It’s the first real measure of Reed’s performance in a term that’s slated to last an additional 1,460 days – the same time frame separating a first-semester high school freshman from a graduating senior.
A lot can happen in those four years. But, so far, Reed has received high marks from those asked to grade him.
“I’m impressed with his level of energy and commitment in the first hundred days,” said David Rumbarger, president and CEO of the Community Development Foundation. “He has said to me many times he’s drinking from the fire hose, but he’s trying to get his fingers in all parts of the city’s plans and policies.”
Reed took office, along with the City Council, on July 6, and in doing so promised residents a new era of leadership. He had five goals:
• Create good jobs and a strong economy.
• Build consensus in all areas.
• Strengthen neighborhoods and beautify public spaces.
• Make Tupelo known as a center of life-long learning.
• Make Tupelo the state’s healthiest city.
Since becoming mayor, the 58-year-old has tackled each of those goals by forming four volunteer task forces – economic, neighborhoods, health and education – and he keeps close tabs on their progress.
He also has worked to build consensus by meeting privately with school officials, African-American leaders, business leaders and other political officials.
And Reed has done all this while also learning his new job, drafting a budget, cutting ribbons, making speeches and running the municipality’s day-to-day business.
“I think Jack is doing an excellent job,” said the Rev. Robert Jamison, president of the Lee County NAACP. “It’s not a political thing. I think Jack is trying to exemplify what other mayors have failed to do, which is to try to bring Tupelo together and try to have the participation of all people in the decisions related to the growth of Tupelo.”
Those efforts haven’t been lost on longtime City Councilwoman Nettie Davis, who has worked with two mayors prior to Reed and experienced some of the most contentious mayor-council relationships in recent memory.
Reed, she said, “got with the council before we even got into office and let us express what our goals were for this four years. That was good.”
The mayor also consults council members individually on his decisions before springing them on the group during their twice-monthly meetings, Davis said. And he taps council members to officiate ribbon cuttings in their own wards instead of doing it all himself – something Davis said she appreciates.
“The atmosphere, from my perspective overall, with city employees, the demeanor of meetings, the relationship with the City Council, it feels more open, more positive, a can-do attitude,” said Debbie Brangenberg, executive director of the Downtown Tupelo Main Street Association.
Brangenberg has worked with five previous mayors, starting with Jack Marshall in the mid-1980s and including interim Mayor Paul Eason. She said each had his own strengths, and communication seems to be Reed’s strong point.
“In city government, you’re not going to please everybody all the time,” Brangenberg said, “but there is a major push from the mayor and the City Council to try to listen and learn and improve.”
Reed and the council demonstrated that delicate balance when they dived into the Sunday alcohol debate just two months after taking office. The measure passed – Sunday sales of beer and light wine begin Oct. 18 – but not before residents besieged city officials with hundreds of calls and e-mails.
Reed and the council then braved a packed room and a series of passionate public speakers the night of the vote. What could have become a messy scene remained civil and polite, thanks in part to Reed’s introductory comments that each side had valid arguments and deserved respect.
His words could just as easily apply to the ongoing debate between city and county leaders over annexation.
Tupelo and Lee County have spent the past few years engaged in a costly court battle over the city’s attempts to grow its borders – first by roughly 10 square miles, now by more than 16.
Taxpayers so far have spent more than $600,000 on the fight and could spend at least that much or more before it’s over.
In a Daily Journal editorial board meeting Sept. 30, the mayor said he has met with individual supervisors to reopen city-county negotiations on what has become an increasingly sore subject. But supervisors on Monday said those conversations were little more than passing comments and not serious negotiations.
District 1 Supervisor Phil Morgan said he still welcomes an opportunity to meet with Reed and the council.
“The only qualm I or the board ever had with this administration or the previous ones is annexation,” he said. “We feel we were never given a fair shake on that. We know the county residents and all residents aren’t for us throwing away hundreds of thousands of dollars on attorneys when we as grown men should sit down and reach a compromise.”
That sounds like a challenge, and if so, Reed is likely game. His first 100 days have revealed a man eager to compete in any activity – as long as everyone walks away feeling good.
“He brings a level of energy to the table that can be contagious,” said Parks and Recreation Director Don Lewis. “His outlook on things is very positive, and he’s always trying to find winnable solutions, not only for the citizens but for the city employees.”
Reed provided an example of this philosophy during the most recent council meeting.
He boasted about his team winning the city’s first kickball game against the Parks and Recreation Department. He then mentioned the game’s sole rule: All arguments must be resolved by the team captains playing a friendly game of rock, paper scissors.
Wouldn’t it be nice, the mayor then mused, if all conflicts could be resolved that way?
Contact Emily Le Coz at (662) 678-1588 or email@example.com.