Long's retirement party at City Hall drew dozens of municipal workers, community leaders, elected officials and family members who took turns hugging and congratulating the woman of honor.
On Friday, Long will leave her position as Tupelo's Development Services Director and move one block west to the Boys & Girls Club of North Mississippi where she'll become the agency's new chief professional officer.
"It's been a blessing for me to work with all of you," Long told the crowd assembled in the lobby of City Hall. "You are my family."
Long received many accolades and several gifts from those at the party. From Mayor Jack Reed Jr. she received a plaque honoring her years of public service to Tupelo; from Development Services Department Director BJ Teal and staff she received a wristwatch; and from Community Development Foundation's Director of Community Development Orlando Pannell she accepted an engraved memento.
"Public service is not all fun and games, and it must take a special person to be in public service for 34 years," Reed said during his speech to Long. "We love you, and we appreciate you."
Those in the crowd included most of Long's children and grandchildren, many of whom honored her with an impromptu song, as well as Tupelo Community Theatre Executive Director Tom Booth.
Said Booth: "As a transplant to Tupelo, I always found that Zell had a wealth of information, and I look forward to working with her at the Boys & Girls Club."
Others, though, said they were sad. Longtime city worker Debra Byrd said she'll miss her friend and confidant.
"I am proud of her," Byrd said, "but I am going to hate it."
Contact Emily Le Coz at (662) 678-1588 or firstname.lastname@example.org.