By Caleb Bedillion
TUPELO – Not two decades ago, a county supervisor could spend all his time on potholes and stray dogs. That’s what burned up the phone lines when Phil Morgan took office 17 years ago as District 1 supervisor.
But things have changed. County leaders still spend plenty of time tending to local infrastructure but also remain resolutely focused on economic development and job creation, according to Morgan.
The current Board of Supervisors president, Morgan, had an opportunity to reflect on his years in office while delivering remarks on Thursday at Lee County’s first-ever State of the County address.
“I don’t think there’s any way we can go but forward,” said Morgan, describing the region’s outlook.
Community Development Foundation President and CEO David Rumbarger agrees.
“The state of the county is good,” Rumbarger said. “It’s prosperous and it’s growing.”
Rumbarger and Morgan variously touted the county’s low cost of living, its low property tax rate and its status as a top micropolitan area in the country.
Morgan also recounted the successful recruitment of a Toyota manufacturing facility to Blue Springs a decade ago and highlighted the value of regional cooperation.
“Our success is through partnerships and through relationships,” Morgan said.
Coming two days after Tupelo’s State of the City address, Lee County leaders say they wanted to hold a similar event for the county to communicate directly with residents.
“We want to better inform the public about what we’re doing and what we’re intending to do for the future,” Morgan told the Daily Journal.
In his remarks, Morgan spoke of the future by highlighting the need for a new jail and for financially sustainable management of the Lee County Agri-Center.
Supervisors plan to hold a referendum some time next year, asking Lee County voters to approve a bond issue needed for construction of a new jail complex.
County leaders don’t yet know how much such construction might cost. A site selection committee was recently formed.
At the Agri-Center, supervisors recently fired the center’s three staff members. They cited a persistent failure of the Agri-Center to cover its operating expenses with event revenue.
Morgan also noted that the county is financially contributing to the construction of a new animal shelter and a new Salvation Army facility in Tupelo.