By NEMS Daily Journal
Most Northeast Mississippi municipalities will install newly elected governing bodies and mayors this week as a fresh four-year term gets under way.
In Tupelo, 37-year-old Jason Shelton will assume office today as Tupelo’s youngest mayor since the 1970s and only its second Democrat since that era. Two new faces will be sworn in on the seven-member City Council.
Shelton has chosen to spotlight east Tupelo, the area of the city in which he grew up, by holding today’s 5:30 p.m. swearing-in ceremony at Lawhon Elementary School and the reception afterward at the Elvis Presley Birthplace. It’s a justified point of pride to both Shelton and residents of east Tupelo to have the first mayor from that part of town, which long ago was its own separate municipality.
Shelton’s campaign was well-designed and executed and obviously struck a chord with a wide range of Tupelo citizens. Now the challenge of governing and consensus building officially starts today.
The transition from outgoing Mayor Jack Reed Jr.’s administration to the new Shelton era at City Hall has been smooth, thanks to Reed’s and Shelton’s openness to working together in a seamless effort. That doesn’t always happen in such circumstances.
Shelton and the new City Council will have their hands full. Tupelo has positive momentum on many fronts, but it still must deal with the issues that came to the fore in the recent campaign, chief among them the necessity of attracting and retaining more young, middle-class families in Tupelo.
Reed helped focus the city and the council on this need after 2010 census data made the challenge clear, and there was much debate and disagreement about his proposals. Clearly, though, consensus must be reached on an overarching strategy, and Shelton seems committed to make that the top priority of his administration. His campaign slogan about making Tupelo “too good to leave” speaks in a sensible and general way of specific policy initiatives that must follow.
All communities need time to pause, reflect and celebrate. Today’s events in Tupelo give people from across the city an opportunity to come together in celebration of what the city is now and what it can become.
The lessons from the past – cooperative consensus-building, creative initiatives, public-private partnerships – are there to serve as a guide for the future.