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Mississippi city leaders visit Marshalltown

Tour tornado- impacted area

T-R PHOTO BY ADAM SODDERS - Marshalltown Mayor Joel Greer, left, speaks with Tupelo, Mississippi Mayor Jason Shelton after a tour of the tornado-damaged area of the city Thursday.

t by an EF-3 tornado, and the community comes together to help clean up and recover. The effort is still ongoing.

To central Iowans, that’s exactly what the last six months have looked like in Marshalltown, but a similar community far to the south dealt with those same circumstances in 2014. Leaders from Tupelo, Mississippi flew up to Marshalltown to tour the city Thursday.

“The similarity is just for the mayor and the city administrator and the different city officials in the aftermath of a disaster, just the weight of the world is on your shoulders,” said Tupelo Mayor Jason Shelton. “We get so passionate about presidential or statewide politics, but when something happens to your city, these local officials, that’s where the rubber meets the road and that’s who’s doing the heavy lifting.”

The officials from Mississippi met with Marshalltown officials via LeadersLink, a nonprofit organization that helps community leaders going through disaster recovery meet and share advice. LeadersLink paid for the Tupelo officials to fly to Iowa.

The Tupelo tornado hit in April 2014. The city of about 35,000 has a similar manufacturing base to Marshalltown. Also like Marshalltown, hundreds of home and businesses were damaged or destroyed in the storm, and a long-term recovery effort was formed.

Shelton said he benefited from the experience of fellow mayors and city officials who had dealt with disasters before. Marshalltown Mayor Joel Greer said that’s the reason he was happy to host Shelton and Tupelo Chief Operating Officer Don Lewis Thursday.

“It’s the combination of wisdom and experience that is helpful to me,” Greer said. “I’ve never been through a disaster like this … so it’s nice to have someone with a similar background in a similar position who has been through this years ago and has watched how things have developed.”

He also said the officials from Mississippi were able to reassure city staff, who have been working in the recovery effort since the storm hit on July 19, 2018, that their work will eventually bear the fruit of recovery for the city.

“I thought it would be of real value to have these guys come up and say ‘You’ll live through this, it’ll get better,'” Greer said. “The city will be better when it’s all done.”

One difference Shelton pointed out between the cities’ recovery efforts was the climate. He said northeast Mississippi does not get same snow and cold that Marshalltown gets in the winter.

Also, the Tupelo twister hit in spring, meaning there were several months to recover before the cold months started in November. Marshalltown had far less time to ready for winter.

While Shelton’s message to Marshalltown was positive, he said his city is still very much recovering five years since their storm hit.

“One of the main commercial areas that was totally destroyed with the tornado is just now starting to rebuild,” Shelton said.

Both mayors said Marshalltown’s officials will keep working and that recovery will continue to move along.

“The city will recover, it just takes time and patience and understanding,” Shelton said.

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Contact Adam Sodders at

(641) 753-6611 or

asodders@timesrepublican.com