It is always nice to be recognized for hard work and it was a tremendous honor for the city of Tupelo to receive the Mississippi Municipal League’s “Public Safety” award and be named as the recipient of Blue Cross Blue Shield’s “Healthy Hometown” grant of $50,000 at the annual conference last week.

The public safety award was recognition of the Tupelo Fire Department’s “lunch buddies” program where our firefighters take time to interact with our students in the Tupelo Public School District. The idea originated from firefighter Ro Traylor and displays how a positive idea from a single individual can have a transformative impact on a community and be a shining example of the “Tupelo Spirit.” Kudos to Chief Thomas Walker for implementing the idea and to each of our amazing firefighters who are role models in our community for wholeheartedly embracing the program.

The BC/BS Healthy Hometown grant is a highly competitive program where cities compete for the monetary award. The members of the Mayor’s Health Council – led by officers Liz Dawson, Donna Loden, Dana Walker, Alex Farned, Leesha Falkner, and Sally Kate Collins – worked with our Parks and Recreation Department and administration to submit the successful application. The funds from this award will be used to further Tupelo’s commitment to being the healthiest city in Mississippi.

I would also like to thank the Mississippi Municipal League (MML) for choosing Tupelo as the host site for this year’s small town conference which will be held in October. Municipal officials from cities all over the state will be in Tupelo to continue to learn new skills to benefit their hometown and network with other officials. We will have the opportunity to showcase our All-America City to individuals from across the state while receiving the economic impact of the conference being in town.

The small town conference features courses to offer guidance on issues of particular importance to cities with smaller populations. Though secondary to the educational component of the conferences, networking among state and local officials is an important part of the event. When natural disaster, civil unrest, or other emergencies occur in your city, it is of the utmost importance that the public officials have the ability to reach out to others who have been through that situation to provide guidance or assistance. When tornadoes hit Tupelo, Louisville, and other areas in 2014, we worked closely with the city and county officials from each location to make sure that we were responding to the adverse situation as efficiently as possible.

Many statewide officials are routinely on hand to offer assistance from their respective office. After taking office in July 2013, I attended that year’s MML and had my first opportunity to meet Gov. Phil Bryant. At the time I had no idea how much we would need assistance from the Governor’s office in the coming months and years as we faced crisis. The Governor Bryant has always been a phone call away when we have needed help here at home. Likewise, our Attorney General Jim Hood has personally been on hand each year to provide assistance, which has been particularly important over the past few years as we continue to learn how to navigate the changes to the criminal justice process that impact our municipal court system. The same is true of several other state officials.

We remain committed to continuing to learn and develop as municipal officials and are greatly appreciative of the opportunity to host leaders from all over the state.

JASON SHELTON is the mayor of the city of Tupelo.

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