s term at one year.
The council also is expected to start the budgeting process for the 2014 fiscal year, which begins Oct. 1. City Clerk Kim Hanna presented the mayor and council a schedule suggested by the State Auditor’s Office for all municipalities, with certain dates for action set in statute.
Tupelo, thanks to long-term frugality, has $20 million in reserves, but Shelton and some council members ran on pledges of economy in governance and holding the line on taxation.
It’s a safe assumption that learning the hard lessons of governing will begin or continue tonight for everyone who took the oath on Monday.

Click video to hear audio