February 18, 2010
Byhalia chamber luncheon
In difficult economic times, leadership is at a premium and leaders often fall back on old inspirational stories to create a lift in spirits.
Two stories were read at the recent quarterly luncheon of the Byhalia Area Chamber of Commerce that reflect old tried and true values.
One read by chamber executive director Sarah Sawyer pertains to the eagle egg that found itself in a nest of chicken eggs and hatched. The eagle didn’t realize its potential to soar to great heights until one day it looked up in the sky and saw a bird like itself beyond the mere safety of a chicken yard in the heavens. The truth of that old story is self-explanatory.
Byhalia Mayor Phil Malone then shared a story he heard read recently at the Byhalia Garden Club meeting entitled “I Am a New Year.”
The story or poem focuses on using each day as a new opportunity so time does not tick away in waste. Once past, it can never be recalled.
Malone then reviewed his first months in office, which started with a tornado that destroyed property and beautiful old trees in the city along Church Street last summer. A community clean-up effort in the aftermath showed Byhalians there are good neighbors in the town and county who help when disaster strikes.
Few clean-up issues remain, he said.
Two new people were hired to positions in Byhalia, while elected officials cut back their own salaries voluntarily shortly before the previous administration left office Gary Smoot took over as director of public works. Leland Reed became the first part-time salaried firefighter as chief and also assumed many other responsibilities including code enforcements, emergency management and cemetery planning.
Malone said the town is working to execute its 20-year plan and welcomes new citizens as it strives to implement the design plan for the town. To that end, eight letters were sent out to property owners for lot clean up and all eight owners cooperated fully with the notification.
The mayor called for residents to put their garbage containers out and take them back to the house in a timely manner. Although residents do not seem to notice the containers sitting for days on the curb, visitors do notice, he said.
A fire report showed the Byhalia volunteer department is picking up its responses, having answered 363 calls in 2008 and 527 calls in 2009.
“One day we will have a paid fire department starting with Leland Reed,” Malone said.
The Christmas Tree Lighting program drew about 600 visitors and Malone said he hopes private citizens will become involved in expanding the program each year.
Several grant applications the city had submitted were not funded, Malone said. Those included the Oak and Fuller streets application and a renovation grant for the old Byhalia High School submitted to the State Department of Archives and History.
The town has settled with the Mississippi Department of Transportation on the sale of park land that will become part of Interstate 69. The money will be earmarked for a city park, he said.
The current city walking park will get some landscaping attention this summer, he said.
The Mississippi Highway Commission voted to let the state take over maintenance of Highway 309 through the town of Byhalia, Malone said. That will help the town with its budget, which is tight, as are most municipal budgets because of the slumping economy.
The town will work with the garden club on some work on the cemetery fence and will also give a hand with managing the trimming of crepe myrtles going into the cemetery.
A big hand of applause goes out to Citizens Bank’s board of directors and employees for hosting the first quarter luncheon and to Shirley McClarty and others with the Byhalia United Methodist Church Women for providing food. Space for the luncheon was graciously provided by The Flame - a ministry of the Byhalia United Methodist Church.
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