Thursday, July 7, 2005

Officials take oath; mayor touts progress

By BARRY BURLESON
Editor

Mayor Andre’ DeBerry, after being sworn in for his second full term, said he will continue to dream big.

“The time has come for the great City of Holly Springs to reach and realize her full potential to become the cultural, architectural, economic and education center of not only North Mississippi and the State of Mississippi, but of America,” DeBerry said to applause at the Multi-Purpose Building Friday morning. “This would cause her to once and for all be called ‘Mississippi’s Best Kept Secret.’

“And to those who frame the question – why does he dream so big? I reply with the answer – why not?”

Justice Court Judge Ernest Cunningham administered the oath of office to DeBerry and the five aldermen – Tim Liddy, alderman-at-large; Russell Johnson, Ward 1; Naylond Hayes, Ward 2; Garrie Colhoun, Ward 3; and Nancy Hutchens, Ward 4. All were reelected to their seats.

DeBerry became the 37th mayor of Holly Springs on February 6, 2001, with the death of his predecessor and mentor, Mayor Eddie L. Smith Jr. He was elected to his first full term a few months later.

He summarized accomplishments, emphasizing that Holly Springs is “moving in a positive and right direction.”

“The facts will reinforce this statement,” DeBerry said.

He announced $2 million in state bond funding had been secured to extend West Boundary through to Highway 7 South. However, a special session of the state legislature adjourned Saturday without the two chambers agreeing on a bond package to finance economic development projects across the state.

“We’re still hopeful,” DeBerry said Tuesday of this week. “I think we’re safe. We’re cautiously optimistic.”

The West Boundary extension would open up residential and commercial development on the south side of Holly Springs, DeBerry said.

From 2001-04, some $23,971,045.92 has been spent in new residential and commercial building constructions, DeBerry said in his inaugural address. Completed community projects include the Multi-Purpose Building ($1,173,295.82), Spring Hollow Walking Trail ($99,400) and the Holly Springs Regional Technology Center ($381,000).

“The total cost of these projects was $1,653,695.82 and no local tax dollars were used,” he said.

Other projects DeBerry mentioned included Memphis Street improvements ($1,265,323), Ida B. Wells Museum renovation ($171,456), Montrose renovation ($75,000), the three totaling $1,511,779 with no local tax dollars used, he said. He also stressed $4,522,435 for water and gas expansion projects with funds coming from the United States Department of Agriculture’s Rural Development office.

He said 35 new businesses have opened in Holly Springs in the past four years.

“In addition we are presently working with Kenlan Development and Alliance HealthCare to develop a $50 million commercial and healthcare site, which will include a movie theater, a new hospital and other commercial development,” he said.

DeBerry said $1.3 million in special congressional funding has been secured to revitalize Martin Street and develop a public transportation system for the city.

“These improvements have all come about without raising property taxes in the city; as a matter of fact there has been a property tax decrease for the last two years in the city,” he said. “The state of the city is good.”

DeBerry mentioned “missed opportunities that were prevalent” during his first term.

Those, he said, included:

  • an opportunity to bring wireless high speed broadband Internet service to the county which would have been owned by the City of Holly Springs thus providing much-needed capital.
  • the opportunity to develop a communication network that would have reduced the city’s dependence on cable and telephone company providers, again providing funds for the city and reducing the tax burden.
  • the opportunity to develop, design and build an industrial facility owned and operated by the Utility Department that would have been a major provider of alternate energy and bringing in some $140 million in revenue in the third year of operation.

    “We simply must not, and we will not continue to allow the fear of the unknown to cast us into a state of continued missed opportunities,” DeBerry said.

DeBerry, holding back tears, remembered the late Mayor Smith and his late father.

“With this position came a heavy and awesome burden, of trying to bring healing to a grieving and saddened community while at the same time undertaking to complete projects started by Mayor Smith,” he said. “I am happy to report that all projects conceived by Mayor Smith, but undone, and in some cases unfunded, have been completed and funding has not come from local tax dollars. The finishing of these projects fulfilled a promised I made to Mrs. Luberta Smith to finish the work he started. I wanted to fulfill his legacy before I undertook any comprehensive projects of my own.”

He said he often thinks of his father, who did not live to see his son assume the responsibilities of mayor.

“I remember his teaching as he said to me, ‘Son, look a man straight in the eye and say what you mean and mean what you say.’

“This is what drives me, the passion to make my father proud of his son. I know that somewhere my father and Mayor Smith are looking down, and I only hope in my heart, that they are proud and pleased with the work that I am trying to do.”

Sharon White presided over the swearing-in ceremony. Pastor Curtis Ferrell gave the invocation. The Holly Springs High School Chorus, directed by Barbara Anderson, sang The Star Spangled Banner and another selection. Also performing were Catrice Edwards and Cequita McKennley, niece of Mayor DeBerry. Pastor Joseph Stone, principal of Holly Springs Primary School, gave the closing prayer.


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