Thursday, January 27, 2005

Marshall County Awards Luncheon
•Reed emphasizes grass roots leadership

Staff Writer

The combined Holly Springs and Byhalia Area chamber of commerce awards luncheon enjoyed another year of high attendance, this time to hear guest speaker Jack Reed of Tupelo tell stories of that city’s economic boom.


Four awards were presented for outstanding leadership and the Patriot Performers from Marshall Academy provided choral entertainment. The fourth annual awards luncheon was held at Dreamland in Holly Springs.

Ronnie Luther accepted the industry award for A&B Distributors. The company was recognized for service its members provide through organizing and sponsoring local festivals in Holly Springs, Byhalia and Ashland; for civic involvement and community service to the Northwest Mississippi area; and for participation in fundraisers for local charitable community projects including the Holly Springs Pilgrimage, nursing homes, the Vo-Tech Center, Boy Scouts, fire departments, homeless shelters, orphanages, police and sheriff departments and the Holly Springs National Guard Family Group.

The Luthers and A&B Distributors founded the Clydesdale Christmas Store 11 years ago and have provided toys, food, and clothing for about 7,000 families since its inception.

The business of the year award went to Williams Medical Clinic, with Dr. Veronica Valdez accepting on behalf of the clinic. The nominator wrote that, “Williams Medical Clinic is a positive example of leadership in Marshall County by recruiting bright and talented individuals to add to the vitality and wellness of the community.”

The clinic hosts an annual Breast Cancer Awareness Program in conjunction with Alliance HealthCare System, is a relay for life sponsor, recently hosted a Chamber Business After Hours and provides an array of medical services to the community.

In order to continue to expand services the clinic and hospital now offer obstetrics and gynecology services supported by a neonatal unit and new labor and delivery room facility at the hospital.

Veteran educator Elizabeth Butler received the outstanding teacher of the year award. She has spent 27 years educating the youngest at Marshall Academy, both as a first grade teacher and driving force behind the Marshall Academy Day Care Program.

“Both parents and faculty have looked to her for guidance and advice in child rearing and education,” wrote her Butler’s nominator.

The school of the year award went to Byhalia High School. Accepting the award was assistant principal William Oliver.

Someone said, “Education is improving the lives of others and leaving your community and world better than you found it.”

Byhalia High School was nominated for the award for being one of 12 schools in Mississippi that earned the “Closing the Achievement Gap” award. BHS is a level 3 school, offering a wide range of classes and a diploma, an occupational diploma, or a certificate of attendance.

The vocational department offers computer supported agriscience laboratories and test formats for subject area testing in math, biology and social studies.

The varsity boys basketball team was state runner-up in Division 3A competition last year and the boys cross country team took first place in state competition.

The dance team placed second in the Mid-South Fair competition and competed in the Mardi Gras National finals in New Orleans.

The choir placed second in competition in Texas. The Beta Club sponsors two blood drives each year, Prom Promise, a food drive at Thanksgiving and Christmas, and supports toy and school supply drives and Preserve Sight Mississippi.

Reed’s thoughts

Guest speaker Jack Reed, a Tupelo manufacturer, and community servant, summarized 50 years of effort and achievement that produced Tupelo and Lee County’s current economic boom and robust quality of life.

He said the community pulled together to make development work for everyone.

Lee County is the most industrialized county in Mississippi today because of local citizens who gave of themselves to the community, he said.

“Sustained community development does not happen in a va-cuum, or when a high industry comes to town,” he said. “It comes from total community development and takes more than a good plant site. It takes a community that offers the quality of life people want and demand.”

Tupelo boasts being the first TVA city, he said. His father barely survived the Depression and his family barely survived the Tupelo tornado, he said.

In the early 20th Century, Tupelo was a small town like Byhalia and a poverty area, with few people and few industries, he said.

Today, the top employer is NorthEast Mississippi Medical Center with 4,000 employees.

Reed stressed that it was the people of the community, leaders like idealistic and progressive newspaper editor and publisher George McLean, who left his newspaper to the community.

“The shepherds of the community should not do so only to shear the wool,” he said.

McLean’s vision included an attitude of fierce determination and belief that the community should look to itself.

“No one will hand it to you on a silver platter,” Reed said.

Three critical elements of Tupelo’s success, according to Reed, were a community development foundation, three local banks and business leadership.

He brushed off politics as a driving force in community development.

“In politics your friends come and go, but your enemies tend to accumulate,” he said in jest.

What brought Tupelo up were good public schools, good industries, and no old money to help maintain the status quo, he said.

“We had to do everything ourselves. There were no prima donnas in the community development foundation.”

Other essential ingredients of economic success are community development, workforce development, the absence of private schools, the formation of north Mississippi’s first biracial committee, and reservoirs of good will between the races.

Reed said he believes Tupelo’s economic growth and attraction of industry would not have happened if the quality of life issues had not been addressed first.

He also reminded that success does not happen overnight.

“It has taken 55 years of cooperative leadership and working together,” he said.

Harping back to the importance of grass roots leadership, he said, “Be a success where you find yourself.”

Perhaps McLean’s words are a good reminder: “I believe that it is the responsibility of the educated people of Mississippi to help raise the level educationally, economically, and culturally of our own people. No one else will come in and do the job for us.”

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